Let’s be real: 2020 was chock full of surprises, some good and many bad. But, perhaps one of the nicest was being sent a review code for a game that reminds me of the likes of Shinobi and Wonder Boy.
Tanuki Justice is a game that feels like a love letter to the Sega arcade and arcade-style platformers of the 1980s. It’s tough as nails and feels like a quarter muncher. It has a pixel art style that is nostalgically charming. There’s even a twangy soundtrack that manages to both pay homage to those titles while still standing out on its own!
To be fair, I was excited to play this game the second I saw Pixelheart was involved. This is a company best known for publishing modern releases on the Sega Dreamcast. Tanuki Justice is not one such title. It is now out on the Nintendo Switch, but it’s also very clear that the target audience here is old-school Sega fans.
This Sega inspiration seems especially clear when you see the developer’s name, Wonderboy Bobi. It’s on the nose, but I absolutely respect it.
Tanuki Justice seems so simple at first sight. You play as one of two shuriken-shooting tanukis – either alone or with a friend – as you run, jump, double jump, and shoot your way through stages. You have a magic gauge that fills up to allow you to shoot a giant shuriken, and your shooting and movement directions can be locked by holding the trigger buttons. You also die in one hit. Again, this game is very arcadey nature, and even on the lowest difficulty, you’ll find yourself dying a ton.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When I realized exactly what style of game this was, my mindset went from treating it like a console platformer to treating it like a quarter-munching arcade game. It’s difficult, yes, but oddly mindless in a way. I don’t mean mindless as an insult, either. It’s that relaxing kind of mindless that has you coming back after every Game Over saying “just one more try”.
Yes, you have a limited set of lives. But there’s also a level select screen and a limitless number of continues. There’s only seven main stages total, but they’re well crafted and addictive enough that even if/when you master them, you’ll feel compelled to come back to get as high of a score as possible.
It’s not a particularly complex game. But it doesn’t need to be. It’s simple, addictive and, above all else, it’s a ton of fun.