SNK's 1981 Vanguard

It's a vertical shooter. It's a horizontal shooter. It's a vertical and a horizontal shooter!

And actually, it's a diagonal shooter, too. So you're pretty much covered if you like shooters.

In Vanguard, you're flying a ship through the tunnels of an alien world. As you pass through various zones, you encounter different enemies, each with their own unique patterns of attack. If you survive to the very depths of the tunnel, you'll end up in a face-to-face battle in the City of Mystery, with the dreaded Gond!

Fortunately, you're armed to the teeth. Your ship has not one, but four guns - one pointing in each direction, so you can blow away enemies no matter where they're coming from. Plus, you can also fly through energy pods to become temporarily invincible.

Vanguard was one of a handful of games of this era with voices (not yet supported in MAME), which helped give the machine a unique personality. Vanguard also made good use of in-game music. You start off with the theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, power up to music from Flash Gordon, and then, well, there's what sounds like caliope music in there too. (You can't win 'em all.)

Missing Ingredient

Difficulty. After a few games, it's pretty easy to get the hang of the various enemies in Vanguard. The different zones also quickly become predictable, and having four guns, while a novel idea, just gives you an unfair advantage. All of this wouldn't be so bad, if the Gond wasn't so easy to destroy. Just keep firing as you approach him, and he's toast.

Vanguard was a nice twist on games like Scramble, but despite the variety offered by the game, in the end it just didn't offer enough challenge to keep players coming back to it.

Thanks to Jeffrey Carl at ServInt for providing the space for CinemArcade


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