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Vigilante (TurboGrafx-16) artwork

Vigilante (TurboGrafx-16) review

"While it's often compared to Double Dragon, Vigilante is really more of an update to the kitsch classic, Kung Fu, for the NES. It's similar in that some of the burly toughs are limited to holding you in some kind of vitality-draining bear hug to hurt you - they can't punch or kick, like video game versions of Royce Gracie."

Vigilante is a side-scrolling mission that pits a young scrapper against the rude and crude street toughs who kidnapped his girl, Madonna. I like Irem so I'm probably biased; I actually rather enjoyed this game, in spite of its obvious shortcomings. As beat-em-ups go, it's very short, very easy, and very shallow. The hero wears overalls, a white T-shirt, and kung fu slippers, and generally looks a lot cooler than, say, Billy or Jimmy Lee of Double Dragon. But where those brothers could launch effective jump kicks, throw elbows and perform hair pulling throws, the Vigilante only has a handful of very basic techniques. He punches, kicks, foot sweeps, and does a nearly useless jumping kick. Because the Turbografx-16's controllers have rapid fire on them, you'll only need to flick the switches all the way up, and execute fast standing kicks through most of the five-level contest.

Happily, there's a little more to it than that. You can pick up nunchucks and spin them like a propeller on the front of a moving plane - certainly the effect you'll have on any foes in front of you will be similar. You get to dodge bullets, dynamite, and Hell's Angels bikers bent on vehicular homicide. Jump kicking the roadhogs off their rides is one of the coolest bits the game has to offer, and is really the only occasion your jump kick will come into play. Time it right on one of them and send them flying off their motorcycle, while the bike itself goes into a slide that ends up in a mess of flames, smoke and debris. It's also neat how certain enemies respond to low attacks, and certain ones to high attacks, and how some enemies - especially of the axe or bat bearing variety - require you to approach them with perfect timing to score that all-important first hit.

While it's often compared to Double Dragon, Vigilante is really more of an update to the kitsch classic, Kung Fu, for the NES. It's similar in that some of the burly toughs are limited to holding you in some kind of vitality-draining bear hug to hurt you - they can't punch or kick, like video game versions of Royce Gracie. Also, the game is really a strict side-scroller, not allowing for movement up and down into a pseudo-3D background. As an update to Kung Fu, Vigilante is brilliant, sporting crisp, colourful graphics that are cartoony, but still manage to give the player a sense of the grimy, back alley type of fighting that is going on. The music is more than adequate, managing to work its way into your memory with a tune or two. But when compared to deeper beat-em-ups like any of those that the Lees star in, Vigilante can't keep up.

Its obvious drawbacks are its length (five, short levels), and its lack of challenge. The lives and continues provided should see you through within the first day you play the game. So if you're paying for it on eBay, or at a pawn shop, don't spend too much unless you're an Irem or fighting game fanatic. That being said, there are some moments when it all comes together in Vigilante. When the sun sets over the car junkyard, and the agile Tough Brothers bound onto the screen. When the dynamite-tossing Skinhead boss enters the fray from a level above you, dropping explosives down on you before he decides to descend and drop the boot on you instead. And of course, the final confrontation, when your martial arts master faces off with the giant Big Boss (yes, that's his 'name')who has your girl. Pistol-wielding foes and a difficult jump preface the exciting, ultimate scene. These moments make Vigilante worthwhile playing, as long as you can enjoy its fleeting and limited quality at a low price.

Rating: 6/10

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Staff review by Marc Golding (November 16, 2003)

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