Company: Atari
Model #:
GCC (General Computer Corp.)
Year: 1983
Port of the 1981 Centuri coin-op


Ever say to yourself "Hey, let's go explore that mysterious tunnel on that alien planet"?  Well you have now, because this is the plot behind Vanguard.  No planets to save, no prisoners to rescue, just exploration for the hell of it.  So if you're a bored space pilot between the ages of 19 and 48, why don't you sign up to explore the mysterious tunnels of planet Aterria?  Maybe you can be the first to enter the City of Mystery (oooo.. Sounds scary!) and face the great Gond!  Sound like fun?  Well you're going anyway so buckle up!


Lame plot aside, Vanguard is actually a great little space shooter noted for its unique (at the time) four directional firing scheme.  Instead of being armed with one crappy laser, you're armed with four crappy lasers!  Using the options on the main menu you can either set the lasers to fire constantly or make them fire in the direction you're moving.  Either method works, it all depends on which one you're most comfortable with.


As you make your way through each zone you'll undoubtedly begin to notice your fuel gauge keeps getting lower and lower.  Looks like your spaceship is a lemon and is guzzling fuel like there's no tomorrow.  To gain more fuel you're going to have to shoot down enemy spacecrafts (look all 80's games allow you to get fuel from shooting other ships, work with me here.).  Another way to refill you're fuel is by touching an energy pod.  Energy pods not only fill your fuel to the max, but also make you invincible for a short time (until the day the music dies).  However when you're under the influence of the energy pod you are unable to shoot (but then again you're invincible so who cares?).  Energy pods only appear in the Mountain and Stripe Zones so make the most of them while they're there.


Each space tunnel is made up of seven zones, each with its own unique characteristics:


Mountain Zone

This is the first zone you'll encounter and is pretty standard by all accounts.  While flying through the mountainous tunnel make sure you make use of the numerous energy pods that appear through out.  Watch out for the little spacecrafts that fire missiles, they can be killers if you're not careful.


Rainbow Zone

True to its name, the Rainbow Zone is a rainbow of different colors.  One thing that makes the Rainbow Zone unique is that you're going vertical instead of horizontal.  The only enemies you'll encounter in this zone are little blobs called Helms.  Normally they don't pose a problem as they don't shoot at you, but you can accidentally run into them if you're not careful.


Styx Zone

I'm sailing away.  No thankfully it's not THAT Styx, but this zone is just as irritating.  Formed of long stick like rocks (hence the name), the Styx Zone is one of the most beautiful in the game.  Nothing too interesting here enemy-wise, but make sure you don't accidentally slam into the sides of this narrow tunnel.


Rainbow Zone 2

It's BAAACK!  Just when though you saw the end of the Rainbow Zone it pops up again , but this time with a new enemy called Ammo.  So what makes Ammos different from Helms?  The color!  Right, let's move on shall we?


Stripe Zone

The Stripe Zone throws a new wrench into the works, now you have two different paths you can take.  The top path pits you against deadly Grimes (no I'm not making this up), while the bottom path forces you to try and make it through deadly barriers (is there anything in this game that isn't deadly?).  Each path has its own pros and cons, but I tend to find the barriers easier to deal with since they don't move around.  Thankfully energy pods are back in this zone, so make use of them.  Top or bottom, both paths eventually lead to the same place.


Bleak Zone

Yes folks this zone is bleaker looking than Ricky Martin's career.  One has to wonder if the programmers just didn't get lazy and decide not to put much effort into this zone because there's almost nothing here!  The whole zone is only populated by two types of enemies: Kelmus and Romeda.  Kelmus are little snakes that you can actually dock with for points (simply run into them), while Romeda are deadly bombs that explode when you shoot them.  Take care when docking with Kelmus's as you can only do so three times before they get pissed.


Last Zone

Finally the city!  It's so. Mysterious.  Actually the only mystery here is what the hell is that thing at the top of the screen?  That blob is actually the evil Gond, and you've got to destroy him (Why? Why not?).  However Gond is protected by a series of rotating barriers, so you're going to have to time your shots just right to get a shot through.  The long you wait to destroy Gond the more points you'll score, but the more missile you'll have to dodge in the meantime.


After destroying Gond you'll start in a new tunnel (collect all seven!).  Each tunnel is shaped differently and has the zones in a different order which helps keep the game somewhat fresh.  Vanguard was one of the first arcade ports that appeared only on the 5200 (well there was a 2600 version, but it was severely stripped down), and helped bolster the 5200's reputation as the "Home Arcade Machine".  Strangely there was no 400/800 version of Vanguard, and no evidence that it was even planned.  Perhaps Atari wanted the 5200 to have a few exclusive games of its own to a stop the constant rumors that it was nothing more than a stripped down 400 (although they were right).  The world may never know.


Version Cart Text Description
1/5/83 Vanguard 1-5-83 Mid level WIP
2/1/83 Vanguard 2/1 Late level WIP
5/9/83 Vanguard EPROM Cartidge 129-05 Final version


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