Chroma Squad, unite! Imagination! Team attack! Acrobatics! Other shouts from your team! Oh man, I’m so excited to talk about Chroma Squad. This little turn-based tactics game is an absolute joy. From the tense battles to the silly and overly dramatic storyline, everything is brimming with a personality that is uniquely Chroma Squad. And yet, at the same time, everything feels so familiar and comfortable, so it has this wonderful nostalgic feeling with each mission.
Chroma Squad is essentially a Power Rangers turn-based strategy game but without all the hassle of licensing and the expectations that follow. Instead, it follows five actors as they quit their jobs to form their own sentai (Power Rangers for those less versed in this genre) TV show. At first, they start by battling low-level enemies, growing their audience and upgraded their filming facilities. But as the seasons’ progress (yes this game is played across seasons rather than chapters), a larger story unfolds and what started as a simple TV show ends up being the one thing between the Earth and ultimate destruction.
It’s cheesy and ridiculous and barely makes any sense, but it doesn’t need to. At no point does Chroma Squad set out to do anything except make a silly game with some excellent turn-based battles. And those battles are fantastic. Each one takes the form of a TV show episode and pits your five warriors against a variety of enemies and usually a boss as well. On top of this, you have directors notes which are additional optional objectives that provide extra fans (currency), usually making the battle that little bit more challenging. And like the best examples of this genre, it turns a simple battle into a puzzle where you want to achieve all of your objectives as efficiently as possible.
And that isn’t everything. As you progress through the seasons, you’ll unlock a variety of extras such as new skills for your heroes, better weapons and armour, oh and a mech. The mech fights serve as an ultimate conclusion for most of the boss style enemies that you fight as they have grown to the size of a building, ala Power Rangers, forcing you to jump into your giant robot to do battle. And while this is basically a timing mini-game there is a little nuance as you decide when to block and use special powers. However, the point is more spectacle and narrative rather than mechanical. When you build your massive combo and defeat a monster using your finishing move, you feel like a hero.
Each episode (mission) is relatively short, which means that you can easily blast through one in a short time and either stop there or tackle another. The actual turn-based battles are simple enough. Each character gets two actions: a move and attack (or special power). However, the unique part of this combat system is the Teamwork ability. Rather than attacking, you can choose to enter a Teamwork stance. This allows that character to act as a catapult launches other characters forward to battle or initiate a team attack. A team attack works when multiple characters Teamwork together and another starts an attack. This could be unarmed or with a weapon and deals extra damage to the enemy looks cool and helps generate fans. All of this works together seamlessly to create a battle system that sees you using a small toolset to its fullest every time.
However, Chroma Squad isn’t without its issues. While I think all of the ideas are excellent, the execution isn’t always. Firstly, the Teamwork system isn’t very clear and requires a bit of trial and error. For example, you won’t Teamwork if one character uses a weapon but the other has it on cool down. If you accidentally have two characters Teamwork rather than one attacking, then nothing happens. However, the same isn’t true for an ultimate attack that uses all five characters. Also, it isn’t easy to see how far a character can move and whether they will be able to use some acrobatics off another character until you’ve committed to a Teamwork. All of this can lead to a wasted character or turn and is quite frustrating. I think this could have been resolved by having an undo function on the Teamwork or in general as there were several times when I did something by mistake or miscounted the tiles and was left doing very little on a turn.
Another issue relates to the maps. They are diverse and I love the camera people filming in the corners of the screen. However, when you have an enemy at the edges of the area, they are difficult to target and see what they are doing. This isn’t an issue for most episodes, but for specific enemies that move around a lot, it becomes frustrating. I also found that the larger enemies hide some of the tiles behind them so it isn’t clear whether you moved a character next to them or one tile away.
And those are my somewhat minor criticisms. I found each mission balanced and interesting with you rarely repeating objectives or enemy types. The fact that each boss has its own mechanics and abilities meant that every episode was a different challenge. And while I think more could have been done with the upgrade and equipment system, it was nice to have something simple that didn’t distract from the core of the game – turn-based battles.
If you are looking for an excellent turn-based strategy game with some RPG elements sprinkled in (via weapon and armour upgrades etc), then Chroma Squad is an almost perfect game. And it’s on Switch which is the perfect location for its short and sweet episodes.
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