If you happened to live near the seaside in 1987 (I did) you probably had a plethora of arcade establishments in which you could freely waste your 10p coins on whatever beat-em-up took your fancy (we had at least five or six). This was a great year for the genre with releases such as Shinobi and Ninja Warriors pushing the envelope of video game violence to unseen levels. For a humble Speccy owner however, the situation at home was a far more cartoonish affair with titles such as ‘Bruce Lee’ and ‘Way of the Exploding Fist’ offering great game-play at the expense of the action-movie brutality of the arcade.
Then fatefully one day our jaded appetites were satiated with the release of ‘Renegade’; a conversion of Technos’ arcade smash from 1986. Where the Japanese arcade original had been modified to resemble the characters from the ‘Warriors’ movie, the Spectrum release was promoted with edgy poster art depicting backstreet brawls and gang violence in its rawest form.
This was a blurring of the lines between game and movie and perhaps the first visceral arcade experience you could enjoy in your front room (10p’s and front teeth intact).
Renegade is a stage based beat-em-up in which you, the lone hero, are tasked to see off an entire gang of attackers and their respective bosses using only your hands and feet. The reason? Well the same as any other beat-em-up; to win your ‘gal Lucy back from the clutches of an evil gang overlord. Simplistic? Well laugh ye not as this sole premise was the plot of almost everything in the late 80’s from “Commando” to certain episodes of “The Golden Girls”.
After selecting your game options, the game begins in a subway station; your character surrounded by six baddies and their boss who sulks in the background menacingly. The last few bars of the game’s woozy boogie-woogie moozak fades away, and then Boom! Its time to get physical. And hit people.
After your hero fumbles in his pockets for a subway ticket you eventually realise these boys mean business and you’ll have to come up with a better plan if you want to settle into the mortgage and fridge freezer lifestyle with Lucy.
Luckily for you, an arsenal of punches and kicks are only a simple joystick command away. With great ease you can deliver crushing jabs, paralysing rear kicks, and with a little ingenuity – probably the game’s arc de triumph – the “Flying” kick. In fact it’s easy to spot a Renegade novice as he or she will depend heavily on this move, using it to dispatch almost every enemy in the game. But Lo! Watch me with thirty years of practise as I perform the games “advanced” techniques; hip throws (exclusive to the 128K version), back kicks, and use the stage’s environment to chuck my enemy to his inevitable death. Watch me grab a stage’s boss by the shoulders, introduce my knee to his love spuds, and then mount him to pound him into submission! Woof! This is MMA while the general public were still reeling from Saturday afternoon wrestling and Paul Daniels.
If you ever made it off the first level you found yourself knee deep in a world of hurt; greasy harbour biker gangs await, challenging you to an unfair game of chicken (you don’t get a bike).
On the third level, loose ladies in leather make you feel like you’re on a night out in Hull; woozy and disorientated you get whipped to death under the glare of neon signs that demand $20 while you wonder what happened to that quiet night in watching “Last of the Summer Wine” you’d planned.
If you ever make it to the final stage, make sure you’re wearing your sturdiest PE kit because not only will the henchmen STAB you, the game’s final boss will also SHOOT you and probably say weird things about your mother too.
All in all, Renegade is a supremely playable game, and has remained so for the past 27 years. As a ZX Spectrum game it stands out as a paragon of slick game play and cool graphics. Despite it’s impact on the Spectrum scene it proved a hard act to follow beyond “Target Renegade” as even its own spin off’s could not further the momentum indefinitely. It is possible that “Renegade” stands alone as the best beat-em-up conversion to grace the system; a theory we will explore over the course of this series!
If you are young, raised on high resolutions and 3-D gesture controlled menu systems to decide what underwear your Tekken character should be wearing, then you will raise an eyebrow at this game. But no! Lower that brow and fire this up in your emulator because this is where the seeds of Tekken and Street Fighter began all those years ago. You have been informed.
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Imagine Software – Published by Ocean
Authors: Mike Lamb, Ronnie Fowles, Fred Gray
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Retro Yak Dave says:
Great review! I’m either going to find my Renegade Spectrum cassette and load it up, or find 10p and walk to the arcade (whichever is quickest) but either way I now have the itch to once again play the amazing Renegade. Can’t wait for more Speccy Arcade Conversion reviews from John!