By Fabrice Stellaire / July 28th, 2017
Gamers who own a 3DS or a Wii U may have noticed that there is an old game called Renegade available on Virtual Console on the Nintendo eShop. You may wonder why I decided to pick this title. In fact, I am not a big fan of the NES port made for Renegade, and I decided to take this opportunity to talk you about other Renegade ports and about Target: Renegade, its non-official sequel.
Renegade, developed and published by Technos Japan in Japan and published by Taito in the west, was originally called Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun in the Japanese version. It is the inaugural game in the Kunio-kun series, but never equaled the fame of River City Ransom. While the original game features environments and enemies typical of Japanese culture, such as high school delinquents or yakuza, the western version of the game makes a few changes and replacements with western backgrounds. Gangs of bikers, cross-dressers, and punks appear in the Renegade version of the game. The plot is also different. Kunio-kun must rescue his friend Hiroshi from bullies, while the hero in Renegade is just trying to rescue his girlfriend.
When Renegade was released in 1986 the “beat ’em up” genre was still very basic, and Renegade really helped develop the genre. One of the most notable features brought by Renegade is the possibility to keep punching an enemy you have knocked down. You could also perform jump kicks, back kicks, and punches. Technically, the game may look limited by modern standards, since each level generally comprised of three different screens. The game still provided a lot of fun, though it could be very difficult. You did not have the possibility to restore your health with food and in the last level, enemies used knives that could kill you in one hit. I have not had the opportunity to try the arcade game, but I must say that despite its difficulty, the Amstrad port can be completed in about 45 minutes.
I like the Amstrad port more because the graphics, while less accurate, look more colorful. It is also the only port of the game that features blood. Mark Jones, the graphic designer who worked on this port, reported that he decided to make the blood blue after hearing about the Hungerford massacre, a series of random shootings that happened in England in 1987. The Commodore and Spectrum versions of the game are decent but this time, I think the Amstrad gets an unquestionable victory.
I had a look at the Master System port and I must say that it looks nice and vivid. You might prefer it over its NES counterpart.
I think Renegade ‘s legacy is important and greatly impacted the beat ’em up genre, maybe even more than its spiritual successor Double Dragon, made by the same developer, Technos Japan. I enjoyed Renegade a lot when I owned an Amstrad CPC, and I think that the control issues people sometimes had with the game could easily be fixed today.
Two years later, an unofficial sequel named Target: Renegade was published by Ocean for microcomputers. I call it a non-official sequel because Ocean acquired the right to publish sequels to the game for microcomputers only, but the original developer did not take part in that game. Target: Renegade is the story of a young man trying to get revenge for the death of his brother Matt. The gameplay is very similar to Renegade‘s, but the levels are much bigger. One element that has made this sequel memorable is its incredible music. Soundtracks are common to all microcomputer ports, but are still different depending on the systems. The best way to show it is to listen to them.
The soundtrack of the first level has a few sound bugs, but it is also what made it famous on Amstrad CPC. On a side note, technical limitations might be once again the reason why the Spectrum and Amstrad versions do not have a proper ending cutscene. When you beat the game, you just start over with a higher difficulty and more clever enemies, who will now be able to dodge most of your jump kicks.
The ZX Spectrum port has the same music, but it sounds more accurate. The ZX Spectrum proves its reliability in the sound department.
The Commodore port has incredibly deep, powerful music, and to me is the best port of the game this time. It also has an ending cutscene, which is sadly not included in other microcomputer ports.
I am tempted to say the NES game is a completely different game, with completely different soundtracks that sound much lighter and less tragic. The result is rather convincing, but at the same time, it shows that differences between ports could be huge in the 80s.
I find the songs of Target: Renegade rather enthralling. They convey a feeling of sadness and nihilism that fits a story of revenge. I keep listening to them again and again over the years, and they are for me among the best soundtracks ever made on microcomputers. It is hard to say if Target: Renegade is better or inferior to Renegade, but what is sure is that it is definitely a good beat ’em up. It suffers from comparison with late entries in the genre like Streets of Rage, but remains among the best iterations of the genre on microcomputers.
You will notice I did not mention the third episode of the Renegade trilogy, Renegade III: The Final Chapter. It is a very different game that disappointed many fans. A character named Renegade travelled through time to save his girlfriend, and fight birds and dinosaurs. It was clearly the episode the series did not need, a Metroid: Federation Force of its own, and was quickly forgotten.
Renegade‘s rights are owned By Taito and maybe Arc System Works, which own the intellectual properties of Technos Japan. As far as Target: Renegade is concerned, I am assuming that Atari owns the license since the company owns Ocean Software properties. Once again it is not an easy task to bring back such old games because of legal issues, but I keep hoping a solution will be found one day.
beat'em upRenegadeRetroTarget: Renegade