Game Review: “Jitsu Squad” (PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, Steam PC)
There was clearly a lot of love that went into the making of Jitsu Squad – love for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game, that is. Aside from the obvious inspirations and comparisons to TMNT, there are a plethora of other video game and pop-culture references throughout Jitsu Squad.*
Naturally, some light spoilers will follow.
Much like the aforementioned TMNT arcade game, Jitsu Squad lets you pick from four different anthropomorphic teenagers who slice, dice, and chop… sushi! Yes, there is a sushi slicing bonus level. Did you think that I was going to say pizza? No, this isn’t a TMNT game, dummy. But they also slice and dice bad guys, and lots of them! Jitsu Squad takes the classic arcade beat-em-up formula, and injects a healthy dose of awesome, to make this game a true gem for fans of the brawler genre.
From the start, you pick the number of players (up to four), your desired difficulty level, and then select from the four different anthropomorphic fighters: Hero, the sword-wielding samurai raccoon, Baby, a rabbit kunoichi and projectile expert, Aros, a massive warthog Viking that is the strongest of the group, and my personal favorite, Jazz, the martial arts master frog that uses a golden pipe, magic, and his own unique blend of lethal weapons. Each character plays differently, so you are likely to find one that fits your personal play style best.
In addition to their main attacks, each character can also pick up a second “sub-weapon” to mix things up a bit. There is also an experience system that grants you new attacks and super-abilities as you level up. Thanks to all of these upgrades, you are a full-on, bad-guy-slaying machine by the end of the game. If you don’t want to bother with leveling up, you can opt to start off fully powered in the options menu. I tried it out on my second playthrough, and it definitely rawks that way, but it does make it easier and takes away the satisfaction of unlocking new moves. Such is the price of being a total ass-kicker, I guess!
There is also a parrying system that powers up your moves with each enemy attack that you successfully counter. This was a little tricky when the action gets really intense, and it sometimes fails to recognize the attack, causing the parry to fail and reset your combo counter. This is probably the biggest frustration I found with Jitsu Squad, especially since some of the bosses basically require perfect parries and counter attacks in order to successfully take them down. That freaking wasp girl! (Anger! Frustration!)
Even though the parries can be a bit annoying, they aren’t generally an issue, and most of the time you can use your dash move to dodge enemy attacks anyway. You’ll frequently try to perfectly position yourself to execute your main combo attacks so that you can rack up the biggest combos, which feels quite satisfying. If you time your button presses just as your character flashes, then your next attack will be powered-up and may change a bit too, so this helps give Jitsu Squad some deeper mechanics than the typical “pound on the attack button mindlessly” approach of other arcade brawlers. Once you learn each of the character’s combos, you will have tons of fun just blazing through the bad guys and churning out some massive combos – especially in Tag Mode!
What’s “Tag Mode”? Once you complete the game for the first time, you can unlock Tag Mode, which allows you to swap out between all the characters at a whim. This mode is a great addition and it’s definitely worth playing through a second time with the full arsenal of the entire team at your command. My personal favorite thing to do was start a setup with Baby’s projectiles, then tag in Jazz to put an up-close whoop-up on everyone in sight, then tag in Aros for some heavy-hitting attacks to clean up! You really do feel like a bad ass!
Jitsu Squad never shies from its over-the-top presentation. The action, stages, and I particularly enjoyed the soundtrack. One level has you surfing on lava accompanied by a heavy metal singer rawking out while singing about just that! Touches like this and the lighthearted banter between characters during the story interludes really adds a lot of charm to Jitsu Squad, and it really is non-stop from beginning to end!
One nitpick worth mentioning is that there is only one save slot, so I ended up starting over three times before I really got too far into the game. I first played three stages in single player mode, then started a new game to play multiplayer with my wife, and then started over again for a complete, single player run. Multiple save slots would be nice for this kind of thing. While I’m rounding out my final gripes, an online co-op option would be a nice addition. While I do appreciate playing in couch co-op (it’s a lost art!), online would be a better option for those who don’t have many “couch friends” at the ready.
Overall, Jitsu Squad is definitely recommended for anyone who enjoys classic, multiplayer arcade brawlers. The game really does have its own personality separate from the TMNT and other pop culture references. There is plenty of humor and charm throughout the game and its atmosphere, and the satisfaction of racking up hundreds and hundreds in your combo meter makes it feel like you are truly whoopin’ some ass! Give it a shot, and let us know who your favorite character is in the comments! (#TeamJazz)
Jitsu Squad is developed by Tanuki Creative Studio, published by ININ Games, and is available now for PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, and Steam PC.
*Disclosure: A PS4 copy of Jitsu Squad was provided to The Splintering for the purpose of this review.
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