[A critical eye takes time to develop. RetRose Tinted is a regular column in which I re-examine games of yesteryear to see if my memories of them live up to the reality.]
In the arcades, Renegade was a landmark game responsible for many of the concepts which became commonplace in the beat-em-up genre. Its gameplay was the core on which Double Dragon was built and it is the first in a series of titles which would include such classics as Super Dodge Ball and River City Ransom. Its importance to gaming as we know it can not be understated.
Unfortunately, I did not play the arcade version of Renegade as a child. The game I played shared the same name and the same basic ideas but was vastly different. And by "different," I mean "inferior." And I'm certainly not saying that because I totally suck at it. I do suck at it, mind you, but there's a line between poor performance on the part of the player and poor design.
But that line was something I didn't entirely recognize in my youth. I often thought that if I was failing at a game, it was because there was something wrong with my ability as a player. I mean, clearly, nobody would have let a product this poorly designed out into the marketplace, right?
Oh, Renegade for NES. How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways.
First, this game looks terrible. Oh, sure, it looks great in comparison to many NES games, even ones that I wouldn't complain about the appearance of. The issue isn't technical but one of design. The character models, for example, permanently look as though they need to take a massive dump in the best of circumstances. The similarities to Technos' future are plain, but the decision to make their characters super-deformed had not yet taken hold and these characters simply look, for lack of a better term, retarded.
Who cares if it looks stupid, right? There's good gameplay underneath that, yes? Wrong again. Even giving it the consideration of being a forerunner in its genre, this is just bad. Your hero, "Mr. K," punches, kicks and falls down a lot.
The B and A buttons throw attacks left and right respectively, meaning that you can attack in both directions without having to turn around. This seems really cool, right up until the point where you realize that Mr. K's kick, which has a drastically superior range in comparison to his punch, is only executed on enemies behind him. And since Mr. K automatically turns to face his opponents, the only time you get the range advantage is when you're surrounded by enemies.
Speaking of the enemies, these are some of the most cookie-cutter, boring foes in gaming. Guy, guy who looks exactly the same but holds a club, guy wearing bandana. The transvestites that appear in the third level and beat you with their purses (there's no way you're telling me that's supposed to be a real woman) are a refreshing change of pace but too little, too late.
And then, in the final level of Renegade, you have to wander through a maze of rooms that all look nearly identical, fighting all the enemies you've defeated to this point. You had better hope that you choose the correct door to pass through or you could wind up lost or back at the beginning of the level. Worse, you can actually be taken back to the third level and have to put up with that bullshit all over again.
All of this is aggravated by a number of annoying problems. It seems inevitable that when you punch a guy, he's going to punch you at exactly the same time, leaving you both standing there, slack-jawed, waiting to recover. Should you get lucky to get a couple of punches in in a row, they'll be dazed and there's a fairly good chance that you can grab them and deliver some extra damage via the knee-groin express. There's an even better chance that one of his buddies will come up behind you right when you manage to make the grab and beat the ever-loving crap out of you.
Renegade is boring, frustrating, ugly and seemingly designed for the sole purpose of annoying the people who play it. Its only redeeming quality is the legacy of games Technos would make in years to come. I hate, hate, hate this game and I'm glad to have played it for this column so that I can proceed to burn the cartridge and never, ever play it again.