One of the first side-scrolling beat-'em-ups was Irem's Kung Fu. In it, you, as a lone martial artist, had to make your way to the top floor of a five-story temple by dispatching successive waves of bad guys with only a limited repertoire of punches and kicks. Four years later, Irem produced a spiritual sequel in the shape of Vigilante which had a much more urban flavour.
Vigilante is basically Kung Fu but with better graphics. Movement is limited to a single horizontal plane while the bad guys stream out from both sides of the screen and attack single-mindedly. The hero's repertoire includes only a high and low punch, a high and low kick, and a jumping kick. Occasionally, you can pick up and use a set of nunchucks which increase your reach and make life easier for a while.
This game is far from easy and you will need to have fast reactions to get by. The enemies attack with knives, bats, or pistols, all of which chop away a third of your health meter with each hit taken. If you get too close to an enemy, he'll choke you and gradually take away your health that way. Enemies are constantly pouring from both sides of the screen in such sheer numbers that it's easy to become caught in a double team and watch your health fall to nothing in a matter of seconds. At the end of each level there is a boss fight which are usually over quite quickly if you keep your wits about you.
Vigilante is a great looking game. It uses the large colour palette of the TurboGrafx nicely to recreate the visuals of the arcade original faithfully. The characters in the game have good animation and a hand-drawn look to the sprites. Each level has its own distinct look and feel without any repetition as you might find in other similar games from the era. The sound however is a bit disappointing, the musical tracks aren’t very distinct and the sound effects are fairly basic.
If you are in the market for a senseless side-scrolling brawler then Vigilante will fit the bill nicely. It is a good conversion of a classic arcade game with very responsive controls. The difficulty of the game may put some off however, this isn’t an easy ride, but the game is quite short with three continues so there is a chance you will complete it with a bit of practice. If you are curious then you could do worse than to check this out.