Jitsu Squad is a beat 'em up heavily inspired by '90s classics like belt-scroller Final Fight and fighter Marvel vs. Capcom. You control the titular squad as they seek to stop the evil demon Origami from getting his hands on the Kusanagi Stone, a legendary MacGuffin which grants godly powers to anyone who can attain it. After a successful Kickstarter in early 2021 and a Steam release in March this year, Dutch indie team Tanuki Creative Studio’s exhilarating debut has come to Switch with an adequate conversion that could use some touching up.
As you boot up the game, it’s immediately apparent where the inspirations for Jitsu Squad lie. The character select screen feels ripped out of Street Fighter Alpha, it has a Saturday morning cartoon-esque art style, and references to a host of Capcom classics. The game anchors itself on nostalgia for the Marvel Vs. Capcom games, with enemies with claws running around shouting “berserker barrage” and super moves having character cut-ins with the name of said move. Even animations like Aros’ shoulder bash are almost one-to-one recreations of Hulk from MVC.
Jitsu Squad is heavily aimed at a specific group of people — one that this reviewer happens to be a part of — but that's not to say it can’t stand on its own merits. The squad is made up of four playable characters: Hero, a ninja raccoon whose move set is speedy and combo-heavy; Baby, a bunny whose moves revolve around ranged attacks; Jazz, a frog with the power of telekinesis; and finally our favorite, Aros, a hulking Ox who is slow and hits like a truck — think Final Fight’s Mike Haggar with a sword.
Each character feels great to control, with their own unique combos and specials. However, it makes the act of deciding who to pick all the more challenging. Thankfully Jitsu Squad has us covered with the excellent inclusion of Tag Team mode in which you can instantly swap out characters with the press of a button, even letting you continue combos as you swap through them. Assists are also found throughout the world, letting you bring in cameo characters like Yooka-Laylee or Youtuber Maximillian Dood and his dog Benny to perform screen-clearing super moves.
On a more negative note, the game is a tad short, coming in at about two hours to play through the eight stages. While the option is there to replay the game with other characters, there isn’t much beyond that; at least until the planned boss rush and survival modes are added via updates in the future. While the references in the style, gameplay and animation are appreciated, the game's script tends to lean a bit too heavily into reference humor. Many of the interactions are two characters joking, followed by Hero interrupting with something like “stop making references.”
The main issue, however, is the game's performance, with some levels (such as the train) feeling like they play in slow motion at times. We also experienced crashes a few times throughout our post-patch playthrough — and we had to wait for the day one update thanks to the constant crashing of the unpatched version. Hopefully things will continue to improve over time, but if you happen to get a physical copy of the game, make sure you update it.