Thursday, July 13, 2023

Vanguard II (1984)

Name:Vanguard II
Genre:Top-Down Shooter
Time:1 hour

Arcade games this year are just proving to be one big pile of junk, even the supposedly higher quality Japanese ones. I've fired up three before this, each of which fit my definitions, but each have almost nothing to talk about, perhaps a gimmick, then just another coin muncher.

This time we have a game much in the same as Thunder Force, only by fighting game legends SNK. Vanguard I was some kind of generic Scramble clone, but this, this is something interesting. This, ironically enough, is the exact opposite of what the game's actual popularity was, the first one did wonderfully, while this one sort of flopped.

With that said, I sort of already know what to expect. The ship flies around a looping battle field, where you use missiles to take out "ground" targets and lasers to take out flying targets. In contrast to Thunder Force, the targets don't depend entirely on luck, take out most ground targets and it counts towards your ultimate goal, that of taking out the central core.

This is very slow-paced for an arcade title. It's smooth, but your ship doesn't get anywhere in a hurry. It's very slow. It's kind of weird, because you turn relatively, but "forward" does nothing while "backwards" stops. This tripped me up a lot, because everytime I had to turn around I had to do so very awkwardly. Diagonals work, but because I was using the keyboard here, not very well. It's all subtly off, and it doesn't help you die in one hit.

There's something weird about the enemy ships. They don't seem to exist as entities in the game world as much as in relation to you. You change directions and they just sort of hang where they were left, ever so strangely. This tripped me up a couple of times, but most of the time you don't have to worry about ships. A few are generally shot in your direction, but inconsistently.

Now, ground targets, or the ship, as it really is. You see that crosshair? That shows where your missiles go, and when you fire, it locks in until it hits. If you move around fast enough it might be wrong, but that's kind of rare. It's genuinely helpful, though after enough trial and error you could probably figure out where it would hit anyway.

Dealing with enemies is kind of crappy, because there was this distinct feeling that everything homed in on me and I never had a chance of escaping it. Both ships and shots. It's funny, at first I thought it was better in that regard compared to Thunder Force, but the slower speed just means you have more time to realize you're dead. It's not helpful that basically nothing besides you makes a sound.

Taking out the power cores gets you close to your goal of taking out the central core, and this is where the game is the best. The entire takes power from multiple locations, easily destructible outside sections and the central core. Take out all the connecting cores of a certain area, and the cores that have lost access to power are also destroyed. The more important ones shoot at you, and obviously any annoying inner cores or turrets can be taken out with missiles just as surely as the connecting pieces, though only big ones count towards the central core.

Once you take out your number of cores, you can destroy the central core. This isn't easily, because in addition to multiple turrets, the central core shoots back, with some of the only hostile noise you get, and nothing you do prevents that attack. You also have to time it, do it wrong and you have to shoot again. I also note that if you want free airspace, at least from hostile turrets, you have to spend a lot of time shooting the area around the central core, which brings in it's own problems.

With that in mind, I got to the third level, once. It seems like no matter how flawlessly I got past the first level, the second level would just drain my lives. This strikes me as the reason why this game did poorly, this is indulging too much in that SNK difficulty. That sort of thing doesn't necessarily work in a fighting game, but at least in those cases, the casual audience can fight against each other. This just has a whole bunch of conflicting bits of difficulty that requires too much effort to work against to be fun for all but the most dedicated.

This puts me into the mind that of all things, this is a really bland game. There's very little sound, merely the requisite gun effects and a few flourishes during important events. So I basically just fly around this very bland landscape, in mostly silence, slowly dismantling a spaceship. It doesn't really improve the way the game plays, it makes it feel boring.

Weapons intended for a select ground of targets each. 1/10

Some minor variety among flying enemies, but ground targets consist entirely of turrets, some bigger, some smaller. 2/10


Gradually enlargening spaceships, which can after a while feel somewhat samey. 2/10

Player Agency:
Theoretically good, your typical top-down shooter, but in practice slow and unwieldy. 3/10

Some destructible targets. 1/10

Incredibly unfun. 0/10

Nice in theory, but just feels drab and ugly. 2/10


The bare minimum of sound, with only a few not activated solely by the player. 1/10

Subtracting one point because I left the game feeling miserable, and we have 11.

I'm really starting to regret deciding to play arcade games. Even the best are just coming off as nicely dressed up coin munchers.

No comments:

Post a Comment