Although Vigilante is best known as an arcade game, it was also one of the launch titles for NEC's TurboGrafx-16. At that time having an arcade port like this was considered a slam dunk, especially if they could make it look and play exactly the same. The Turbo was able to duplicate the experience, but after playing the Master System version I'm not so sure the game needed to be 16-bit to have a faithful port.
Actually, when it comes right down to it I'm not so sure Vigilante needed to be made at all. For all its action, it's hardly a strong example of good programming. The control is stiff, the enemies are relentless to a fault, the level design is flat, and once you've gone through it once you will never want to come back ... this game is just awful. And what's worse, this game wasn't very good to begin with.
For what it's worth Vigilante on the Master System is as close to arcade perfect as an 8-bitter can get. The characters aren't as large, the backgrounds aren't as detailed, and the sounds are just pitiful ... but everything else is intact. The game plays surprisingly fast, all the levels and bosses are accounted for, and the story and cut scenes - in which your girlfriend, Maria, is kidnapped and transported around town -- are all in the right places.
It's certainly not the translation that lets us down, it's Vigilante itself that is a letdown. The goal of this game is to beat up anybody that is rushing towards you, all while attempting to walk all the way from one side of the level to the other without dying. If you do this you will be rewarded with a boss fight, don't do this and you're stuck trying the level over again from the start.
Since you're constantly fighting you would think that the developers would have spent time getting it right, but the combat is fatally flawed and leaves the game in dire straights. With only punches and kicks at your disposal, you don't have much to help you fend off the dozens of angry gang members. You can pick up a weapon, but even that barely has any range and doesn't help as much as you would imagine. Thanks to the ineffective combat you are often left open to cheap shots, making this one of the most frustrating fighting experiences you can have. Chances are if you hate the way it feels when you first start, you're never going to appreciate what they're trying to do.