Review by hangedman

"This game shows it's fun to hit strangers with bricks."

''You know, sometimes I wonder if all this violence is getting to me.''

Like many arcade games I can remember, I didn't venture near the Vendetta cabinet for quite a while. I didn't know what to say if anyone saw me playing the game, the one with people doubled over in pain and coughing up blood. Like most of the other scary games, I really didn't get into them until I had a car and could drive to the giant arcade twenty minutes away that seems to have every game made from 1980 to present.

Enter Vendetta, the once ''too-mean-for-8-year-olds'' game I remember from my childhood. After playing the game for more time than I really should, I can safely say that this is one of the only beat-'em-ups that can compare to Final Fight, perhaps one of the best arcade games ever.

With that in mind, make like Levar Burton and chase that reading rainbow!

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STORY
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''HAHAHAH! We've got the girl!''

Again? Jesus! If I were any street fighter of any kind, I would never let on that I knew any members of the opposite sex. Why? Other gangs, fighters, drug lords, crime bosses, and corrupt cops seem to derive satisfaction only through kidnapping girls and holding them until the hero shows up. ''Yes, I am the evil boss. Here's my plan: we kidnap the girl, and then...'' Then what? These plans never seem to go anywhere, and I'm doubtful that I'm the only person that's noticing this. What's the ultimate goal? Humiliation? Mild discomfort? Have her bake things and dance around?

At any rate, we do know why she was kidnapped, even if it's not the best way of accomplishing the goals of the kidnappers. The ''Dead End Gang'', formerly probably something akin to ''The Brain-Damage Ward Manglers'' decides to kidnap the girl, Kate, in order to teach another gang, ''The Cobras'', a lesson. Kate is really only Cobra member Hawk's sister, so there's seemingly little reason behind the kidnap, unless the ultimate goal is to make Hawk and his dumb buddies pissed off so they'll beat up the Dead End Gang Members. Mission accomplished!

What I wonder, however, is how a gang consisting of four guys in day-glo colors really gets the title of ''gang.'' Aside from the sheer amount of punching and kicking ability distributed among the four, uh, it's still just four guys. The Dead End Gang has several people running around in the streets of Slumville, USA, but the Cobras have... 4. I've seen larger gangs at church bake sales than these guys, and they were dressed more menacing as well. I guess the Cobras figure that nothing says ''We're here, and we'll punch things'' more than skin-tight jeans and bright, primary-color T-shirts.

The goal is to fight, fight, and fight some more just when you think you're tired of fighting. If you think Guy from Final Fight had a bad reason to jump into a rip-roaring fist fight, imagine how the other 3 ''gang members'' feel about the fight to get Hawk's sister back. HARD CORE, people! HARD CORE!

Because there isn't much in the way of broken English, or some kind of laughable propaganda, Vendetta's storyline is entirely unoriginal and unbelievable. Aside from that, I can only not buy the ''we have the girl'' storyline so much. Sadly, for being horrible, it's at the same level as every other arcade beat-'em-up, so it's actually average in every respect. Kidnapping, fist-fighters, crime boss. It's a formula created only for punching, and it completes this end like nobody's business.

Story: 5 / 10
Did Double Dragon force *EVERY* game to have the same laughable story it did?


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GRAPHICS
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''Taste the fury of Sammy Davis Jr! *SOCK!*''

Vendetta has some of the coolest graphics this side of Violence Fight (*sighs*). Although cartoony compared to certain beat-'em-ups, if not virtually every beat-'em-up, Vendetta delivers a unique graphical presentation that's overall playful and lighthearted... despite the staggering amounts of brutality thrown in the mix.

The engine of the game is like almost every other beat-'em-up known to man: a 2d side scroller where you can move up and down. Enemies in the foreground, nothing but cosmetic stuff in the background. Despite how much this is used, it's still a viable means of displaying a game, and the only way as far as I'm concerned for this particular genre.

All of the enemy character designs are great. You've got generic, leather-jacketed punks, various mohawked cretins with assorted weaponry, big guys with spikes, Mexican wrestlers, and my personal favorite: a big tattooed guy in a trenchcoat that usually drops Molotov cocktails right where he's standing. They all have quite a few attacks, and all of them fit well into the game. No fireballs or cyborgs here. The animation is better than the typical ''Here is frame one: me standing, and frame two is me punching!'' No two-frame hits here. One enemy in particular comes out twirling a chain, which moves more fluidly than any animation seen in Final Fight.

The bosses are large, dynamic, and have several frames of animation. From the Johnny Rotten sounding ''Buzzsaw Bravado'' to the Big Guy and Midget tag-team of ''the Rude Brothers,'' there's a lot to keep you motivated to keep playing on the visual level. Again, good attention to detail. Like the enemies, they have multiple attacks, great designs, many animation frames, and a few tricks up their sleeves.

The backgrounds are good too, with the last level sporting what looks to be the coolest beat-'em-up background I've seen in a game: a multi-level abandoned building that is so broken down, you can see the horizon out the side of it. The backgrounds also sport a high degree of interactivity at certain places: thrown guys break barrels, knock over platforms, and shatter glass. It all adds to the overall bar-fight essence of the game.

Personally, I found the player characters a little bit bland. Hawk looks like Hulk Hogan, Boomer is the typical martial-arts ripoff, and Sledge is the Ex-military strongman. The one saving grace? A guy named Blood, who looks exactly like Sammy Davis Jr. in shades and a red T-shirt. Blood smiles sadistically when hitting people in the face, or throwing a flaming barrel. Oh! I like. Hands down, he takes the cake for the coolest character, so half the time I'm not aware that there are actually other playable characters. Blood does the job well enough for me. There's nothing like having a visual of Sammy Davis Jr. hitting some dude in the face and smiling about it.

Fortunately, every character has a multitude of well-animated attacks, and their facial expressions are pretty funny when they're pummeling the life out of some poor schmuck with a mohawk. I smile along with Blood as he blows away some guy with a 12-gauge or hits them in the head with a beer bottle. Good stuff!

Vendetta decided to go above and beyond the call of duty, however, with a novel graphical idea that few games in the genre seem to ever connect with: different animations for different weapons. Every weapon that can be picked up and used comes with different animation. There are some exceptions, like the standard ''I am now carrying an object'' set of frames, but the differences between a bat, whip, beer bottle, and a box are no longer cosmetic. This is way more than I can say about other games, where a pipe is a knife is a bat is a set of nunchucks. Viva la difference.

Vendetta is incredibly brutal, what with people coughing up spats of blood, other folks getting hit in the teeth with bricks, and fallen gang members being beaten while they lie prone on the concrete. However, to take the edge off, everything is bright, vibrant, and splashed with a touch of humor. All in all the graphics are very good, and while not light years ahead of the competition, they serve to reinforce the brutality / fantasy dichotomy of Vendetta. Well done, I think.

Graphics: 9 / 10
Good animation, good style, but perhaps more cartoon-like than I would have preferred.


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SOUND AND MUSIC
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''It burns!!! It burns!!!''

Together with the graphics, Vendetta's sound works incredibly well. Although simplistic, sounds that accurately reflect a beer bottle getting cracked over a guy's skull add to the game. There are lots of fleshy sounding cracks, and every single one of the weapons has a bone-jarring effect to render unto thy foe. The brick hits a guy with a sound that's too painful to really describe. Maybe that's why it's my favorite weapon.

The music always fits what's going on. For a genre where music is usually overlooked, it comes out way ahead of the competition. There are a lot of catchy tunes that are more laid back or more hyperactive depending on the level's feel. It works well to have a laid back tune where there's only a few enemies, and a more ''uppity'' tune where there are about six lil' guys on the screen trying to smack you. Aside from that, the music is catchy. None of the tunes are awful, and chances are you'll find one that clicks.

The voices in game are pretty good as well, when they do show up. Every boss has some little line that they spit at you before your battle. The taunt is small, hackneyed, but somehow seems to make me smile. I like the whole, ''You ain't leaving this town.. alive!'' That's when I know it's brick justice time.

Unfortunately, Vendetta disappoints me like other genre games (yet again) by not giving me kicks and punches that sound like what they are. Sure, the punches and kicks tell you when you've hit a guy, but don't deliver any sense of ''ouch.'' For god's sake, they could be 16-bit game sound effects for just about anything else, like getting on a bus, or putting a quarter in one of those delightful horses that shakes a lot. Not that I ride those, or anything.

Another malady of the game in the sound effect area is the screams that your player lets out when you get knocked down or die. They're high pitched wails! No Haggar-esque ''YERG!'' or something equivalent for the big strapping men the Cobras are. Rather, it's more of a ''girl-scout in trouble'' kind of scream. Disappointing, but then again I've heard a lot worse. At least there's no giant bubble that says ''Gagoon'' on it when you get hurt.

I should point out that I don't know what sound system Vendetta's running on, but it delivers the most pleasing ''guy on fire'' sound I can bring to mind. Even better than Scorpion's fatality in MK2 where the flaming person jumps up and down before exploding. Yeah, the people on fire let out this scream which is both frightening and hilarious at the same time. Like when real people catch on fire, heh heh heh.

On the whole, I like it, but there are the seemingly unavoidable ''that's a punch!?!'' sound effects that burrow into every conceivable type of game. It runs the gamut of bad to amazing, but most of the effects are above average.

Sound and Music: 6 / 10
Aside from some abysmal sound, a lot of it is painful and funny.


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GAMEPLAY
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''Where else can you throw a barrel at a midget?''

Vendetta is one of the few beat-'em-ups I can really recommend gameplay-wise aside from Final Fight. It has a fun atmosphere that allows you access to all sorts of wacky pain-utensils while allowing for violence and comedy.

All of the 4 members of the Cobras have the same move list. Punch combo, kick combo, big smash, and moving big-smash. You can also move up and down, and to the left and right, which is always a plus in any game! Aside from your regular moves, there are certain things that you can perform given a situation, like a overhead bash if an enemy is standing dazed, or multiple strikes to the ribs if the guy is knocked down. Who says chivalry is dead?

Thankfully, each character has a different way of moving and attacking. One man's punch-combo might not be as useful as another's, but that character may be faster and have a little more ''oomph'' to an almost-jump-kick. While not quite as accentuated as in other games, each character does have a differing speed and power, as well as different moves that have varying ranges and speeds.

Moreover, the playable characters have different ways of using weapons. Hawk has a better knife attack than Blood, for example, as it has better speed and range. Therefore, it's interesting to pick your player based on what moves you know and are familiar with. Again, any level of depth added to a beat-'em-up is a good thing. Playing as different characters yields an interesting perspective into how to beat certain characters and bosses.

Unusual for the game though, and especially every game in this genre, is that you have only two buttons: punch and kick. In other words: no jump. Instead of the 360-degrees spinning attack, you have the 2-feet-off-the-ground-jump-kick or some other jumping, moving equivalent. This is essentially a knockdown attack for any character, and allows you to get the other guy off your back for a while. While it takes some practice to get the hang of, it's a very different idea from the other ''clear-'em-out'' two-button special move that exists in practically every beat-'em-up, so it may seem a tad foreign.

Because of the lack of this almost universal move, it's important not to get surrounded or tag-teamed. Although there are only usually 3 enemies onscreen at once, they can be persistent and one will invariably slip through your awareness until 2 guys are punching you in unison. It happens frequently enough to the point where you need to watch out for what's going on.

You also have the typical ''get close and headbutt or throw'' move, which if used with the kick button delivers a sharp blow to what I refer to as ''the huevos.'' I find that the knee to the groin is sadly neglected in most games, but Vendetta avoids that. Bravo.

I'm assuming that because you have the ability to inflict sheer pain on the testicles of the Dead End Gang, they have the ability to take your life away faster than you can say ''it.'' It is a two-letter, one-syllable word, so interpret this as me saying you'll die, and often. You have seven little life-bar clicks, and the typical enemy will end up taking two if they hit you. Bigger people will usually take three. Therefore, it's important to figure out what works on an opponent and what does not, in order to save your coins to either pay rent or eat something, which I can guarantee you won't do should you keep using one button.

Because of the insane damage amounts you soak up, the cheap-shots in Vendetta are especially frustrating, especially when an enemy tosses you into oblivion when you were right about to uppercut him. The last boss whips out a tommy-gun, which I haven't found a way to avoid as of yet. This said tommy-gun can take out your whole life. Yeah, that's a cheap shot in my book.

Despite the occasional blindsiding of a cheap computer-attack, most of the enemies play fair. Know their weaknesses, and isolate them from the standard baddies, and they'll have little opportunity to fight back. Most of the time, the difficulty curve is dead on. Play smart, utilize weapons, and you'll rock the mohawked competition. The bosses are also good opponents, what with the trademark attack patterns and the ways to dodge them. Again, it's what a good beat-'em-up is all about.

Speaking of good beat-'em-ups, Vendetta really goes above and beyond with the weapons, boasting more than any other beat-'em-up I've played. All in all, you have knives, chains, bats, potted plants, barrels both solid and flaming, tires, boxes, bricks, bottles, molotov cocktails... I could go on. All are so fun to use that it's hard to find the right words. Wait, found them. They're so fun to use! I am the word-god!

Vendetta's gameplay is refined, gives lots of new stuff to look forward to, and constantly introduces new enemies into the mix of things. There are some occasional flaws by way of enemy damage and cheap shots, but in spite of this Vendetta remains as one of the top five beat-'em-ups of all time in my book. There's so many weapons and enemies that it's hard to criticize the game as repetitive, which is without a doubt the main area that beat-'em-ups fail in over and over. Vendetta beats up those beat-'em-ups, and stands over the beaten-up corpse and says, ''I beat you up!'' If that last sentence doesn't win some award, I'm going to shoot myself.

Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Excellent and varied, but there's more than a few anger-inducing moments.


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OVERALL
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''Give me kidnapped girl or give me death!''

Vendetta is a game that makes me like the otherwise stale genre of beat-'em-ups. Like few others, it can make the process of beating people up fun level after level, and provides generous helpings of weaponry to allow you to do this. The graphics give a sense of slapstick violence, which is in turn backed up by the gameplay and sound. While the story leaves something to be desired, it serves as little more than the typical lynch pin to provide a reason for fighting armies of gang members. The level progression makes sense, and the locales are a pleasure to look at.

Even though the enemies can get in a hit that seems like it should never have occurred, fighting them is an absolute blast, especially considering that with all the sound and animation they fight with a unique personality. The cheap hits are a minor hiccup in the grand scheme of things.

Vendetta has a few things that keep it from eclipsing Final Fight, like the amount of enemies and the effectiveness of your primary moves. However, Vendetta derives most of its strength from the sheer fact that it's better than almost every other beat-'em-up out there for public consumption. It comes in with 4 guys in tight jeans and bright T-shirts, and it leaves behind a trail of broken glass and a helping of fun.

Vendetta is worth your hard-earned quarters. Give it money like even having money is going out of style. The game will not disappoint you overall, but you may end up somewhat angered when you have to put in another quarter due to a cheap Tommy-gun clip.

Overall: 8.5 / 10
A serious contender to Final Fight, missing the perfection mark by a few small details.





Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/16/02, Updated 02/18/02


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