Just mentioning Power Rangers to any child of the '90s is bound to bring back fond memories of brightly clad, color-coated heroes leaping through the air, a liberal use of pyrotechnics, and of course, giant robots. It’s that sense of fun that indie developer Behold Studios is looking to capture in its latest title, Chroma Squad.
In Chroma Squad players control a group of stuntmen that leave their boring TV studio to make one of their own. Naturally, they decide to make an indie sentai TV studio – sentai being the genre name for Japanese super-hero shows. Players build the studio from the ground up, taking care of the business and the marketing side of the show by hiring actors, rigging pyrotechnics, and purchasing equipment.
It’s during the filming of the show that Chroma Squad takes on a whole new style of gameplay – turn-based strategy. Every week in the game, players will record an episode of their show by fighting a tactical turn-based battle between the actors and monsters. A good battle performance means more fans for your show.
The two styles of gameplay may seem out of the ordinary, but Behold Studios CEO and founder Saulo Camarotti says the two go hand-in-hand. “We got inspired by games like X-COM and Final Fantasy Tactics that have this mix between gameplay,” Camarotti says. “Everything is all about strategy and tactics, and they combine very smoothly together.”
By studying classic sentai shows, Behold broke down the different character archetypes commonly seen on the TV screen into distinct classes for the game, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. “We thought that in a sentai team you have the strong one, the smart one, the leader, the scout, and so on,” says Camarotti. “With that in mind, we created the roles: Lead, Assault, Techie, Assist, and Scout, and some secret ones.” Each character will have a skill tree that allows for customization, as well as being able to be outfitted with new and more powerful equipment.
Of course, a sentai-inspired video game wouldn’t be complete without giant robot-versus-monster fights. Players can craft their own mechanized suits out of cardboard and duct tape in the management portion of the game for when an episode’s boss monster inevitably grows to massive proportions. Camarotti describes mech battles as “combo turn-based,” where successful attacks will increase your combo meter and allow for follow-up strikes. Miss your target, and the enemy monster will dish out some serious damage to your robot.
The game will also ship with multiplayer. Multiplayer matches count as “filler episodes,” in the story of the game, wherein a friend can bring their super-hero team over to your game to help film an episode. While mostly cooperative, the two players over the course of the episode compete for fans, with flashier moves netting a bigger fanbase.
A minimalistic retro art-style and catchy bit tunes round out the package, but what helps sets Chroma Squad apart is the game’s sense of humor. The game is incredibly tongue-in-cheek and is littered with pop-culture references, intentional mistranslations, and self-aware dialogue. “We like the idea of making fun of our game and ourselves,” Camarotti says.
Power Rangers was for many Americans their first taste of sentai, but the developers of Brazil-based Behold Studios grew up with even older shows like Changeman and Flashman. That being said, they knew they were by no means genre experts. “We are not specialists in sentai or tokusatsu series,” Camarotti says. “We just like them a lot, especially shows from the ‘Showa’ golden age. We thought that the community could help us improve the concept, and put to proof if the game should be produced or not.”
Behold looked for the help of gamers in the form of a Kickstarter campaign last year to gauge demand for a sentai video game. The response was a definitive yes; the game met its Kickstarter goal of $55,000 and went on to generate close to $100,000. That extra money is being put towards improving all aspects of the game. “We hired some new artists, an audio designer, and a game designer that wasn’t in our initial plan. We’re using everything to make the game better,” he says.
Chroma Squad currently doesn’t have a firm release date, but Camarotti says backers of the Kickstarter will be receiving a beta copy of the game soon. The full game will be releasing later this year first on PC via Steam as part of the Steam Greenlight program, with work then starting on porting the game to consoles and mobile platforms.