Jitsu Squad, one of the fastest and flashiest beat ‘em ups in recent memory, is headed to consoles in December. Among Jitsu Squad’s standout features are gorgeous 2D artwork, a catchy soundtrack, and 4-player local co-op. To learn more about the original PC game and upcoming console versions, we interviewed Dave Baljon and Sebastien Romero of Tanuki Creative Studio.
Co-Optimus: Thanks for taking the time to visit our headquarters situated on as remote island for this definitely in-person interview. First, can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do at the studio?
Dave: Hi, I am Dave Baljon, founder of Tanuki Creative Studio. [I am] responsible for the story and all the character designs.
Sebastien: My name is Sebastien Romero, co-founder and responsible for music and animation.
Let us also introduce the rest of the team members: Pieter Visser and Akli Touati are responsible for the combat mechanics and coding. Laurent Romero is responsible for art and enemy/boss key frames, and Lex van Boheemen did all additional support.
Dave Baljon (left) and Sebastien Romero
Dave: My favorite beat ‘em up would be Alien vs. Predator from Capcom! I like these two franchises, and the art and gameplay of the game is truly amazing!
Sebastien: My favorite beat 'em ups are probably the River City Ransom series. I really love the original NES game but also spin-offs like Tokyo Rumble. In terms of soundtrack, no brawler can beat Streets of Rage 2.
Dave: We love the TMNT Konami classic, so when the announcement came of a new TMNT pixel art-style beat ‘em up, we were hyped, and Tribute didn’t disappoint. The only thing it’s missing is a good scanline shader to give the amazing pixel art more depth, but it's a really great game that shows a lot of love and passion!
We used to play [Konami’s] Vendetta in the arcade. It’s not as well-known as Final Fight, but it’s a great beat ‘em up! We are glad about [Bitmap Bureau’s spiritual successor]. The graphics and gameplay are solid, and we like the use of color and the animation. Definitely worth a shot!
Co-Optimus: Jitsu Squad is a Kickstarter success story. Can you tell us a little about the process of launching the campaign and eventually delivering the final product?
Sebastien: Launching a Kickstarter project is a lot of work. It takes months of planning and preparation. We started out with bad luck because COVID-19 struck the world just one week after the launch. We had no choice to take down the Kickstarter page and try later.
It was difficult, but we dusted ourselves off and relaunched the Kickstarter campaign one year later. We didn't sit still, however. [We returned with] an actual playable demo for people to try out. We highly recommend to anyone who’s planning a Kickstarter: make a solid, short demo [so that] people can truly experience your idea.
Dave: We had a pretty good start with the second Kickstarter, but things really got better near to the end of the campaign when YouTube influencer and fighting game fanatic Maximilian Dood started playing the game during the last two days. We always watched his streams during lunch, so we thought it would be cool to put him in the game as an assist character. We never expected that he would play the demo during the Kickstarter period. It was awesome, and we are eternally grateful!
Co-Optimus: ININ Games is the publisher for the console versions of Jitsu Squad. How did they pick up the game, and what kind of support have they given you?
Dave: ININ actually contacted us during the first Kickstarter campaign. That Kickstarter was, of course canceled, but we always stayed in touch. We [contacted them] again during the second Kickstarter, so they did not forget about us. ININ and Strictly Limited have a great catalog of old-school games, so we felt right at home and [have] built a good relationship with them over the years.
Sebastien: We released Jitsu Squad on PC (Steam and Epic) ourselves. ININ was not involved [with those versions]. ININ is responsible for publishing the game on all consoles, including physical and digital releases for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch and the digital Xbox release. We have been working closely together, especially on the Collector's Edition.
Co-Optimus: Can you give us a quick idea of how you arrived at the premise of Jitsu Squad?
Sebastien: We wanted to create the ultimate beat ‘em up! We have an amazing team of people who share the same interest in games, so working together on this project wasn’t that difficult.
Jitsu Squad took us about 5 years to make. We got our inspiration from games we love to play ourselves such as Marvel vs. Capcom, Samurai Shodown, Street Fighter, Metal Slug, and Streets of Rage, of course! We threw everything in a blender, and Jitsu Squad was born!
Dave: We get a huge smile on our faces when people who play the game see the references or create combos that we never believed were possible. It’s fantastic!