Don’t jump out of your seats too quickly here, folks — Tanuki Justice has nothing to do with Mario’s Tanooki suit. Developed by Wonderboy Bobi, this 2D run ‘n’ gun platformer actually shares a lot more in common with classic Mega Man games, albeit with slightly more frenetic gameplay. It’s a fun, challenging experience (particularly with the difficulty ramped up to maximum), but one that’s ultimately a bit on the short side.
Spread over six levels — which depict specific and familiar themes such as haunted graveyards and sunny shorelines — you simply work your way through waves of enemies until you come face-to-face with the boss. There’s a nice variety of minions to dispatch, with some bounding relentlessly toward you, and others hurling projectiles in ‘bullet hell’ fashion; it’s a shame so many of them cross over into multiple levels, but each stage features at least one unique enemy type, which is nice. There’s a multiplayer mode if you want to play two-player locally, and although nothing really changes in regards to the level layout and enemy placement, it’s a fun little addition.
To get an idea of how the gameplay works, imagine taking the Metal Blade from Mega Man 2, making it the primary method of combat and stretching it across an entire game. You can shoot out shurikens in any direction, and although their range is quite poor, you can pick up upgrades to make the projectiles bigger and more powerful. Using the triggers lets you lock your firing direction in place, although you’ll likely find this to be an unnecessary addition for the most part. As you defeat enemies, you’ll also fill up a special meter, which lets you unleash a massive spinning shuriken once it’s full, which is fantastic for chipping a boss’s health down.
Although the levels are disappointingly short, they feel like they’ve been meticulously designed to challenge you without ever feeling overwhelming or unfair; if you happen to die at any point, chances are you’ll quickly learn from your mistake and triumph on the next round. This might sound a bit easy to some, and it probably is on normal difficulty, but select one of the higher modes, and not only will the amount of enemies drastically increase, but their rate of fire will also shoot up.
Tanuki Justice is typically ‘retro’ in terms of its overall presentation. The colourful, pixel-heavy visuals pay homage to NES titles (although the art design often screams Sonic), and the soundtrack features some catchy, albeit rather repetitive tunes. There are a couple of annoying quirks typical of some 8-bit games, like the inability to jump down through a platform, and items disappearing after just a few short seconds. Otherwise, if you’re after a fun little run ‘n’ gun platformer reminiscent of early Mega Man titles, this might just be the one for you.