With the recent string of Double Dragon & Kunio Kun releases on Xbox One by Arc System Works, what gamers really get to experience between these seven titles is the very genesis and early evolution of the beat ‘em up genre; the beginnings of what would lead to the likes of Castle Crashers and Streets of Rage 4 in our time. Renegade is among these, and while it was released fairly close to the original Double Dragon, this was also a blueprint release for the genre and the very prototype of the game better known to everyone as River City Ransom.
Based on the simplistic NES version of the game released in 1987, Renegade somewhat beats Double Dragon to the punch as the very first of the first. That being said, this topic is debatable to many gaming historians, but as far as the modern side-scrolling beat ‘em up genre is concerned, much of its DNA can be traced back to both the original Double Dragon and Renegade. While the former has still aged quite well from a design standpoint, the latter now feels like a historical curiosity at best.
Not to knock Renegade or its contributions, but it’s certainly a tough sell given the wealth of alternatives available right now, including other stronger games in the Double Dragon & Kunio Kun line-up of releases. If you are particularly nostalgic about that era of gaming, and after a fun little high score chaser, then this seminal brawler could still be a fun proposition.
Renegade is one of those games that is deceptively simple – on the surface it brings a simple combat system with a front and back attack (a mechanic Double Dragon II would later implement) but even with just two buttons there is a wide range of attacks to help players efficiently chase a higher score in a shorter time. Back in the day, having the instruction manual with the NES cartridge would definitely have been helpful, and so it certainly helps to look things up on the old internet, hunting all the little neat tricks. The manoeuvres include flying kicks, grapples, and a stiff ground and pound. The core combat is designed very well to make this an arcade classic that players can go back to from time to time.
The level design is understandably on the basic side; it doesn’t quite have the scrolling progressive action of Double Dragon as for the most part players will tend to stay put in one location and battle wave after wave of thugs. The set pieces do change things up a fair bit though, including a fun motorcycle chase sequence and tougher enemies… like those ladies with handbags – they hit hard.
The visual presentation is as basic as they come for a ported 1987 game, as it appears to draw its artistic style from 80’s gang films. It’s a fun little insight on how gaming reflected culture at the time. The music is honky-tonk rock and roll – very catchy stuff that will get stuck in your head until it gets really annoying.
Renegade is an important game and an enjoyable classic in every sense. It may not be an essential pickup given the alternatives available within the line up of Double Dragon & Kunio Kun releases available at the moment, yet it’s hard to fault it too much, especially given the surprising combat depth. If you’re a fan of the genre looking to explore its rich history and origins, then Renegade on Xbox One is a pretty insightful trip down arcade brawling lane.