VENDETTA / Konami / Arcade

You know what I've always wanted to see? I'd like to see a classic arcade beat-em-up starring the types of deluded dudes that read Soldier of Fortune magazine - you know, the Dale Gribbel types who really believe that they are "mercenaries." A bunch of these guys would answer an ad from the residents of some inner-city neighborhood, desperate to deal with rival gangs that are tearing their lives apart. So these four incompetent, out-of-shape schmoes blunder in, all dressed to the nines in their "Special Forces" gear, and bumble their way through a series of battles with gangbangers. Hilarity would ensue.

Sadly, unless I make it myself someday, that beautiful vision is never likely to be realized. The next best thing is Vendetta from Konami, starring an odd assortment of guys who look like average Joes trying to pose as action stars. At the outset of the game some gang of ruffians informs us that they've "kidnapped a chick", and that's all it takes for our band of couch potato vigilantes to take to the streets in a brawl fest against the doers of evil.

I'm not sure if the game is supposed to be a deconstruction/satire of beat 'em ups, or if it's really serious with all this "we kidnapped a chick" business, but I'm veering toward the latter. Just in terms of gameplay, it's a fairly solid beat-em-up that has some good original moves and presentation with a lot of chutzpah, but it's also a little too much of a cheap hit fest and a quarter-sucker. Of course, on MAME that doesn't matter, but IRL at the arcade you're looking at probably a good $10 to get through this one the first time out.

The game is a touch more bloody and brutal than previous Konami efforts would lead you to expect it to be, though it still has nothing on a lot of other arcade releases of the period. The very first stage starts you off on a bridge that you can jump-kick the generic punk enemies off of, who will then cling on by their fingertips until you walk over to stomp them off. Whapping a foe with a spiked bat sends them slamming up against the background in a highly satisfying manner, and you can stomp on foes while they are down. There's also a little more blood than I'm used to seeing in a beat-em-up, although it's far from Mortal Kombat or Time Killers levels.

The character assortment is part of the charm here - the heroes really couldn't be much more generic but the enemies are an assortment of general Win, along the lines of the usual Japanese crazy fantasies about what New York was like in the 1980s (based on watching too many low-budget movies apparently.) Aside from your expected mohawk punks who serve as filler, you'll run into a buxom leather-clad mama who throws you winks before she tries to beat you into submission with her whip. The third bosses are interesting, a little guy combined with his big twin who I guess were parodied in the later Simpsons arcade game. If you play the Japanese version you'll also get a leather-clad dude who humps your leg and licks you (the dog enemies also dry-hump your butt if they grab you from behind, which is even more gross.) Probably the best part is the lulzy attempt at "tough" grafitti in the backgrounds of all the levels, with stuff like "Slimeball rule OK!" and "No Go Area for Pigs."

The game is easily good enough to be worth a laugh, preferably with some friends, but like most beat-em-ups don't expect much more from it than that.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video