RECORD STORE TALES #898: Vanguard 2
Released to arcades in 1981, Vanguard didn’t catch my attention until it hit the Atari 2600 the following year. While I have never played the arcade game, the Atari version was in my hands as soon as I could afford it. Notably, the Atari game borrowed some of its music from Queen. Vanguard was a scrolling space game, but where it differed from other games was that it changed orientation from side-to-side to up-and-down at points during the adventure. There were a variety of adversaries, and power-ups to take advantage of. There was even a “boss” to take out at the end, and then it all repeated over again at a higher difficulty. We kids were in love with it, even the simplified Atari version.
Incidentally, Atari artwork and instruction manuals were excellent. They often began with a short story — this one of the “Vanguard Expedition” into the “tunnels of Aterria” looking for a semi-mythical “City of Mystery”. Enough to capture a kid’s imagination, especially when combined with the cool box art.
My best friend Bob and I, being the creative types, thought we could design a sequel. We painstakingly drew every screen in pencil, one after the other. There were 19 screens in total. We taped them together in order with Scotch tape, so that you could lay the whole thing out on the floor if you so desired. Each screen led into the next with attention to detail.
Bob and I had “designed” a dozen games already, drawing them on paper, but they were one or two screens at best. Our Vanguard 2 was 19 levels! Many heavily ripped off from Star Wars. It was only 1983 or 1984 at the latest. Although ours is completely unrelated to the actual Vanguard II that came out in 1984, out friends kept on telling us “You should send your ideas in to Atari”. We were big dreamers but we had a lot of fun pouring hours of creativity into these projects. I’m glad I still have some of them, including Vanguard 2.
I thought it would be fun to scan each screen and post the whole thing with commentary. I tinted the old pages to give them some variety visually. Check out the complete Vanguard 2 game!
Title page. Our “hero ship” basically ripped off from the Colonial Viper from Battlestar Galactica. Enemy ships show heavy Star Wars influence.
Screen 1. Scrolling to the right. Imagine continuous scrolling, as if all the pages were laid out on the ground. Entering mountain! Just like the first Vanguard, you must navigate a tunnel in your space ship. Enemy craft, mines and drones ahead!
Screen 2. A barrier to break through, and a choice of upper or lower tunnels to take.
Screen 3. Upper tunnel was a trap! Although you could possibly shoot your way through a weak spot in the cave wall.
Screen 4: Switching out your ship for a submarine.
Screen 5: More enemy resistance ahead, and a difficult choice of three tunnels to take.
Screen 6: Bottom tunnel would have been the best choice. Giant jelly fish and a 5 second force field power up ahead!
Screen 7: Now it’s giant Octopii! Your sub is running low on fuel, and there is a tempting fuel depot in the lower cave.
Screen 8: The only way through these narrow caverns is to miniaturize your sub. Then you must choose upper or lower tunnels, with the upper appearing easier.
Screen 9: The upper tunnel has heavier resistance at a poor attack angle, plus a classic Atari-style bouncing barrier block, that you must time just right. Success means deminiaturization and a new spaceship.
Screen 10: Whether you take the upper or lower tunnels, you have plenty of opposition and the opportunity for a 5 second shield. Either way — the Sarlacc pit awaits at the end of the screen. (We would have called it something else.)
Screen 11: Made it through the first mountain. Passing through the energy barrier automatically “beams” you to the next screen. (We called the mountains “Screen 1” and “Screen 2” since we envisioned it as a continuous side scroller, with only this one break in between. Here I am calling the individual drawings “screens” as it makes more sense when you look at them individually.)
Screen 12: Still scrolling to the right — entering volcano! A choice of two tunnels ahead.
Screen 13: Either way, both tunnels will lead you to a new ship, plenty of opposition, and a 7 second force field.
Screen 14: Your new ship has dual lasers and can stand the heat of the lava lake you are about to enter!
Screen 15: You’re heating up so don’t be long. Upper tunnel offers some squidly opposition while the lower has plenty of enemy subs.
Screen 16: You’re low on fuel, and a giant lizard is sitting right there by the fuel depot!
Screen 17: Boss Level! As in the first game, the Great Gond awaits you at the end. He is protected by enemy ships and cruise missiles. Once you beat Gond, we change orientation: now the game scrolls up! Make your escape through the cone of the volcano.
Screen 18: Scrolling up as you try to outrace the flames of the erupting volcano beneath you, while being harassed by enemy ships and missiles!
Screen 19: If you beat the flames, you win the game!
We could have had a hit video game on our hands! We loved to draw and a lot of this was drawn outdoors. I’m pleased the thing held together long enough for me to scan it. Imagine that Queen theme playing as you win!