Tanuki Justice

A game by Wonderboy Bobi for PC, Switch, and PS4, originally released in 2020.
Tanuki Justice is an arcade-style actioner starring tanuki siblings out for justice, just like it says on the tin. The opening cinematic presents a shadowy figure that laughs maniacally and exclaims “I’m gonna dominate the world!”, followed by a pair of tanuki who respond with “In your dreams!” while standing in aggressive poses. And that’s all you need to know… The bad guys are bad. The good guys are good. And the justice is tanuki.
You take on the role of the tanuki brother in 1P, with a second player joining as the sister in local 2P co-op. You are able to select between normal, hard, or insane difficulties at the start of the game, with the harder modes offering higher enemy counts, more tough enemies mixed into the regular ones, and multi-hit enemies taking more damage to kill… but you’ll definitely want to start out on the normal difficulty setting until you get the hang of things. For most players, this setting still presents a substantial challenge, although expert retro gamers are likely to reach the end in under an hour.
Like the classics that inspired it, Tanuki Justice features about 20 minutes of gameplay spread over an hour or two depending on your skill level. That said, the game offers a faster and more frenetic experience than most of its predecessors, with enemies coming at you in great numbers and from all directions. Your default weapons is an 8-way shuriken with a very short range, but a powerup allows you to extend its range somewhat (and you lose this powerup when you are killed). It’s not any more powerful, but even a slight range extension can make a big difference in combat.
In addition, you can lock your aim to fire in one direction while you move in another. Alternatively, you can lock your position and fire in eight directions, which is less useful since you’ll usually need to stay on the move to dodge enemies and projectiles. Confusingly, the same button combination for locking your position also locks you into a continuous run where you can aim freely. The only difference is whether you’re moving or standing still when you activate it, which can lead you to running off a ledge if you’re not careful. In most games where a button press locks your position, it also brings you to a dead stop.
You have a special attack in the form of a gigantic super shuriken that moves slowly across the screen, wiping out a wide swath of popcorn enemies effortlessly, dealing multiple hits of damage to bosses and minibosses, and cancelling enemy projectiles. This weapon can only be used when your magic meter is filled, which is done by attacking enemies or collecting blue gems from treasure chests. The meter fills quickly, so the super shuriken isn’t so much a last resort as it is something that players should work into their regular flow of combat.
In addition to your weapons, you have a 2x nonvariable jump, and a double jump. While the action is focused primarily on combat, there are plenty of challenging platforming sequences mixed in for good measure, including sections where you’re jumping across falling logs along a waterfall, hopping over spikes on a moving train car, and jumping between disappearing/reappearing platforms. As in Shinobi, there are often high road and low road paths through parts of the level, but unfortunately you are not able to jump back down from high platforms, which can make it difficult to deal with enemies below you… or reach certain treasure chests.
Most treasure chests contain magic-restoring small, medium, or large blue gems, or a shuriken powerup, but others contain more valuable items like 1UPs or shields. You start the game with three lives and you die in one hit, but since you respawn on the spot when you die – and you have a lengthy invincibility period – you can slop your way through a mistake or two without losing all of your progress. The shield allows you to take a single hit of damage without being killed. Treasure chests with 1UPs or shields are often harder to reach than the others, and since chests can be used as platforms, you sometimes need to shoot a potential platform and rely on your double-jumping skills to grab your prize and cross the gap.
There’s not a huge amount of enemy variety across the game’s six stages, but there are a couple of new enemy types introduced in each themed area. The challenge comes from thoughtful enemy placement that mixes large numbers of easy enemies with a smattering of flying foes or projectile tossers, and the occasional brute. You won’t have much time to take a breath as you are quickly ushered from one set of enemies to the next, and levels are timed (although the timer is the least likely thing to kill you). Supporting this fast pace is the fact that item drops only last a few seconds before they disappear.
Levels feature a miniboss or a swarm of enemies at the midpoint, followed by an end-level boss, and there’s a dedicated final boss encounter at the end of the game. Bosses tend to be quite tough since they can quickly move out of the range of your shuriken, and they can toss lots of projectiles (not quite bullet hell, but enough to keep you on your toes) or call in support enemies. If you use up all of your lives fighting a boss, you’ll have to restart the level from scratch. On the other hand, your shield, shuriken powerup, and extra lives carry over from one level to the next, so skilled play against bosses allows you to go into the next level with an advantage.
The game is extremely colorful with charming enemy designs and an upbeat soundtrack. It offers the fast pace and score-focused gampeplay of arcade actioners, combined with NES-style character designs. Since you can pick up and replay from any level you’ve previously reached, making progress is a bit like credit feeding an arcade machine. There are a couple of additional modes to unlock, with an arena-based survival mode unlocked upon beating the game, and another very challenging mode – with a new playable character – unlocked when you complete the hard mode.

Tanuki Justice was developed by Wonderboy Bobi, a studio headed by Fran├žois Perez and based in Fontainebleau, France. The game was developed in partnership with Storybird Games (Aggelos, Chronicles of Teddy: Harmony of Exidus) and Pixel Heart.

The game was published by No Gravity Games, which also published Okinawa Rush, Flippin Kaktus, Golden Force, and Good Night, Knight, among other titles.