As a coin-op, Vigilante had no real claims to greatness. It wasn't a step forward in arcade technology, and it didn't offer much variation in its beat-'em-up gameplay. It wasn't good for much more than a couple of goes.
Your missus, who goes by the name of Madonna, has been kidnapped by the skinheads - not any old skinheads but the skinheads. You, being from a rough and tumble neighbourhood, have no qualms whatsoever about going out and beating seventeen complete and altogether different varieties of crap out of everybody you meet, and this you do, over a selection of levels based around the street fighting theme. This is not a game for those with an aversion to violence.
In terms of gameplay, Vigilante is closest to Kung-Fu Master. You scroll from left to right, and bad guys run from both sides and have to be punched or kicked off the screen. The basic, grab-hold-and-reduce-your-energy henchmen, take only one hit to knock away. Others, such as Nunchaku or knife wielders have to be hit repeatedly before they cop it - and when there's one on either side, it proves to be a problem. At times you feel like you ought to be some kind of Ninja Octopus.
The thing is, Vigilante is very unplayable. It's just too slow and unresponsive. Gameplaying skills go out the window when your on-screen character just doesn't move fast enough to be able to kick out the two bad guys standing in front of him. Picking up extra weapons is pointless, as the idiot throws them away the moment he's hit.
Graphically, Vigilante is fairly faithful to the coin-op. The sprites aren't quite as large, but they are recognisable, as are the backdrops. Vigilante was written by Emerald software, the same team that wrote The Running Man, which might explain the speed of the game (but then again, I'm not one to cast aspersions!).
Sound. What a curious concept. There isn't much ear-vibration to be found to Vigilante. A tune plays throughout, and there are a few weak FX in there as well. A game such as this should have plenty of hard-sounding "thwacks".
Vigilante is a poor game. I might have finished by saying it's a good conversion, which in some ways it is. It's just not much of a game. The whole point of a simple beat-'em-up is it provides short adrenalin burst and a little bit of excitement. But a frustratingly slow game isn't one of the purchases I go looking for when I go shopping for software.