Throwback titles like Tanuki Justice aren’t merely there to emulate the look of old-school side-scrollers. Games like this one will, for better or worse, try their utmost best to pay homage to these golden oldies from decades ago right down to the sound design, controls, and gameplay. Even with all of its blemishes, this one is still a decent romp.
The thing with Tanuki Justice is that it’s one of those games that refuses to hold your hand. You’re in for a tough ride here, as it’s one-hit kill with every attack, and there’s only a limited number of lives to help get you through each level. They even carry over from level to level, so you can only replenish them with 1-Ups. It makes it fairly inaccessible and frustrating for those who can’t quite handle a steep difficulty curve with games like these, no thanks to some occasionally cheap enemy placement. Otherwise, generally speaking, it’s mostly fair with how challenging it is. Aside from the rare surprise attack or awkwardly-positioned foe, chances are most of your deaths will be your own fault anyway.
While the game is pretty short, clocking in at just over an hour, it still tries to mix things up briefly from time to time. You’ll be dodging spikes on a moving cart, hopping on tree branches over spike pits, and pogoing across tree logs flowing downstream, all the while flinging shurikens at all sorts of critter enemies. Some of them may simply bounce around or launch projectiles, while others explode and spew fire, or summon lightning. Most tend to go down with a few hits, if not a single one, which makes up for the fact that they can pretty much kick your booty seamlessly.
Combat-wise, you’re limited to throwing shurikens around. They don’t go particularly far, and it can feel a bit tiring to be limited to this move alone after a short while. You can find power-ups that allow you to throw bigger ones at a longer range. Even better, damaging enemies and smashing crates will build up your magic meter, which will allow you to throw a giant flaming shuriken. Since it can pierce tougher foes, it’s a god-send against bosses, especially those with weak spots. That’s not to say these encounters are pushovers, mind you. They’ll still make you sweat with their numerous attacks to dodge.
For a retro-style title, Tanuki Justice certainly looks the part. Enemy and item sprites have that ‘faux-retro’ look to them, akin to 8-bit console titles and gaming PCs from the past – only a fair bit better, of course. It’s nothing too visually striking, but it’s competent enough, not to mention quite colourful. The music consists of looped chiptune tracks to accompany the gameplay, and while they’re fairly short and repetitive, they’re a nice listen.
While the controls are easy enough to get the hang of – you can hold down either of the triggers to fixate your aim or make you run uninterrupted – one nitpick is that you can’t jump down through thin platforms. In the second level, you have to dodge a massive creature digging downward while you rush for the gaps in the floor in order to get away – a simple move like that would’ve been helpful. Even then, it would’ve just made the platforming a little easier as well. Speaking of which, even though you can double-jump, it still feels like a short, little hop either way. It’s not to say aerial controls are bad in any way, though, as it still feels tight and responsive in any case.
Ultimately, Tanuki Justice is a fair-in-quality title that side-scroller purists will no doubt have the most fun with. It still suffers from a few niggles, with the steep difficulty and short length being the most noteworthy issues that may simply scare off anyone after something more digestible and lengthier. It plays like a quick burst of action-packed, shuriken-slinging trickiness, which proves to be quite fun if you can muster enough skill to get through this gauntlet of a game.
Review code supplied by PixelHeart.