Behold Studios, the developers behind Knights of Pen and Paper, have been working on their next game for a while now. Chroma Squad is tactical strategy game that's also a parody send-up of the entire tokusatsu genre, including Super Sentai, Kamen Rider, Ultraman, and Godzilla. It was successfully Kickstarted in August of last year and since then Behold has shown off early build at shows like PAX and GDC.
Players take control of a film studio that makes its own independent sentai. You choose your actors (they have their own stats), abilities, costumes, colors, and more. Then you head out and shoot some episodes pitting you against sentai-style monsters. The better you do, the more money you make, which allows you to improve your sentai team and your studio. From what I've played, it's a light, fun, strategy game, with a lot of love for the source material.
Yesterday, Behold Studios' clued backers into a possible problem affecting Chroma Squad.
"The producer and attorneys from Saban, the company that owns the rights for Power Rangers in the West, have been in contact with us for a while now," the backer-only update explains. "This week they've contacted us to offer a deal. They see two options in this negotiation: the first one being using the court to make sure that our game wouldn't get released. The second option would be that they would join our project with a royalty share. We both prefer the second option, considering that going into court would would be painful for both sides."
"You all know that our game is inspired by something much broader than Power Rangers," continues the post. "We're talking about an amazing Sentai culture that is mostly Japanese, but got even bigger with fan from around the world. We're talking about tokusatsu in general, Japanese super heroes, anime, Kamen Rider; everything that inspired us very much in our childhood and continue to inspire us now."
Chroma Squad and tokusatsu fans were not happy about the news, which looks like the Goliath stepping in to snuff out David. Saban Brands owner and original Power Rangers creator Haim Saban has a net worth of $3.3 billion. The company is a direct partner with Toei Company, the owner of the Super Sentai and Kamen Rider properties. In contrast, Behold Studios is a small studio in Brazil, so fans are worried the Power Rangers juggernaut could leave Chroma Squad without a release. Behold Studios later clarified on their forums that Saban did not threaten the team or the game.
"All conversations were very friendly and they didn't threaten us at any time. And since we are trying to get into a thing together, we won't be able to talk further into these aspects because of the negotiation itself and it would be unethical to do so," said Behold Studio's Guilherme "Gui" Mazzaro on the game's forums.
I reached out to Behold Studios' Saulo Camarotti to see if the situation is as bad as fans think. Camarotti was clear that Behold considers Chroma Squad a complete parody and it's not intended to infringe on any copyrights. He admits that he was "sort of" surprised by Saban paying Chroma Squad any attention.
"Sentai is a genre, and it was not created by them," Camarotti told me. "And considering that we're a studio in Brazil with six people, why bother?"
With the fact that Chroma Squad is a parody work, I asked Camarotti why he's negotiating with Saban at all? He reiterated that Behold believes there can be a "win-win negotiation" with Saban Brands and he doesn't want to start a lengthy legal battle. Remember, six developers versus a billionaire.
According to Camarotti, the negotiations are going well and he believes that Saban and Behold can come to amicable terms. On the bright side, a full partnership with Saban means that Power Rangers/Super Sentai content could legally find its way into Chroma Squad.
"That's what we're trying to arrange," Camarotti admitted when I asked him about the possibility.
Ultimately, Behold's discussions with Saban Brands has not delayed development of Chroma Squad; the studio is still moving full speed ahead. Camarotti also thanked the fans of Chroma Squad and tokusatsu for having their backs on the internet.
"This week we're releasing a new version [of Chroma Squad] for the backers, and in the end of summer we'll release the game on Steam," said Camarotti. "I think that the fans don't need to be to harsh on Saban. They have a strong brand and they need to protect it. But I'm glad that everyone is helping us on this matter."
I also reached out to Saban Brands for comment, but they had not responded at press time. I will update the story if they release a statement.