The beat 'em up genre has been around for decades so let's see where it all began. Renegade (AKA Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-kun) introduced gamers to street brawling way back in 1986 but does it hold up more than 30 years later?
Renegade has you control Kunio, everyone's favourite high school badass. As a huge fan of the Kunio-kun franchise, I was looking forward to seeing where his epic legacy began. So, once I noticed that Renegade was finally available for Switch, I just had to play it. For starters, the controls are super-simple as all you do is walk around the small arenas and tap buttons to jump and attack left and right. You can also double-tap in a direction to run. Kunio tends to kick in the opposite direction and punch in front of him and he can also jump-kick and grapple with opponents when you attack them during certain animations. They can hold you, too, so you better think fast if you want to escape. The gameplay is incredibly basic when you consider all the innovations that the genre has seen over the years but it's still undeniably cool to be able to experience the origins of both the Kunio-kun series and beat 'em ups in general.
Although I usually complain about the lack of extra content in these arcade game ports, I'm actually very happy that Renegade contains both the North American and Japanese versions. This is impressive because both games look very different. Whereas the Japanese version has a goofy introductory scene and characters that wear more traditional kung-fu garb, the US version is clearly inspired by the classic 1979 film The Warriors complete with leather jackets and more Americanized environments.
No matter which version you play, Renegade only contains a handful of stages. They basically work like this: you beat up enemies until the boss decides to join the fight then you take them on along with a couple of their cronies to claim victory. If you were a Kunio-kun master and could breeze through the stages then you could complete the entire game in under 10 minutes which is extremely short, even for a mid-'80s arcade game. However, being able to do so will likely require a lot of practice because Renegade is a very unforgiving game with enemies that take quite a while to learn how to outsmart. Heck, the final stage features enemies with knives and a last boss that has a gun; all of which can kill you with one hit. You really have to be on top of your game if you want a chance at beating it.
I already mentioned how simple Renegade's gameplay is but it's also quite clunky when you compare it to beat 'em ups from the '90s (when the genre really started to get into its stride). You won't find yourself effortlessly being able to perform jump-kicks and throws as the controls feel like you constantly have to struggle in order to time things perfectly. Of course, you can master the gameplay but it's still unarguably unintuitive to say the least. One aspect that would have alleviated a lot of frustration is simultaneous multiplayer but this is one of those arcade games where you have to take turns with a friend. What's the point?
Arcade Archives: Renegade is like a time capsule full of tchotchkes; it's cool to open it up and take a look but there's very little substance that remains useful in this day and age.
- + It's cool to experience the origins of both Kunio-kun and the beat 'em up genre
- + Contains 2 very different versions
- - Simple and clunky gameplay certainly doesn't hold up well in this day and age
- - Difficulty can be very frustrating
- - Short / No simultaneous multiplayer