Review by Iressivor
Reviewed: 11/23/02 | Updated: 11/23/02
"You ain't leaving this town alive!"
Mix two parts Double Dragon with one part Combatribes and a pinch of Final Fight, and what do you get? It's Konami's Vendetta, the sequel to Crime Fighters and a largely overlooked entry to the side-scrolling beat-em-up genre, which was at its peak in the late 80's to early 90's.
The storyline should sound familiar to the fans of the genre, as it is basically the same from game to game. The Dead End Gang has been holding Dead End City under its reign of terror for many years, but is looking to expand its territory. Standing in its way are the Cobras, an elite fighting force working against the Dead End Gang to help keep the evil gang's power in check. Determined to take control of the city at any cost, the Dead Ends kidnap the Cobras' beautiful protege, Kate, in an attempt to lure the Cobras to their doom. As one of the four Cobras -- Blood, Hawk, Boomer or Sledge -- your mission is to track down Kate and confront the boss of the Dead End Gang, in order to put his boys out of commission once and for all.
The game is comprised of five missions ranging across the city, each one filled to the brim with Dead End thugs and a big bad boss. Enemies range from the basic punk henchmen (some of which look like rejects from the Japanese Kunio-Kun series) to huge masked wrestlers, and even a leather-clad dominatrix joins the fray from time to time. The Cobras each have their own fighting style, but certainly aren't restricted to the standard punches and kicks. Almost anything you find on the ground can be used as a weapon, including, but not limited to, chains, knives, spiked clubs and whips, oil drums and crates, molotov cocktails and dynamite, and even a brick if you feel so inclined. Many of the game's backgrounds are also interactive, allowing you to freely send your foes crashing into windows or bring a scaffolding down on their heads. In short, you'll have no small variety of ways to punish your enemies. As a rule in side-scrolling beat-em-ups, the game's bosses are larger than life brutes (albeit with slightly cheesy names), and you'll have a rough time taking some of them down without incorporating a bit of strategy. The point system is somewhat unconventional, awarding but a single point for each bad guy you take down, making it more of a body count than a scoring system, but it shouldn't affect the game either way.
As with most other brawling games of its time, the graphics in Vendetta are big, bold, and colorful. The sprites are all well drawn and intricately detailed, particularly the bosses, but the Cobras themselves seem a little too uniform, and could have done with a bit more variety to help distinguish their characters. As it is, Hawk looks a little too much like Hulk Hogan, and Sledge could definitely take first prize in a Mr. T lookalike contest. What truly sets this game apart from the rest is its remarkably high level of violence. It sounds odd when you really think about it, but it's true. Vendetta is the type of game which makes classic gems like Double Dragon and Final Fight seem tame by comparison. Over the course of the game, you'll see oil drums rolling over grounded foes, blatant low blows in which the recipient grimaces and clutches his wounded part, and be forced to defend yourself against killer dogs which will inevitably find themselves on the business end of your foot. One particularly disturbing example will find you or an opponent thrashing helplessly on the ground, wailing pitifully, the victim of an exploded cocktail. And that's only the beginning. You'll gasp (or wretch), as a disoriented thug vomits in front of your eyes, and you'll either cackle with glee or weep with sorrow as a punk's loaded shotgun tumbles from his grasp, enabling you to clear the screen with just a few quick blasts. To its credit, Vendetta hardly shows any blood at all, but neither does it leave much to the imagination in terms of content. Without a doubt, this is the type of game that parents and government officials will cast a wary eye towards, but which most kids know is just mindless fun anyway, and not to be taken seriously in any regard.
While control issues are practically non-existent with arcade games, unless the controls have been damaged or worn out, Vendetta utilizes its two button layout to full effect with respective punch and kick buttons. Pressing both buttons simultaneously enacts a power blow, and moving forward while pushing both buttons results in a lunging power blow. Getting in close will enable you to clench and pummel your opponent, or simply throw them. Unfortunately, I have found no way to jump in the game, an ability which is sorely missed in a game like this, particularly when some foes find it rather easy to slip in a blow in the midst of your combo. On the plus side, the ability to attack enemies while they're down is an often overlooked part of side-scrolling brawlers, adding to the realism of an already gritty package.
As far as fighting games go, the sound effects in Vendetta are top notch. Everything sounds exactly as it is supposed to, from the rustling of a swinging chain to the powerful detonations of molotovs and dynamite. The game also carries a nice rock soundtrack, but chances are that you'll barely even notice it with all the on-screen action.
Although the plot is as cliche as they come where beat-em-ups are concerned, there's enough excessive violence in Vendetta to at least warrant a play. The game itself could've been a bit longer, but the bonus stage after you complete the game is a nice little touch. Aside from those factors, you'll find very little to distinguish this game from the multitude of others that were produced in the era.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
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