Jitsu Squad

A game by Tanuki Creative Studio for PC, Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox X/S, and Arcade, originally released in 2022.
Jitsu Squad is a belt-scrolling beat ‘em up featuring bright and colorful HD art, four playable animal characters, and a focus on chaotic 1P-4P local co-op against large numbers of enemies. You’re on a mission to save the galaxy from an evil sorcerer named Origami, who has summoned hordes of ancient warriors to track down the Kusanagi Stone. Legend has it that this stone contains the soul of a demon who will grant incredible powers to whomever awakens him. Another sorcerer, named Ramen, manages to summon four warrior to thwart Origami’s plans… and these four warriors make up the Jitsu Squad.
Your fight rages across eight planets – each with a different theme – where you face skeleton warriors, demons, cavemen, and all sorts of colorful creatures. Structurally, the game is similar to most genre entries, offering waves of enemies throughout each stage, followed by a boss encounter. What sets this game apart is its audacious presentation, zany character designs, and the sheer number of enemies it throws at you at once… and a focus on dazzling super attacks and transformations that fill the screen with flourishes and effects as baddies go flying.
Each character has a different moveset, but rather than button-mashing your way into lengthy combos – which is typical of the genre – different moves are performed based on the timing of your button presses. This means that you may double-tap, pause, and then tap again to unleash a different type of attack than simply pressing the button three times. This gives you a lot of different basic attacks, although the timing can be difficult to get right in the heat of battle… but on the lower difficulty settings, button mashing will still get you pretty far. And you gain several new abilities over the course of the game, giving you plenty of ways to lay waste to your foes.
As you collect scrolls, you begin unlocking new abilities, allowing you to unleash stronger attacks using various button combinations. These moves can change the way you engage enemies as you unlock projectile attacks, uppercuts, and aerial strikes. You also gain new abilities as you find weapons in the environment, with each offering unique movesets… and these attacks draw from a separate weapon meter. You’ll probably need to pop open the pause menu a few times just to see all the stuff you can do. Ultimately, there’s a ton of moves and strategies to be mastered, along with four difficulty settings (although the game provides no information as to what separates them), or you can just go crazy trying out all sorts of different attacks to see what happens.
You can eventually make use of powerful summons that call in a warrior to unleash super moves that damage all onscreen foes. Or, you can use the same gauge to power up a transformation that turns your character invincible and allows you to perform new attacks. On top of all this, you also grab and throw enemies, grab and attack them, jump and attack, or parry enemy strikes. Parrying with the proper timing allows you to retaliate with a counter attack that interrupts the enemy's strike and gives you a damage bonus, which is stackable. There are numerous crowd control and juggling opportunities for those who make use of all the available tools.
Playable characters include Hero Yamagiwa, a cockscombed raccoon shinobi on a mission to avenge his father's death; Baby O’Hara, a cyber ninja bunny seeking her twin sister’s murderer; Jazz Amun, a kung-fu master frog with a huge afro who wields a Goemon-style pipe and magical attacks; and finally Aros Helgason, a dragon-slaying boar who is the beefy one of the bunch, and he attacks with a huge sword (also great for air guitar) and a metal arm. At the start of the game, each player must select one character, but once you beat the game, you can play again in Tag Mode where you select multiple characters and tag them in with a button press… although they each level up independently.
Hero is the most straightforward brawler, using short-range melee strikes. Baby, on the other hand, focuses on ranged attacks, tossing kunai, transforming into a baseball player to knock balls around, and transforming into a cannoneer to launch cannon balls… and she can also use her umbrella to glide down from a jump. Jazz whacks dudes with his pipe, and he uses his mental powers to grab enemies and hold them in the air. Aros delivers heavy strikes with his fists and performs ground pounds when attacking during a jump, and when dashing.
Defeating enemies or breaking objects offers health restoratives, drops to charge your weapon and special meters, and 1-shot warrior summons that instantly spring into action. Enemy designs make it clear what types of attacks to expect, even if the sheer number of enemies can be overwhelming at times. Also, enemy hitboxes are somewhat narrower than that of other brawlers, meaning that you’ll need to spend more effort to ensure that you’re on the same plane as the enemy you’re facing. In the thick of battle, you could find yourself wailing away on multiple enemies at once, or flailing furiously at nothing.
As expected, boss battles are tougher, as they offer faster movement, stronger attacks, and significantly longer life bars. Also, as you deliver damage to each boss, a purple meter slowly fills, and when it reaches its max, the boss turns temporarily invincible and unleashes a series of strikes or projectile attacks. At this point, you need to run and dodge as quickly as possible, but unfortunately you may find yourself stunlocked if you get hit by one attack, which may send you bouncing back and forth between multiple repeated hits. At the end of each stage, you’re ranked on your remaining health, damage dealt, maximum combo (this is a point multiplier), number of kills (a smaller multiplier), and whether or not you were killed in the stage.
From a presentation standpoint, the game revels in its verve, with a jammin’ soundtrack – the vocalized tracks are particularly insane – and never-ending over-the-top action. Without some kind of surgical procedure, it would be impossible for the human eye to take in more colors and special effects than those on display here in any given moment. The writing is pretty throwaway stuff with lots of references to games and movies that mostly fall flat (Are we still doing Austin Powers jokes in 2022?), but your fingers should be used to rapidly pressing the SKIP button by the time you reach the cutscenes. Oh and for some reason, the default answer to all prompts is “no”… For a game with this level of vivacity and wailing guitaredness, the default response to starting the next stage should be “BRING IT!”

Jitsu Squad was developed by Tanuki Creative Studio, a studio based in The Nethrelands and founded by Dave Baljon in 2016. Dave is the lead designer and artist, Sebastien Romero is the lead animator and composer, Pieter Visser is the lead programmer, Laurent Romero is the lead artist, and Akli Lounès Touati is the programmer.
The console versions of the game were published by ININ Games, a publishing label of United Games GmbH that focuses on retro, indie, and arcade games, including Ultracore, CrossCode, The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors, Turrican Flashback, Turrican Anthology Vol. I & II, and Pocky & Rocky Reshrined.