When we met with ININ Games during Gamescom back in August, one of the standout titles we got to go hands on with was Jitsu Squad, a tag team beat ’em up inspired by the likes of Marvel vs Capcom with cartoon-style visuals. We wanted to know more, so we got in touch with Dave Baljon and Sebastien Romero, two of the driving forces behind the game. Dave was responsible for the original concept as well as its characters and storyline, while Sebastien focuses on music and animation.
How long has Jitsu Squad been in development and (how) has the vision for the game changed over time?
It took about 5 years to make Jitsu Squad. We wanted to create the ultimate Beat Em Up! We started working full time on Jitsu Squad mid 2018. Dave is responsible for the story and all the character designs, while Sebastien is responsible for the music and animation. Pieter Visser and Akli Touati are responsible for the combat mechanics and coding, while Laurent Romero is responsible for art and enemy/boss key frames and Lex van Boheemen did all the additional support. We got our inspiration from games we love to play ourselves such as Marvel VS Capcom, Samurai Showdown, Street Fighter, Metal Slug and of course Streets of Rage! We threw everything in a blender and Jitsu Squad was born!
Can you take us through the character creation process for Jitsu Squad?
Dave: The character design phase started sometime in 2014. I always loved games from Konami and Capcom, as they made so many creative and colourful characters. A game like Parodius is a good example of this. The designers went wild there and I like that. I also thought it would be fun to portray the heroes as animals, and that their alter ego is human – as it’s actually always the other way around. We thought that the human form of the heroes could have a little more character, so I put a cool looking armor on them! We implemented this same idea when creating the bosses – this gave us a lot of extra work in the end, but it was worth it! Variation in the enemies was very important to me so I came up with different themes for all of the stages. Jitsu Squad therefore has more than 35 unique enemies! Sebastien Romero is responsible for the animation, he literally gave life to all of these characters. His brother Laurent enforced our team and supported me on designing a lot of the enemy frames and bosses – and I love Laurent’s designs!
The visual style has a ‘Saturday morning cartoon’ vibe to it – to what degree did that influence your creative vision?
Dave: I was a Saturday morning cartoon junkie, I didn’t miss a single one so you guys saw that very well! The 80’s and 90’s I grew up in had so many cool cartoons! ThunderCats, He-man, Dungeons & Dragons, The Raccoons, Mask, Cops, Dino Riders, Bravestar, Samurai Pizza Cats and Tiny Toons just to name a few. This has undoubtedly had a huge impact on my creative development!
We’ve seen a few familiar characters pop up in screenshots for the game – how did you come up with that aspect and what can you tell us about your collaboration with other developers on that front?
Sebastien: We thought it would be cool to have something different instead of using a bomb or a traditional screen cleaner like in other Beat Em Ups. Marvel VS Capcom for example has Assist characters that help you when you need it. We thought, why don’t we do something similar with characters from other existing games, so we got lucky that some people and game developers got excited and gave us a green flag because they liked the idea and loved Jitsu Squad! We even gave our Kickstarter backers the opportunity to become an Assist Character in the game and let them think of an attack they thought would be cool in the game. Our Kickstarter backers had great ideas so we were very fortunate to work with them!
The gameplay takes cues from several fighting game genres, introducing a variety of mechanics – are you expecting a learning curve for players?
Sebastien: That’s right. However, we have made Jitsu Squad very accessible. For example, we let the player unlock all special moves so that they have the time to learn each new move properly. You learn a new attack by collecting Emaki Scrolls. The special moves are easy to perform by, for example, only doing up or down and attack. We think it is important that the inexperienced player also feels at home and easily gets along with the experienced players. We hope we have succeeded in doing just that.
Arcade brawlers of this type were often short – how long is Jitsu Squad and how do you encourage replayability?
Dave: Beat Em Ups are indeed relatively short. This is because Beat Em Ups originated in the arcade. There it was important that people didn’t play the game for too long. Jitsu Squad however takes two and a half hours to complete in a single quest. The four playable characters are all very unique in how they play, so we hope we can motivate players to try all 4 of them.
Sebastien: We also have something that other Beat Em Ups don’t and that’s Tag Team mode! This awesome feature makes it possible to pick all 4 characters and switch them during your quest anytime you want! You can team up with a friend and create your own unique insane combos as well, but you need to finish the game to unlock this mode. Also, all stages, enemies and bosses are unique so we hope that every new level is a challenge. We have a lot of new content planned for next year!