Posted on August 17th, 2009 6 comments
Release Date: 1/14/89
Price: 6300 yen
Media: HuCard (3 Mbit)
PC Engine FAN Score: 19.65 / 30.00
Kōgien: “Use a variety of moves to rescue your lover Madonna. You can also steal a nunchaku from the enemy and attack with the weapon. A hardcore action game in the style of Kung-Fu Master. The pretty backgrounds are impressive.”
Am I high, or does the hero of this game — the kung fu fightin’ street tough who cleans up the dirty streets of ’80s action-movie New York with his bare fists and feet of fury — look almost exactly like Gohan from Dragon Ball Z? Check this out:
Vigilante is Irem’s first self-made PCE game after having Hudson port R-Type for them. They did not treat the home market all that seriously at this time, not releasing another PCE game at all until December of ’89, but what they did release on the system was technically competent and they occasionally produced honest classics, such as Ninja Spirit.
Simply put, Vigilante is Kung-Fu Master remade for 16-bit arcade hardware — and, of course, to be as painfully ’80s as possible. Through five stages, you are punching and kicking through a massive horde of (mostly white and fetish-gear-wearing) street punks, occasionally picking up a pair of nunchaku that give you the equivalent of long-range, rapid-fire punching. Like in Irem’s original 1984 hit, mindless enemies swarm all over your Vigilante from both sides of the screen at all times, coming in like so many chocolates down the conveyor belt, and your job is to play kung-fu Lucille Ball and land attacks on all of them before they can sap your energy.
Japanese people often write online that the PCE port of Vigilante is a great deal easier than Irem’s 1988 arcade original, but I definitely don’t see it. I do think that there are fewer “special” enemies spawned in the home port — there’s only one black guy with a chain in the entire PCE game, although he shows up at least once per level in the arcade. But the real challenge lies in that constantly-running conveyor belt of bad guys, and that part of the gameplay hasn’t changed at all.
Vigilante had the honor of getting displayed pretty prominently in the TurboGrafx launch advertising. Its graphics are pretty nice; fairly close to the arcade, although naturally they lose the original’s multi-layered scrolling. This is actually the first three-megabit game on the PC Engine — Space Harrier came out a little while before this at 4 megabits — and unlike that Sega arcade port, you can definitely see the extra space being put to use visually. (The music is terrible, but it wasn’t great in the original, either.)
There are many videos of this game on YouTube, but once again I’m going with a Nico-video because it’s recorded off a real PCE, it’s all in one part, and I’m too lazy to go clicking on multiple video links, you know? (Looking back on the vid, I’m amazed at how little energy you take off the bosses with each individual attack. I tried playing it safe against them and often came in danger of running out of time as a result.)