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RELEASE DATE (NA): December 1986 GENRE: Beat-'em-up
// review by SoyBomb

Try new lemon-flavoured Reneg-Ade.

In 1986, beat-'em-ups weren't all that common. You had a few out there — notables include Irem's Kung-Fu Master (later adapted into "Kung Fu" on NES) and Karateka — but they weren't particularly mainstream just yet. It was Technōs Japan's Double Dragon in 1987 that really caused arcade enthusiasts to notice and appreciate the genre and gave the genre a much-needed boost, but it was their arcade game a year earlier, Renegade, that introduced the company's brawling abilities to the world. It was a fairly revolutionary game at the time, but it certainly doesn't hold up well.

Renegade was originally released in North American arcades in December of 1986, but in Japan, it was plunked into arcades the May prior as "Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-kun", loosely translated to "Hot-Blooded Tough Guy Kunio". The Kunio series was a long-running and very popular series starring everyone's favourite high-schooler, Kunio! Starting out originally as a series surrounding high schools getting into brawls and beating the living turkey out of each other (with Kunio being the fellow to dole out the most pain), the series later branched out into a variety of sports games (dodgeball being the most popular, but also soccer and basketball, among others) and even a puzzle title.

But it all began here with Renegade. Though the game is only four stages long, Renegade tries its best to make use of what little it actually has. This game is tough. This game will easily chew you up and spit you out if you're not well-prepared and jacked up on Monster energy drinks, unable to blink. You star as a street punk whose lady love has been taken by a gang of ruffians, and it's up to you to lay the smackdown on every single member to get back your girl. This type of storyline was atypical at the time for a video game, though it soon became more of a trope in the beat-'em-up genre as a premise for violence.

You have two basic attacks, a punch and a kick; the game buttons are actually mapped for the direction you're facing, not the move itself. Beyond this, there are a few fancier tricks you can pull, including pinning a downed enemy and giving them a good punching to the abdomen, and of course the legendary flying kick. But that still doesn't help when thugs are approaching you from one side, because while one is tasting your fist, the other is giving you a hoofing in the back of the head. Renegade is a game that requires constant movement around because you only get one life for your quarter, and you don't want to lose it.

Would you like any punch?

Renegade is also only four stages long, and with a time limit of two and a half minutes per stage, that means there's only ten minutes' worth of game here. Each area takes place on a plane two screens wide, and that's it. The four areas plant our hoodlum hero in the subway station, at a nearby fishing harbour, in an alleyway, and at the gang's final headquarters. For the most part, you can see all of the enemies you're going to fight right from the get-go. The boss usually keeps back for a little while until many of his cronies are deceased. It's just downright bizarre to see the hero brawling in a dark alley against a bunch of mace-wielding women, though. And that alley boss, holy cow... I think I've seen her in every small-town Southern bar there is...

The Japanese version features many differences. First of all, the main character is Kunio, not some generic unnamed fellow. The game was also redesigned to fit the more "Western" design philosophy, with many of the gang members having originally been high schoolers and even members of the fabled Yazuka. What was notably for me was the group of lady punks in muscle shirts, including the rather large one as a boss — they were originally sukeban, or "delinquent girls", decked out in schoolgirl outfits or dressed all in dark clothing. Even the hero himself has changed, with the hero formerly rocking a full-on white high schooler outfit before being Westernized into wearing a black vest and brown pants. Who does he think he is, Crocodile Dundee now? Beyond this, any signs that were previously written in Japanese have been changed to English. Now you can stay at "Motel Technos" or visit the "Adam & Eve" store, by first stepping on their "Wellcome" mat.

Oh, and the Japanese version did NOT have you saving your girlfriend. Instead, you are standing up for the rights of your friend Hiroshi, who has been perpetually bullied by these "renegades". Furthermore, each stage in the Japanese version featured a short cutscene of Hiroshi getting sucker-punched; these were all removed for American audiences.

Renegade, and its Japanese counterpart, were revolutionary for their time. Never before had players really been able to take a character all around an area in four directions and beat the living daylights out of enemies quite like this. Unfortunately, Renegade also hasn't aged well — it's impressively difficult (good for vacuuming all the quarters out of your pocket), with excessive beatings from both sides being the norm. Environments are small, and other than achieving a high score by going through a second, third, fourth time, there's really no reason to play it more than once. With such an evolutionary genre leap with Double Dragon the following year, Renegade looks like the grandfather who just kicks back in his rocking chair and watches the world go by, remembering the renegade he once was.

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