Not every beat-em-up game can be streets of rage, but many of the SEGA titles released in the 80s and 90s sure as hell tried to be. One of these such games was Vigilante, a game that pre-dated Streets of Rage by a good 3 years. How can it be trying to emulate a game that didn't precede it I hear you ask? Well, Vigilante was originally an arcade game that aspired to be the entertaining beat-em-up that Streets of Rage went on to be, yet itself failed to become. Vigilante's gameplay is rather standard fodder for the genre, but that's not to say it isn't great: its action is easily enjoyable and it is a decent port from the arcade version, but as you'll read below, this title isn't exactly one for holding any replay value.
Diving straight into the gameplay, Vigilante is a classic beat-em-up that is linear in its progression and shockingly simple in its execution. Playing as the aforementioned and titular Vigilante, you simply have to roam the streets of each level - the levels scroll from left to right like any other side-scrolling game - whilst taking care of the bad guys that appear from all directions. Many will walk towards you with pace whilst other enemies appear from doorways or other spots depending on the level you're playing. It is fairly similar to the Double Dragon Trilogy in its framework, only much simpler and nowhere as much of a classic.
Controls are very basic, with the D-Pad used for movement (arrow keys by default if you're using an emulator like Fusion) and the 1 and 2 keys (A and S keyboard assignments respectively if again you're using Fusion) used for punches and kicks respectively. You can perform moves such as crouching punches and jumping kicks, but as you'll notice, the attacks have very little variation.
Most of the time you'll spend in the game involves using a series of punches or kicks in a monotonous way as there aren't any combos or anything like that to use against your foes. Thankfully you do get to use a weapon, a pair of nunchucks that can be knocked out of your hand if you're damaged in any way. With gameplay as simple as this, it's easy to see why people voted games like Target: Renegade one of the 100 best of all time whilst Vigilante remains absent from such rundowns.
So the gameplay is really about surviving your encounters with the enemy, of which there are many on each level. You'll come across different types such as you standard goons, right the way through to area bosses who are much more difficult to defeat. Expect a fairly constant stream of enemies and not a massive amount of variety either in terms of the foe you face or the environment you face them in. Think of it as Kung-Fu Master, only not quite as good.
Graphics and Sound, Content, and Conclusion
The graphics of Vigilante aren't terrible to look at. In fact, they're quite a loyal representation of the arcade game from which this version was ported. There isn't much variety to speak of in terms of enemy design however, and the sound, though involving some fairly hectic music, is also a forgettable feature.
In terms of content, Vigilante is lacking. There is a playthrough on Youtube that has this game beaten in under 14 minutes, with the whole game consisting of only five short areas: a random street, a junkyard, the Brooklyn Bridge, a back alley, and a level atop a building. That's all in terms of content, with weapons, enemies, and terrain all lacking quite significantly compared to Streets of Rage. You'll find many browser and pc fighting games now available, Whack It does a good job of covering a lot of these, but Vigilante can't be included in the best of them.
Sadly, there are many superior games that leave Vigilante in the dust, from very old-school games such as Taito's Double Dragon to slightly later titles like Streets of Rage to modern-day light brawlers which are reinventing old titles like the Rivercity Randsom remake. There's no reason to go back and experience a game like Vigilante, even if you've got an emulator like Fusion to make it happen. There is just too much competition in the beat-em-up world for this average game with below-average length to stand out.