A History Lesson
Target Renegade came out almost exactly thirty years ago, just in time for Christmas 1987. Although I didn't realise it at the time, it was quite an unusual release. First there had been Renegade, a coin-op arcade machine. That game had then been converted to the popular 8-bit home computers of the day (Spectrum, Amstrad, Commodore 64, etc). If you're not familiar with the original Renegade, it cast you as a tough thug. You started off the game having been ambushed in the subway by practically the whole town. However, as in all the best beat-'em-up games/movies, being faced with sixteen or so adversaries on the same screen didn't mean you'd be found in A&E a few moments later. All the bad guys instead would line up and attack you either singly or in pairs. Very sporting of them.
The original game was 'screen-based' - you cleared one screen of lunkheads to proceed to the next... and the conversions that appeared retained this functionality and, perhaps surprisingly, were all pretty good. Renegade was released by Imagine and people liked it so much that Imagine developed its sequel - Target Renegade - in-house. There was, and is, no coin-op of Target Renegade. It was a home computer exclusive.
And Target Renegade, on the Spectrum 128K (which is where I first played it) was good. It was very good. It retained the sprites of the original, added a few fighting moves, included slightly more intelligent bad guys, and replaced the stationary backdrops of the original with scrolling car parks, streets, gardens and back alleys. You either played the Renegade alone or, if you selected the two player option, you co-operated with your identical twin Renegade brother, who was controlled by your best friend. In an era where there weren't too many co-operative two player games, it really shone. Each of the five stages got progressively tougher, on the Spectrum 128K at least it was a one-time loader and it all moved at a pretty speedy pace. I particularly liked the fact that many of the bad guys carried weapons (baseball bats, snooker cues and coshes) but, when you managed to land a punch on them, they would drop their weapons. This added some guile to fighting; sometimes you could lure a weapon-carrying thug into one corner, take his weapon and beat up his mates with it.
In fact, the original Target Renegade didn't really have a lot of drawbacks at all. The only real quirk it had was that you had to remember to keep your Renegade hard-pressed in the direction the current level scrolled to get through it as quickly as possible so that it generated the minimum number of bad guys on each level. It was also criticised for its particularly vicious timer - in two player mode, the timer was fair; in one player mode, you needed a lot of practice to make it through each level before it ran out.
Target Renegade 2017
The original Target Renegade was a tough game, but I managed to beat it both with a friend and on my own. So what's Bum Fun Gaming's Target Renegade 2017 all about then? Can you ever really improve on perfection?
Well, the first thing to make clear is that this isn't just a "colourised" version of the original. The original was already in colour - alright, it might have been that pseudo-colour-that's-actually-monochrome-cheat that Spectrum games were infamous for, but it was colourful nonetheless. I make this point because its programmer, Rafal Miazga, calls it "Target Renegade Colorized" on his site. A more accurate description however might be "Target Renegade Made Tougher And With Different Stages".
This being the case therefore, this new version of Target Renegade is written for people exactly like me. People who loved the original, and remember all of the moves and strategies you employ to get through its five stages. What you get here is the same game with five different stages and with the difficulty ramped up a notch. You will recall that I called the original tough. Well, this version is tougher. So tough, in fact, that I haven't yet made it off stage two. (In the original it's rare that I don't get to at least stage four.)
The sprites - both of your character and the enemies - remain completely identical to the original. However, if you recall the initial car park scene of the original game, where you are attacked by a motorcycle-riding Hell's Angel, then you'll probably also recall that, once you had practised a jump-kick to dispatch him from it, it actually wasn't so hard to achieve. Let's just say that dealing with two motorcycle-riding Hell's Angels in Target Renegade 2017 is slightly harder...
And so this theme continues as you fight your way through the stage - a garage replacing the car park. Where you'd be attacked by two enemies in the original, you now get three. Where you'd be attacked by three, you're faced with four. Oh, and that pimp, whose gun kills you with a single shot in the original? His brother's in the hood too in Target Renegade 2017. Dealing with the additional enemies takes up more time, making it doubly essential to take out two or more of them with a single flying kick... you just don't have the time to deal with them sequentially here, either using punches or the weapons they may discard. And, of course, just like in the original, don't forget to hug that screen to force it to scroll at all times.
The bad guys still attack in the same manner, the background music is identical and that fantastic two-player co-operative play facility is retained. It's also worth pointing out that, although the game is listed as 128K only, it does work on the 48K Spectrum in precisely the same manner as the original - multi-loading each level in turn (Horrible, yes, but better than nothing!).
Recently I reviewed Jet Set Willy: The Nightmare Edition, which was a similar sort of release to this. It also ramped up the difficulty, introduced much tougher adversaries and different rooms to battle through. I loathed it. However, I loved Target Renegade 2017. The difference between the two "upgrades" is that Target Renegade 2017 retains all of the elements that made the original so playable... but it doesn't assume any familiarity with the original. Indeed, I suspect something very like Target Renegade 2017 would have been very warmly received back in 1988 (instead of the god-awful Renegade III: The Final Chapter which we got instead). If there's one thing to criticise (apart from the level of difficulty), it's only that I, personally, would have liked to have seen some different sprites to battle, rather than the familiar prostitutes, pimps, skinheads and Hell's Angels of old. (I mean, if you've redesigned the backgrounds, why not go the whole hog?)
But, in summary, if you completed the original Spectrum version of Target Renegade back in the day, then you'll find this new version just as fresh, exciting and challenging. And so you should - it has, naturally, got the pulse of the original coursing through its veins.