Never have I had a game make me go "the honeymoon is over" in quite the way this did. No, wait. Exactly one other has, and I'll reference it in this post.
Anyone who's known me any length knows I have a massive thirst for a solid, crunchy - but not too
crunchy - turn-based strategy game. The trick is I'm also astoundingly picky about them. XCOM, even in its most softball of difficulties, drives me to hair-pulling frustration because I'm not fucking psychic
. Fire Emblem and bores me because its characters are meant to be unique but are also as boring as any generic mooks in any tactics game ever. Disgaea focuses too much on the grind, Advance Wars puts too much emphasis on being able to churn out your units Starcraft style, and so on and so forth.
So I suppose it would really be easier to say "I have a massive thirst for the Genesis era Shining Force series". A few other franchises have scratched the itch almost as well - Atlus's Devil Survivor games, the Final Fantasy Tactics series, occasionally Tactics Ogre. Disgaea manages it if I don't fall into minmaxer hell. With that in mind, pretty much like everyone in my friends list recommended Chroma Squad to me, even though my sole experience with sentai stuff is explicitly being a pre-teen when Power Rangers came out originally.
When I first got it, I kind of rolled my eyes at the financial management aspect of it - great, I'd have to play Television Executive Simulator
in order to get to the actual good game - and wandered off. On a lark, I went back to it.
And for a while, I was pleased with it. Being able to customize a team (right down to the transformation and mecha-summoning catchphrases) leads to that kind of immature glee you can only get with a twisted sort of imagination - the script was very much improved, I feel, by my teenagers with attitude screaming out "ORIGINAL CHARACTER, DO NOT STEAL" in order to turn into spandex crimefighters, and calling out "Punch it until it dies!" when they needed the giant robot to, well, punch something until it dies. The combat was a little fiddly but crunchy enough that things had a definite flow to them and it was easy to intuit when to press ahead and when to fall back. Even the "executive simulator" portions had charm, what with being able to answer fan emails and get replies about how you helped these fictional textboxes. It had the right amount of self-referential funy to have a charm to it, like, it really shows
that the writers adore the genre they're homaging enough to poke fun at it every chance they get.
Then - I'm not sure when exactly, but somewhere in the last chapter or two - things started to drag. I was playing on the medium difficulty, but as I've been told that the easy difficulty is meant to be something you could fumble blindfolded through, I assume the difficulty spike is not equivalent in all difficulties.
Either way, the longer the stages took, the more I saw the flaws in the game.
Stages were either vastly too big (and filled with enemies that would plink at you from a distance in relative safety) or oppressively small (and you'd get ganged up on by 500 things).
The equipment crafting system is RNG from beginning to end - you have to use random drops, that you can also buy random booster-pack-esque boxes of, in order to get equipment with random bonuses that you may not be able to use anyway. Or you could pay five times the price for wholly
mediocre storebought equipment.
The leaning on the fourth wall officially got tiresome when NPCs (named after Kickstarter backers) started declaring how glad they were to have backed a Kickstarter.
The hit chances in mecha battles are wildly weighted against you - a 95% hit chance is actually more like 70%, and heaven help you if you risk going down past 50%.
The whole thing is programmed in Unity, meaning that it would hang on my potato of a computer at exactly the worst times - generally when I needed to make an input on the mecha battles to avoid taking a Hefty Boatload of Damage.
Tokusatsu-themed jokes turned into fighting bootleg versions of Barney and the badger from that flash animation
Literally every enemy that is brought into a battle has to walk in, one at a time, meaning almost every battle is preceded by five minutes of waiting by endgame.
The final mission violently
swung back and forth between "cakewalk" and "frustratingly unfeasible" practically every other turn, culminating in a finale that was, in fact, literally unloseable. (Not that I minded that
at that point.)
Suddenly, things stopped being fun by the end. I've only ever felt that quick of a turnaround before once, and that was when I tried LPing Final Fantasy Tactics A2 and finally got a good look at it, warts and all.
Just like FFTA2, Chroma Squad has a lot of work put into it, and is absolutely enjoyable if you're the kind of person who can accept that the game wants you to play it a certain way. Unlike FFTA2, Chroma Squad was made with definite love, and its flaws are more a product of slightly lopsided game balance than the game simply refusing to allow for experimentation. I appreciate that it tried, but I'm gonna be hesitant to go back to it.
I might like it better if I was the kind of person who was okay with XCOM. I'd probably like it better if every single one-shot NPC wasn't a Kickstarter backer who insisted on telling you their life story for the single mission they appeared in. I'd definitely like it better if I knew more than just Power Rangers.