As a neat bit of trivia, Chroma Squad is notably the first Brazilian SRPG I’ve covered. It’s great to see SRPGs coming out of all sorts of different countries these days.
Although I’ve never been an avid follower of Power Rangers or anything Sentai, I can at least sort of understand the appeal: there’s something uniquely Japanese that characterizes the absurdity of bright spandex-clad superheroes fighting evil and commandeering giant mecha robots to the backdrop of obvious, over-the-top CGI. A Power Rangers theme isn’t the first thing that comes to my mind when I think “SRPG,” but Chroma Squad makes it work. I’m glad the game exists.
Before we go any further, can I just talk about this epic music? Chroma Squad’s even got its own cheesy theme song and it sounds like something taken directly from a 90s anime! Most of the other songs (like this one or this one) take on a “retraux” style. There’s 8-bit instrumentation, but there are occasionally some more organic instruments – particularly the drums – thrown in to beef up the tracks. Songs will also use more than 4 or 5 instrumental tracks at once, thereby bypassing the limitations of what 8-bit consoles had. Chroma Squad’s graphics take on a similarly retraux aesthetic. I think they look nice, but then again, I’m no graphic artist, so I’ll let you be the judge.
Chroma Squad’s basic premise is that five stunt actors – your five playable characters – decide to create their own Sentai TV show, starring the eponymous Chroma Squad. It’s a fun premise, but later on, your characters can start to transform and use their Sentai abilities in real life too. This makes no sense, just like a good chunk of the game’s overarching plot.
Characters aren’t developed very well and all have the same personality. Story-wise, Chroma Squad isn’t very deep or intriguing; the main draw is the lighthearted atmosphere which allows it to work as an affectionate parody of the Sentai genre. When you play Chroma Squad, don’t overthink it – just enjoy the ride and laugh at the weird stuff.
The thing that annoyed me most about the game isn’t anything related to the gameplay at all: it’s the dumb identity politics that the game pushes at parts. At one point, your characters will debate the merits of having to rescue a female in one of the episodes. They conclude that it’s better to have a male victim because it’s harmful to portray females as helpless victims.
You should probably be able to guess where I stand on dumb identity politics like this. Dumb tropes in fiction are just that: dumb tropes in fiction. For example: there’s an overrepresentation of bald villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Does this mean that Marvel has a vested interest in vilifying bald men and radicalizing them? Of course not. Similarly, in American advertising, there’s an underrepresentation of white people relative to the total population, and there’s an overrepresentation of black people relative to the total population. Does this mean the media hates white people, as the alt right would suggest? …Well, maybe (these days, there seems to be a lot of irrational hatred of white people), but either way, why does this matter? It’s not like any reasonable person is going to watch an advertisement and think “aw man, that person isn’t the same ethnicity as me… LIFE SUCKS! WHY AM I A POOR, OPPRESSED WHITE PERSON!?”
Identity politics are dumb. I say we should go back to just treating people as individuals. I hate this inordinate fixation with people’s immutable characteristics (i.e. race or sex… or on dating sites, height or bust size) and I also hate when game developers push sociopolitical wedge issues like these on the players. As a developer, you’re designing a game; your job is to entertain your players, not push a political agenda.
I mean… at least be subtle about it. If you’re going to be an insufferable woke-ist proselyte, then you already know what my response will be:
Obviously, I’m not the sort of hysterical harpy who’s going to cancel a game because of a disagreement like this – cancel culture is dumb and I’m more mature than that – so let’s continue talking about the game itself.
Chroma Squad is divided into six “seasons,” like a TV show would be. Each season is further subdivided into several “episodes,” each of which has a few SRPG battles. In between episodes, you go back to your hub and can do things like respond to fan e-mails, upgrade your studio, buy new equipment, and contract marketing firms to boost your show’s worldwide presence.
Chroma Squad offers a good degree of gameplay variance that it never really feels stale.
The SRPG stylings are very well-designed. Although maps aren’t the best-designed I’ve seen in any SRPG, every battle will still have a few “director’s instructions” (challenge objectives) that add some extra strategy to each battle. To further spice things up, you have ideas like team attacks and team acrobatics which allow your characters to team up to either deal extra damage or move extra spaces in battle. With equipment and skills, characters have a fair amount of things they can do. It’s a good degree of customization that never feels sandboxy. Chroma Squad’s core systems are solid.
In addition to the SRPG stuff, Chroma Squad offers us some giant mecha vs. kaiju battles.
I always really appreciate whenever games go above and beyond with stuff like this. It’s one thing to create a system of core gameplay mechanics that work very well on their own… but its another thing entirely to also include a completely different game mode that transitions seamlessly into the whole experience. Other great games such as Skies of Arcadia, Goemon’s Great Adventure, and Evoland 2 also pull off this idea of varied game modes. It’s always terrific.
Is Chroma Squad perfect? No, I wouldn’t say so. There are little QoL things here and there like being unable to take back your moves (seriously, early 90s SRPGs allowed us to do this… why do so many modern ones fail with something basic like this?), or not having auto-target when you’re trying to attack something. The identity politics are annoying. The story makes less sense the further you get, and would’ve been so much more coherent if it had simply stuck to the format of “we’re filming a TV show; nothing more, nothing less.”
Nonetheless, this is a great example of the principle that gameplay always comes first. This was a concept that Nintendo understood even in the late 80s and early 90s. That’s what made them so consistently great for a long time. As a developer, you don’t have to do everything well, but as long as you have great gameplay, your players will be willing to forgive just about anything.
Therefore, in spite of any issues I have with Chroma Squad, I must end this article by concluding that Chroma Squad is a great game. Its core gameplay is good enough to carry everything else on its back… plus, the graphics, music, and overall atmosphere are top-notch, too.
Console: Steam, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Developers: Behold Studio
Get Chroma Squad on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/251130/Chroma_Squad