Renegade started life not as Renegade but as a Japanese arcade game called 熱血硬派くにおくん, or Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun in Western script, loosely translated as “Hot-Blooded Tough Guy Kunio”. The original game revolves around a high school student standing up against a series of rival gangs targeting his classmates. However it was felt that the high school setting wouldn’t appeal to the Western market so it was renamed “Renegade” and the graphics changed to a setting more akin to a film such as Escape from LA or The Warriors.
In the version we play we control our Renegade as he battles through levels of thugs, bikers, and some very scary ladies of the night to meet your girlfriend who has arranged a date on the other side of town. And what a violent town it turns out to be. Every section of it is jammed full of someone wanting to stab, punch and generally make your life a misery. I am not sure what you did to them, but it must have been bad. It feels like how I imagined New York to be when I was a kid, the only time I had seen it was in The Equalizer, so I assumed every subway train was full of muggers, every lift was a lottery if it would contain murderous thugs.
Every section of it is jammed full of someone wanting to stab, punch and generally make your life a misery
Unlike the arcade machine which used 3 fire buttons, one to attack in each direction, left and right, and one to jump, this just uses the one button, combine these with holding a direction and you can punch, back kick (my personal favourite), flying kick, knee to the groin and punching a floored assailant in the face. And it works really well, controls are tight and responsive, your character responses well and fighting feels solid.
Let’s talk graphics and they are spectacularly good, they move nicely, it’s detailed, colour is bright and well used. Scrolling isn’t a thing, this is a series of flick screens on each level (usually 3 screens per level) but each screen is packed full of detail and atmosphere. And then we come onto the sound, the music is one of my favourite bits of computer game music ever, especially level 3 when you fight outside strip clubs and take on Big Bertha. Just have a listen to it. If you haven’t got a 128k Spectrum thought, it’s well worth getting just for this.
Each level is varied from a Subway station, to a red light district via the docks and ending up in a gang leaders home and each looks beautiful. Upon completion it loops around again in an infinite loop so a high score challenge is absolutely a thing.
Renegade is an example of a arcade conversion done right, it understands the limitation of the host system, it makes concessions to the arcades controls and in my option betters them, is incredibly addictive, looks and sounds great and is an essential purchase for any Spectrum owner.