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Vanguard (ヴァンガード) is a 1981 arcade game developed by TOSE,[1] and published by SNK in Japan in 1981[2] and later during the same year in Germany by the same publisher,[3] while it was licensed to Centuri for manufacture in North America in October 1981[4] and by Zaccaria in Italy during the same year,[5] putting SNK on the map in those regions. The game was also licensed to Cinematronics for conversion to cocktail arcade cabinets in North America.[8]

Japanese arcade flyer of "Vanguard"
Japanese arcade flyer
Centuri [4]
Zaccaria [5]
Atari, Inc. (home)
Programmer(s)Dave Payne (2600)[6]
Platform(s)Arcade (original)
Atari 2600, Atari 5200
Release1981: arcade
1982: 2600
1983: 5200[7]
Genre(s)Scrolling shooter
Multi-directional shooter
Mode(s)Single player
CabinetUpright, cocktail (Cinematronics)[8]
Arcade systemM6502 (@ 930 kHz)
Custom audio
DisplayVertical orientation
resolution: 224 x 256 64 colors

The game is one of the first shooters with scrolling in multiple directions. It is also the first color game released by SNK and an early example of a dual-control game, similar to the later Robotron: 2084, but using four directional buttons rather than a second joystick.[9]


The Gond has been terrorizing nearby space colonies with its periodic raids of destruction. The time has come to put an end to his reign of terror. The player has been selected to pilot an advanced fighter ship with high offensive capabilities, and must enter the cave inside the asteroid where the Gond makes his home, and safely fly through every zone; the Mountain Zone, Rainbow Zone, Styx Zone, Stripe Zone, Bleak Zone, and the City of Mystery (aka Last Zone) where the Gond is rumored to reside. The player must take the Gond out, and succeed in the mission. If unsuccessful, the colonies will be doomed.


Vanguard is similar to Scramble, in that the player controls a ship urged along a surrounding conduit and with a limited amount of fuel that constantly depletes. Unlike Scramble, fuel is replenished by destroying enemies, so running out of fuel is less common. Some portions of Vanguard scroll vertically, horizontally or diagonally.

The ship can fire lasers independently in any of the four cardinal directions using the four buttons. Flying into an energy pod makes the ship invulnerable for a short while, allowing both enemy ships and the tunnel walls to be destroyed by ramming.

The game is divided into two tunnels of multiple zones each. The first tunnel consists of Mountain Zone, Rainbow Zone, Styx Zone, Rainbow Zone 2, Stripe Zone, Rainbow Zone 3, Bleak Zone, and the City of Mystery/Last Zone. The second tunnel consists of Mountain Zone, Stripe Zone, Styx Zone, Rainbow Zone, Bleak Zone, and the City of Mystery/Last Zone. At the end of each tunnel the player must defeat a boss guarded by two moving force fields with holes in them.

Vanguard uses a number of custom sound chips to produce digitized voices and custom synthesizer sounds.[citation needed] The speech is used to announce the name of the current zone or the next zone that is about to be entered, or the words "be careful" when a power-up is about to end. Theme music composed by Jerry Goldsmith for the 1979 sci-fi film Star Trek: The Motion Picture, later utilized for Star Trek: The Next Generation, is borrowed as Vanguard's introductory theme. Vultan's theme (composed by Queen's Freddie Mercury) from the 1980 movie Flash Gordon is used as the sound effect when a power-up is attained.

Ports and sequelsEdit

Atari, Inc. released ports of Vanguard for the Atari 2600 in 1982 and the Atari 5200 in 1983. The Atari 2600 version was programmed by Dave Payne.[6]

Vanguard was followed up in 1984 by a less successful arcade sequel, Vanguard II,[10] which has gameplay similar to Xevious with the ability to fly in multiple directions.


The Atari 2600 version of Vanguard was reviewed by Video magazine in its "Arcade Alley" column where it was described as "a marvelous home-arcade translation" of the original arcade version. Reviewers commented that in contrast to some of Atari's other less-successful efforts with licensed titles, the "anonymous Atari designer made elegant simplifications in the graphics" that faithfully evoke the look and "the same breathtaking action" of the original. Note was also made of the fact that this version of Vanguard marked the first time a continued play option was offered in a game cartridge.[11]:26

The Atari 5200 version of the game was awarded "1984 Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Videogame" at the 5th annual Arkie Awards, where judges described it as "a scrolling shootout extravaganza" and praised its "outstanding graphics".[12]:40

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Vanguard (video game) - Retrieved on 2009-03-18
  2. ^ a b Japanese arcade flyer at The Arcade Flyer Archive Retrieved on 2009-03-18
  3. ^ a b German arcade flyer at The Arcade Flyer Archive Retrieved on 2009-03-18
  4. ^ a b North American arcade flyer at The Arcade Flyer Archive Retrieved on 2009-03-18
  5. ^ a b Italian arcade flyer at The Arcade Flyer Archive Retrieved on 2009-03-18
  6. ^ a b Hague, James. "The Giant List of Classic Game Programmers".
  7. ^ "Atari 5200 Vanguard". Atari Mania.
  8. ^ a b North American arcade flyer for the cocktail version at The Arcade Flyer Archive Retrieved on 2009-03-18
  9. ^ Matt Barton & Bill Loguidice, The History of Robotron: 2084 - Running Away While Defending Humanoids, Gamasutra
  10. ^
  11. ^ Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (May 1983). "Arcade Alley: Zapping for Truth and Justice". Video. Reese Communications. 7 (2): 26–28. ISSN 0147-8907.
  12. ^ Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (January 1984). "Arcade Alley: The Arcade Awards, Part 1". Video. Reese Communications. 7 (10): 40–42. ISSN 0147-8907.

External linksEdit