Platforms: Arcade, Atari 2600, Atari 5200


Main Genre:
Gameplay Style:
Sci-Fi / Futuristic
Visual Presentation:
Scrolling (Horizontal or Vertical)


Vanguard is an action game developed by Tose originally released in arcades in 1981 and later ported to the Atari 2600 and Atari 5200. The game is a scrolling space shooter (with some levels scrolling horizontally, vertically, or diagonally) where players need to reach the end of multi-zoned tunnels to destroy Gond, the end of level boss located in the City of Mystery. Vanguard is one of the first scrolling shooters released and was followed by a sequel, Vanguard II, which was less successful and not ported to any console or computers at the time.


In Vanguard players control a ship capable of firing in any of four directions. Players need to successfully fly through a long tunnel consisting of multiple zones before reaching the end to destroy Gond. If the player's ship crashes into any of the tunnel walls or is hit by one of the numerous enemies attacking, a life is lost. In some zones players will encounter energy pods marked with a large "E"; flying through the energy pod will temporarily make the player invincible to both enemies and the tunnel walls. During this time the player cannot fire, but enemies are destroyed and earn bonus points if crashed into. The effect lasts a short time with a siren indicating when it's about to wear off. The player's ship has a limited amount of fuel; if fuel runs out, a life is lost. Fuel can be replenished by shooting enemy ships; for each ship shot, a small of fuel is awarded. Running out of fuel usually isn't a problem for most players as there are numerous enemies attacking most of the time.


Points are earned in Vanguard for shooting the various types of enemies encountered. The types of enemies found throughout the game are as follows:
  • Mist ship: 70 points
  • Harley rocket: 50 points
  • Helm balloon: 80 points
  • Ammo balloon: 100 points
  • Base: 100 - 400 points
  • Garime monster: 100 - 400 points
  • Barrier: 800 points
  • Floating Payne: Can't be destroyed
  • Kemlus snake: 100 - 400 points
  • Romeda ship: 100 points
  • Gond: 1000 - 8000 points
Not all enemies are found in each zone; additionally, some enemies may fire back at the player in tougher zones but not in easier ones. In the Bleak Zones, players can ride a Kemlus snake up to three times for 1090 points each time. Attempting to ride a snake after the third time will cost a life. Players earn a bonus life at 10,000 and 50,000 points.

Tunnels and Zones

Arcade version of Vanguard
Arcade version of Vanguard
Each tunnel (level) in Vanguard is broken up into several different types of zones; the order the zones appear in and the number of times each zone is encountered can vary from tunnel to tunnel. The types of zones are as follows:
  • Mountain Zone: Numerous Mist and Harley type enemies can be found in the horizontally scrolling Mountain Zones. Multiple energy pods are available making the zone easier than others. This is the first type of zone encountered in the game.
  • Rainbow Zone: Rainbow Zones scroll diagonally and feature Helm or Ammo balloons. No energy pods can be found. Due to limitations of the system, these zones scroll vertically in the Atari 2600 version of the game.
  • Styx Zone: The Styx Zones scroll horizontally and have a jagged landscape with narrow passages. Mist and Harley type enemies will be found here and there are no energy pods available.
  • Stripe Zone: The path splits into two in Stripe Zones; enemies are numerous and include Bases, Barriers, Floating Paynes, and Garime monsters. Energy pods can be found but only in one of the two parts of the tunnel. In most versions of the game Stripe Zones scroll horizontally, or in the Atari 2600 version the zone scrolls vertically.
  • Bleak Zone: Bleak Zones are always the final zone before reaching the City of Mystery. These vertically scrolling zones feature numerous Kemlus snakes initially and then Romeda ships in the second half. No energy pods can be found here.
  • City of Mystery: This is the final zone where players encounter Gond (located top and center of the screen). Shortly after arrived, barries begin to appear at both the bottom and top; players have a limited amount of time to successfully shoot Gond before the barriers fill in the entire playfield costing the player a life. Gond will also fire missiles at the player that need to be dodged. Regardless if Gond is destroyed, the game will then continue to the next level which will be faster and more difficult.

Music and Sound

Vanguard features two well known musical themes throughout the game. The introductory theme when first starting the game is the theme music from Star Trek: The Motion Picture which was also later utilized in Star Trek: The Next Generation. When a player is invincible after flying through an energy pod, music plays that is borrowed from the 1980 movie Flash Gordon. The original arcade version of Vanguard included speech throughout the game; a digitized voice would announce the name of each zone as it is being entered as well as warn the player when invincibility is about to wear off. The home ports of the game didn't include the voices.


Platform: Atari 2600
Programmed by: David W. Payne
Cover artwork by: Ralph Angus McQuarrie
Platform: Atari 5200
Cover artwork by: Terry Hoff


Click on a picture below to view a larger version.
Arcade Version
Promotional Artwork


Instruction Manual
Atari 2600
Instruction Manual
Atari 5200


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Packaging/Label Styles

This game has releases with the following standardized packaging styles: