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Title: Target: Renegade
Rom Player: Jnes
Reviewer: Herrix

Synopsis: I'd really hate to be the hero of a side-scrolling fighter, because it would seem the only goal of every carbon-based organism on the planet is to thrash you into oblivion. Actually, it was a lot like that for me in the fourth grade, except that I couldn't fight and there were no oil drums or sticks of dynamite to throw at people. That did not stop the protagonist of the original "Renegade," though; he couldn't fight all that well and he didn't even have the dexterity to reach down to pick up a bat or a broken whiskey bottle. The only effective weapon he had was his jumpkick. Oh, God save those little grade-school punks if I ever learned how to jumpkick without falling on my fat little anus.

Anyway, "Target: Renegade" has shifted gears from its predecessor, because now you're actually fighting for a purpose: to rescue your brother, who has been kidnapped by Mr. Big, a gangster with the most stereotypical syndicate boss name ever. Either that, or it's Chris Noth from "Sex and the City." You are told about this by the Mystery Punk, who appears at the beginning of the game to tell you about your brother's abduction with no clarification as to why he cares about any of this. The Mystery Punk then disappears and you're on the roof of a parking garage which, I assume, is the last place your brother was seen. That's the great thing about streetfighting heroes; whenever a loved one of theirs is kidnapped or killed, they immediately set out unarmed to find and punish the wrongdoers, who, by the way, number roughly in the millions. To hell with that pansy nonsense of putting the person's face on a milk carton; it's time to go kick some ass. If any of these miscreant heroes had gone to school, they might not know how to fight, but they would at least learn how to read, and would no doubt become aware of the existence of a police department and a legal system.

Another thing remarkable about the hero of "Target: Renegade" is that Mr. K, the sadistic sexual deviant of the first installment, has been replaced by Billy Lee of the "Double Dragon" series, or someone that looks uncannily like him. It makes sense, though, because I can't picture Mr. K ever having a brother or any family at all. I'm pretty sure he spawned from the fires of purgatory. It's interesting that Taito finally realized what a brutish, vicious, nasty land mammal Mr. K was and, bereft of a hero, they decided to borrow the protagonist from another series rather than utilize the small amount of brainpower required to think up a new one. So instead of a guy in a red vest and sweatpants who punches and kicks, we're left with a guy in a blue vest and sweatpants who punches and kicks. I'll bet all the programmers at the conference meeting started applauding their asses off as soon as that idea was slapped on the table.

Billy Lee is a better hero than Mr. K for practical reasons as well as moral, because he has a larger repertoire of moves than his bestial counterpart. In addition to the punch, kick, and jumpkick, he now has a sweeping kick and a ducking maneuver which is also used to pick up items and weapons. Like in the first "Double Dragon," Billy can perform a headbutt, whose only use is to increase the impact of an enemy's fist against his skull. The abilities in "Renegade" that are now absent in the sequel are Mr. K's running dash, his grappling technique and the opportunity to jack a motorcycle. Also, the player now finds himself without a "rape" button. It's a good thing that Mr. K was put on the sidelines for "Target: Renegade," because I'm sure civilization as we know it would regress into barbarism were he to be let out on the streets for another brutal rampage. Maybe that's why there are no police in this game; they've utilized the majority of their manpower to stake out Mr. K's apartment and the residences of all other martial artists who learned their kung-fu in a class taught by Ron Jeremy.

Enough about the hero; let's move on to the enemies. The first gang of thugs are bikers who have ridden their Harleys so often they've allowed their legs to atrophy into little spindly matchsticks. Not surprisingly, the sweep kick is extremely effective against them, and the jump kick can be used to unsaddle them from their bikes. Unfortunately for these underdeveloped Hell's Angels, the manufacturer of their motorcycles cut corners, leaving a weak spot on the handlebars that, when kicked, will cause the entire bike to explode.

During the battle across the roof, the Mystery Punk will send you telepathic messages that appear on the bottom of the screen. These are helpful little hints like "Hurry up," "Get the biker," and "Yo dude." Until I saw this I thought that it required an extraordinary amount of neurological energy to form a mental link with someone; I didn't know anybody could be both a telepathic and a moron. Think how much it would suck if any stupid ass could interrupt your thoughts with his inane nonsense. You could be taking an important exam or writing up a business proposal or something, and then your focus is broken by the following: "Hey, what's up, dude. Just hangin' around, thought I'd give you a buzz. Get it? I've had ten beers so far, so that means you're piss drunk too. Talk to you later, man." Then, after three seconds, "Hey, it's later! Ha ha ha! By the way, that headache you feel is because I accidentally smashed my head into the door of my cabinet, which I forgetfully left open because I'm a dumbass even when I'm sober. I'm going to go to the bathroom and make you drop a loaf in your pants. See ya." The messages sometimes help, though, such as when you fight the first level boss, Achilles, who is the offspring of the ogress Kim from "Renegade" and "Punchout's" King Hippo. Like Kim, he is an eight-foot, 700-pound giant with male genetalia. He carries a bunch of tires around with the dual purpose of fixing motorcycle wheels and throwing them at guys who are attempting to rescue their kidnapped brothers. The Mystery Punk will tell you that Achilles' stomach is his weakness, so you can either punch him in his protruding belly or kick him in the gonads, all the while avoiding flung tires and Achilles' punt maneuver, which will send you flying through the uprights.

As soon as you defeat Achilles, the mystery punk will appear at a nearby elevator door and congratulate you, because though you are no nearer to finding out where your brother is, you managed to hurt a lot of people. I'm beginning to suspect that the Mystery Punk is actually Mr. K, because he does look like an older version of the antihero, and it would explain why he's so anxious for you to injure wayward folk. The only reason he's not fighting is, after his victory in "Renegade" the entire planet filed a restraining order against him which forbade him to come within 200 yards of any other human being.

The next level takes you deeper into the parking garage, where you will fight more bikers and angry women in combat fatigues. By now you may have noticed that Billy Lee is not at the top of his game; his punches are largely ineffective and his low kick and ducking moves both require you to press down, which makes you move down while attacking or picking up an item. As a consequence, you will miss enemies and fail to collect valuable energy hearts before they disappear. Also, though it looks like Billy's hand is right on target with the desired item or weapon, he will often miss it. You must position Billy so his posterior lands on the item, and he will pick it up with his buttcheeks. I've often wondered how video game characters make use of healing items like hearts; I've always assumed the hero ate the heart, or rubbed it on his skin like a salve, but no, it turns out the item is a suppository. So the next time you play Megaman and one of those huge football-shaped energy canisters appears, try to jump on it from a great height and allow gravity to do most of the work. It just makes things easier on the little blue bot.

Once past the second parking garage level and another encounter with Achilles, Mr. K will send you on one of those crazy phone-dash missions you sometimes see in action movies, in which the cop must run all over the surface of the planet to answer each of the specified phones in time. You will be impeded by deformed construction workers with ridiculously disproportionate upper and lower bodies, knife throwing maniacs, blond guys who look like they belong on a tennis court rather than the mean streets of wherever the hell this takes place, skateboard punks, guys with mohawks which you see in every streetfighting game, and clones of Andy Sipowicz. These disgruntled detectives will try to grab you by the neck in order to interrogate you as to the whereabouts of Mr. K, who is wanted for questioning in approximately 700 cases of violent assault. The intensive police drilling will drain your energy because it's very detrimental to one's health to be called a prick and an asshole five hundred times each. Plus Sipowicz has picked up some karate moves from somewhere, so it's best to take him out quick before your ears begin ringing with profanity and multiple blows to the head.

As you might expect, at the end of each level is an end boss, all of which are at least seven feet tall. One of these is a huge, muscular guy who resembles an elderly chimpanzee from the neck up. Like Achillies, he has only two attacks: the field-goal kick that sends you flying, and a goofy punch that looks like he is stroking an imaginary penis. This guy is so well-defined that he has a 32-pack, and you must punch him in each of his abs before he finally sits down and begins drooling on himself. The next boss is a tall woman in a miniskirt and fishnet stockings who throws a violent haymaker. She may also grab you, slam you to the ground and start stomping on your face with her high heels. Fortunately, she is vulnerable to most attacks and you can dispense with her before she has a chance to make a new shoe rack out of your skull.

Once you've fought through downtown and the park and answered all the phones, you must work your way uptown toward the "Pig Pen" nightclub, which specializes in good whiskey, exotic dancers, and bacon. Before you can enter the club, you will encounter guys in karate uniforms, but unlike the martial artists from the first "Renegade," these guys actually fight differently from the average street lowlife. They have a flying kick that cannot be dodged, so your only hope is to knock them out quickly and hope that you paralyze the part of their brains that tells them how to jump. If by some miracle you survive the combined onslaught of the karate champions and the knife-throwers, you will be accosted by the Pig Pen's bouncers, who look tough but are too slow to be anything more than a slight annoyance. They possess catlike reflexes, provided the cat we're talking about is either on a respirator or dead.

Finally inside the Pig Pen, Billy Lee will test his ineptitudes against more bouncers, tennis professionals and Mr. Big himself. From the sheer size of the previous bosses, you would think that Mr. Big possessed body proportions akin to that of Jaws (the shark or the James Bond villain; it doesn't make much of a difference, really). However, he's actually only a three-foot tall reject from the "Kung Fu" game's fearsome Midget Brigade. Denied acceptance by the midgets of "Kung Fu" because of his inability to jump and his unwillingness to hug his enemies, Mr. Big accomodates for these flaws by throwing easily-avoidable darts at Billy. This final joke the game throws at you had me laughing so hard I lost my focus and dropped my controller, allowing myself to get hit with the first few darts. I knew it wasn't all that funny, but I figured after seven levels of annoying music, clumsy gameplay and sound effects that were produced using a rusty fork and a blackboard, I just NEEDED to laugh. This hypothesis was quickly dashed when I looked down to discover the reason I was laughing so hard was because one of my pet mice had escaped from its cage and was tickling my scrotum.

Giving away the ending of this game is not much of a transgression, because like many games it ends with a loop that brings you back to the beginning. You find your brother Jimmy, who looks and dresses exactly like you, and you are afforded a brief moment of happiness before a group of bikers enters, knocks you out with one blow, and recaptures Jimmy meeting no resistance on the part of either brother. You wake up in on the roof of the parking garage, and Mr. K is still giving you orders. Billy still hasn't realized what I figured out at Level 3: it was Mr. K who staged all this in the first place. No longer sanctioned by Taito as a viable hero, Mr. K had Jimmy abducted to promote more violence on the streets. My advice is, when you reach level 3 let one of the Sipowicz clones grab you and finish his interrogation so that Mr. K can finally be captured and lobotomized. Or, since I'm spending my free time inventing elaborate conspiracy theories about obscure video game characters, maybe I'm the one who needs to spend seven or eight hours under a neurosurgeon's knife.

Best Cheats: Nothing Entered

Game Play: 4
Graphics: 7
Music/Sound: 3
Originality: 1
Overall Rating: 4

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