Vendetta is a side-scrolling beat ’em up from Konami (back when they made actual video games instead of rubbish fruit machines and whatever the heck Metal Gear Survive was supposed to be), and it immediately caught my notice due to the fact that one of its playable characters is clearly based on Hulk Hogan, to the point that he drops elbows and body slams people. Indeed, the entire cast is seemingly inspired by real life personalities, with Wesley Snipes, Jean Claude Van Damme and Mr. T’s likenesses also being liberally raided in order to fill out the fighting roster. However eye-wateringly on the nose as these homages clearly are, it would all prove for naught if the game itself wasn’t fun, and Vendetta (though certainly not perfect by any means) does in fact deliver on that front.
The plot of the game sees you fighting your way through Dead End City (I’m sure houses are selling like hotcakes in that part of the country) in order to rescue the kidnapped protégé of the game’s resident body slammer and hip tosser. What follows is 5+ (I’ll explain further down) levels of bone-breaking battling where you’ll take on a variety of different enemy scum, such as Road Warrior-inspired spikey-shouldered masked brawlers, whip-wielding dominatrixes, vicious Rottweilers and even a bloke wielding a sawed-off shotgun! Though your enemies are pretty tooled up, defeating them will enable you to nab the weapons for yourself, which allows you to mow down everything in your path, provided your timing is on point.
Vendetta decides to forgo a jump button and instead gives you one button for punch and another for kick, with pressing them both at the same time allowing you to perform the expected special attack that will also drain your life bar a little bit. What is it about those attacks that cause your life bar to deplete, exactly? I’ve always wondered this when playing these sorts of games. Does your fighter have to gee themselves up by stabbing a fork in their leg before performing the attack, thus causing the life bar to deplete as a result? Anyway, not having a jump button makes it a bit harder to dodge enemy attacks, especially as the movement speed of the four characters isn’t especially nippy, and it also makes it very annoying if you take a punch and drop the current weapon you are carrying as you’ll toddle over to regain it at a less than optimal speed.
Two nice touches in Vendetta though are that you can attack enemies once they’re down by pressing the kick button, which helps with wittering away the health bars of the more resilient baddies you’ll meet along the way. In addition, if you’re knocked down, you can press the buttons and you will actually fire off attacks at the mosh pit of villains descending upon you whilst you pull yourself to your feet. This is a really neat feature actually and is probably something that more games like this should use as it makes you think you are always still in with a chance in the battle, even when you’re on the defensive. Overall, the gameplay in Vendetta is decent, and it’s always fun to grab some of the weapons and take out swathes of enemies before you (one of my personal favourites would be the baseball bat as it can send enemies flying into the wall in brutal fashion).
Vendetta looks decent from a graphical perspective for a game from 1991, with smaller sprites for the characters allowing for more detailed emotions and backgrounds. Overall, the game is bright and colourful, with some really good effects on display, especially with some of the attacks. For instance, in some levels you can fling opponents into windows, and they will smash upon impact, and enemies will also tumble and bounce off some of the more pronounced scenery in the levels. The boss characters have a lot of personality to them, and the game does a good job overall recreating the crumbling Dead End City. The fighting is well animated, and the stages have some genuine character to them. Sound-wise, the game is a bit generic, but it suits the action that is taking place in the gameplay and has that usual sheen you would expect from one of Konami’s arcade releases from this period.
As mentioned up above, there are 5 standard levels in Vendetta, with one of my least favourite tropes taking place in level 6 where you have to take on a boss rush as a bonus stage. If you manage to complete that, then the game will loop back to the start so you can keep going on until your coins run out. I get why they do this as it will encourage some of the nuttier “I HAVE TO DESTROY THIS GAME” folk to keep shovelling money into the cabinet in order to get as far into it as possible, but to me I’d be fine with it just ending after the boss rush. I’ve never really bothered going through the second loop as you get a hearty enough challenge in the normal game as it is, in my opinion.
Vendetta isn’t on the same level of the likes of some of Konami’s other games in this genre, such as The Simpsons and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but it’s still a decent enough stab at it with some decent fun to be had, especially if you have three mates who are willing to join in with you. I’d give it a reasonable recommendation, and if you see it at an arcade near you, then it’ll likely tickle your fancy.