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May 8, 2017

Chroma Squad (Part 2)

Read Part 1 here.

When we left last Friday, the Chroma Squad crew had just completed their second season, with even more success thanks to the ratings boosters installed by Lord Gaga in their studio. They managed to avoid the sophomore slump; can they keep it up with their third season? Well… only if the Lead’s attitude allows them…

This serious discussion on the behavior of their team leader comes right
after they beat up a person in a very dumb giant pigeon costume. With arms.

"I'm, usually doing more of the hard work as the Lead
so I deserve a bit more?" Screw you, dude!
Yes, Season 3 promises better costumes, better plots… and a diva demeanor from the character in red, both inside and outside the show. Yes, the Lead, whom I’m calling Lead because you, the player, named them. For the sake of simplicity, let’s call him… Ace. I dunno, that’s the name I went with in my playthrough, because I didn’t bother changing names much.

So Ace is having an attitude, and it reflects in both his comments and his behavior during filming. Trying to steal the spotlight, doing more things than his fellow actors… And for some reason, Lord Gaga seems to be encouraging that behavior. That’s not good… His teammates will have to take him down a peg, because it’s becoming troublesome.

Gaga, do NOT encourage the egotism!

Big flytrap monster in a pot, summoning smaller plants...
Yup, that's a mean green motherf- from outer space.
As the season goes, things get more difficult due to the Lead’s newfound egotism. At the end of the season, however, after the group defeats a cheap Audrey II wannabe, we learn the truth. Lord Gaga had been toying with them all along! (Remember, this is outside of the show.) The audience boosters he installed? Actual portals used to summon real monsters! (Yup, that’s also outside of the actual show.) As for the Lead’s bizarre attitude thus far? Brainwashed. Sheesh, I’ve heard of fiction overtaking reality in stories before, but that’s really silly! …Oh wait. I remembered, we ARE talking about a Tokusatsu series within a game about making a Tokusatsu series, where the characters are actors portraying the team members while also being characters in the game and the Tokusatsu elements bleed over into their reality and-


Er… I think I need to go lie down. Is that breaking the sixty-fourth wall or something? Why not the 1024th wall while we’re at it?

Not if we can stop it! Sorry, we're off-script, I can't
think of anything better to say.
Well, at least the team manages to get their good Leader back before the start of the fourth season. Lord Gaga has clearly announced himself as an evil alien overlord trying to take over the world (of course), so now the grand mission is to stop him. The team destroys the audience booster, but Gaga’s plan worked; monsters have been summoned! The original anthropomorphic city vermin enemies played by various stuntmen in suits have been replaced by actual monsters and aliens to defeat… all of which are, also, anthropomorphic city vermins. It appears the universe has aliens who look like pigeons, rats and squirrels; who knew? Quite the coincidence that Chroma Squad originally picked that theme for its mooks, huh? The alien ones are much tougher than the actors, though. But hey, now each and every one of them can brag about being on Earth television to their alien families and friends! A lot of Earthlings don’t even have that honor!

Season 3 also ended with the reveal that Cerebro is, actually, really a giant sentient brain in a jar, one that belonged to an ex-Hero of the Universe who is now reduced to this form, and who can now function as an actual character, not just a machine with given lines to say. I don’t think even a brain as big as his could explain why he was found turned off in an abandoned warehouse on Earth, though.

Good thing I was recording my playthrough!
Another thing I might like to clarify about the game; the developers have done a fantastic job and there’s no arguing there, the game looks and plays great. But! Like any finished product, there may be things they’ve overlooked. As a result, there’s a way to contact them through a helpful button on the top right of the screen if you notice a bug or glitch. I personally encountered one that was quite annoying. It was against the Audrey II boss, which had a tendency to run around the stage after dropping a bunch of plantlike bombs. At one point it ran outside of the squares it could walk on, and started attacking from there. It had also become impossible to hit it, since you need to select the enemy’s square in order to attack, and that boss was no longer on a square – nor could it come back. I wrote in a report and sent it to the team. So yeah, if you see glitches, be sure to tell them. That’s very kind of them – although it’s often too easy to accidentally click that big report button at the top of the screen.

See that blue-haired girl in the bottom right corner?
Yep, she's important.
Season 4 starts as Chroma Squad battles a monster in the sewers and saves a bunch of civilians, one of which looks like a martial artist. The girl, who goes by the name of Tammy, immediately catches your Techie’s eye. Throughout the following season, we see more tough aliens and bizarre creatures with themes, but we have a new overarching plot. Indeed, Cerebro is dropping hints about his old team… In particular, an implication that he was part of the old saviors of Earth, until their defeat at the hands of Lord Gaga and his forces. Speaking of Gaga, the reason he took on the pompadour and the sunglasses, well, he grew to appreciate Planet Earth’s pop culture. What can I say, we’ve had that effect on extraterrestrial life forms for as long as I can remember. So yeah, Gaga was not born this way, but now he lives for the applause! No need for a poker face, he’ll just dance around your bullets and punches! You can do what you want, that won’t stop him! …Okay, I’ll stop.

This season ends as Tammy resurfaces… as a zombie controlled by Lord Gaga. As it turns out, Tammy was one of the members of Cerebro’s old team. A fighter with experience against the universe’s forces of evil! Yes, yes! Give me that good Sentai cheese! Thus, the final battle of that season has our team of 5 battling Tammy and Gaga. Now, this is the most interesting part of the game, as the decision taken here by the team will radically change what Season 5 offers. Defeat Tammy before Gaga? Oopsie! You basically activated Hard Mode. Good luck with what comes next! Beat Gaga, save Tammy? She’ll offer to join the team. Refuse her offer, and she leaves, to go back to her family I guess. Accept her offer, and you get a very, very strong combatant added to your team! Her playstyle is different, she can become either a strong attacker or a target for enemy attacks. That’s the path I went with, so that’s the one I’ll describe.

Whaaaaaat? The ultra-realistic brain-in-a-jar
prop that can say lines and act like mission
control turns out to be a Honest-to-God real
brain in a jar that can act like mission control?
Gee, I never saw that coming!

The enemies get serious. The villainss become nastier.
Here, we're apparently battling Tammy's ex-boyfriend,
turned into a hulking brute.
As it turns out, the team’s Techie is quite overjoyed that Tammy joined the group, and tries some pretty poor pick-up lines on her, which I could have sworn I’ve already heard somewhere else. Yes, that Puck-Man anecdote is strangely familiar… It also turns out that said Techie has been working on a way to transport the Chroma Squad Tower, along with the camera crew and the Mech – which has become an actual, giant robot, to battle actual, giant monsters, with all the actual, giant damage they can inflict on the surrounding city. As for the season, it features such memorable villains as… Colin’s Bear... A Barney parody… a cat in a mecha with tentacles… a hypnotist harlequin with a pirate attire and big claws… Dammit, harlequins again? The best part, in my opinion, is that the season’s episodes tend to focus on a character of Chroma Squad. That’s great for a final season, each character gets their moment to shine!

Believe in my experience, that is no good pick-up line.
Come to think of it, there is no good pick-up line.

At the end of the fifth season, Techie’s project is destroyed by the villains… but they manage to salvage a piece of it, allowing them to rebuild it quickly – and thus they make their way to the villains’ lair, where they defeat a winged fellow using four miniature kaiju as helpers. That’s, like, 5 bosses in one! Season 5 ends with that fight, but the game isn’t over… Any good franchise needs its movie. There is no Season 6; THAT’S the movie.

The team prepares before the grand finale, and then can head out. We’re going back to the villains’ lair! Chroma Squad runs into Lord Gaga’s room, where he awaits. His battle is pretty impressive, as he can summon any of the previous bosses in the game. These are still much stronger than the average enemy despite the Squad’s heightened strength, so it’s best for them to concentrate their efforts on attacking Gaga. Following this, Gaga flees but Tammy follows – leaving the other 5 to battle in the previous room, which has turned into a gas chamber that’s slowly asphyxiating them. Don’t worry, they get better. Tammy isn’t so lucky, pursuing Gaga and being defeated by him. Confident in victory, Gaga takes on an even more stylish suit – thankfully, he left aside the meat dress and the cockatiel full body suit.

Gaga’s superior, the Master of the Universe, appears, and if you expected He-Man, prepare to be disappointed. Instead, this final boss looks a lot more like… Um…

That Star Map cape doesn't lie.

…Yep. Same cape. Definitely some Kirby influences there.

Having escaped from the gas chamber, Chroma Squad appears and heals Tammy, Master of the Universe (MotU?) considers Gaga’s mission a failure and promptly kills him. Aww, I’ll miss that villain. …Okay, no, not really. But I guess he was pretty interesting. After Chroma Squad is brought down, Tammy reveals her true potential, becoming the White Ranger. Her friends recover, and the team is ready for battle!

The White Ranger overshadows all of the others.
Even though she started off as a guest party member.
MotU is the boss with the biggest life bar, no doubt there. It will frequently summon mooks who bring weapons to him, and he can use these weapons to badly hurt all of the heroes surrounding him. When cornered, it’ll also teleport away. This is a long, long battle… and midway through, MotU turns into a much more demonic fellow, with strong attack power, but much easier to fight as a whole team.

When that boss is defeated, you can guess what happens. Come on, this movie has been severely lacking a giant monster battle. And thus, on the toppled remains of this spaceship, we get the Master of the Universe demon, turned giant, against the Squad’s very real and very dangerous mecha. For the record, Giant-MotU has 480,000 HP. You might only have about 80,000. MotU’s attacks are super-strong, too. You can’t win that one. Seriously, you can’t.

...Okay, we're doomed.

Look at those numbers! It's literally impossible to lose!
You can’t… because it’s made in such a way that when you lose, the fans come to your rescue, and it turns out that Chroma Squad has all of Planet Earth encouraging them. It’s so cheesy, and yet, it’s so awesome – the perfect Tokusatsu scene! On top of this, the mecha’s HP keep increasing, making it impossible to deplete, and its hit chance grows past 1000%, meaning that every single hit will land, and increase in power, until the boss is defeated with this final combo. With the threat defeated once and for all, the space station starts crumbling, Chroma Squad makes a run for it. Hopefully they didn’t leave any cameramen behind!

And it only took two minutes of skipping past a whole bunch of text
from a narrator who didn't want to show you anything, to get thus
awesome short scene.
The Mecha leaves as the station implodes, and heads back to Earth, where the characters are hailed as actual goddamn heroes. Because that’s what they actually became. And thus ends the story of Chroma Squad; have fun viewing the end credits, which includes the gigantic list of Kickstarter backers for this game! There’s a few scenes past that point, mostly the Narrator addressing the audience, doing a Ferris Bueller – because no story that breaks the fourth wall into a 10,000-piece puzzle is complete without that post-credits reference. If you pull through the many, many messages, you do get a pretty cool scene showing the game’s developers as their own team (Zyumerica Clonerangers), and revealing what Cerebro originally looked like – an awesome giant lizard in a hoodie. Can’t get better than that!

Damn, this is a great game. If you’re a fan of Sentai series, you’ll probably enjoy even more the various references to the many, many popular shows of that genre. Chroma Squad is packed full of references to those shows, but also to various other geek series, and it would be very long to list them all. It's clearly a labor of love. On top of this, the gameplay works very well; every decision you make during the management sim will have an impact while episodes are being recorded, and every little element and ability must be taken into consideration. Hence why it’s very important to learn to manage the money made with each episode, in order to improve every aspect of the studio, equipment, and so on, so that the next battles are easier for the team.

There are so many menu screens in the management sim, that I
decided to stick them all together.
While it is possible to directly buy the weapons you want, it’s a lot more rewarding to collect materials and use them to craft what you need – in fact, enemies can drop materials when defeated, meaning you can sometimes make weapons and armor without having to buy much. On that note, one thing that does annoy me is that, when you buy packs of materials (which, by the way, are fairly expensive, especially the damn cardboard box packs!), the contents of a pack are determined at random among the items that can be found in said pack. You could buy many packs without getting what you want, while accumulating stuff you don’t need at the moment. Don’t worry, you’ll (usually) get to use it later. Also of note is the rather interesting “Recycle” system where you cannot sell the crafted equipment you’re getting rid of; instead, you recycle them and recover some materials. Every item to recover is decided by a percentage (usually 50% or less), so once again, what you receive from recycling old equipment is all up to chance.

Much of the challenge of the game lies in completing the Director’s Instructions, although it’s very rewarding when you succeed. There are fans and money to gain! It definitely adds some difficulty to every battle. Since getting more fans and maming more money becomes required to get better equipment and have better chances of winning the next fights, ou kinda have to try and complete these instructions. Speaking of, the villains are all very creative, with many great attacks – the folks at Behold Studios definitely went all-out to imagine these enemies, which can be weird or awesome – or both. And of course, the combat mechanics are great, and introduce things that I haven’t seen anywhere else – among them, the Teamwork mechanic, which adds greatly to the strategies that one can use. Yes, the game plays great, and feels unique. Oh, sure, there may be the occasional bug – but, at least, you can report said bugs.

Do you know what's missing here? A Cerebro-sized party hat.

It's ann in the details. Have you noticed that with every punch
thrown by your mecha in these sections, the screen tilts
a little more?
The pixel art is impressive, and the very detailed screens we often get when a Season starts, ends, or when something major happens, look great. It’s also great that the monitor screen often feels like an old TV set, or the series looks taped on VHS (you can fastforward cutscenes and there’s definitely a VHS effect when you do). The chiptune soundtrack also adds greatly to the retro feel of the whole thing.

Truly, a wonderful game. It’s got a few issues here or there, some would say it doesn’t go far enough in its homage to Sentai shows, others would say that the combination of management sim and tactical RPG wasn’t as smooth as it could have been and neither of them has a big enough impact on the other… Eh, I thought those two elements were done well. Really, if you like Sentai series, you should like this game. Get it. It costs 14.99$ USD, so if you’ve got that amount to spend, look it up.

Next Friday: Something completely different!