Video Game Review
Publisher: Capcom, SNK
Capcom isn’t notorious for having great shoot-em-ups but their first video game ever was a vertical shooter. Vulgus, co-published with SNK, was a solid arcade game that took in quite a bit of quarters back in the day. While there are more sophisticated shooters now, it still is an enjoyable diversion that provides a formidable challenge.
The idea is really simple. You’re piloting a ship that is fighting against an alien army. You have two types of weapons at your disposal: a standard blaster weapon and a more powerful rocket cannon. While you have unlimited ammo for your blaster, you only have a few rockets so you need to use them wisely and pick-up additional rocket ammo units when possible. The enemies attack in random patterns with the exception of one set that fly onto the screen and pause in a particular formation then fly off. Some enemies are more difficult to destroy than others and as the game progresses, their attacks patterns and tactics become more dangerous. This forces the player to take both an offensive and defensive position throughout the game. The game doesn’t really have levels although the backgrounds do change after a while. The object of the game is score as many points possible.
A notable thing about this game is that even though it was released in the mid-80s, the controls feel very fluid. Many games coming out of that era had controls that felt a little delayed or unresponsive. For a game like Vulgus where the action can get quite intense, the controls feel incredibly responsive. The controls never fail the player; you die because either the action is too frantic on the screen and/or you’re just not good enough. Even though the controls are not fully analog (it uses an eight-direction joystick), you wouldn’t know it as you can whip your ship around in any direction you need to survive.
The presentation is fine and it stands up well today compared to other shooters of that era. Despite its limited hardware architecture, the game would have been one of the nicer looking games on an 8-bit console had it been released for the home market (a NES semi-port was in the works but never released). The sounds are forgettable though as the in-game music can be a bit annoying since it’s just the same ten-second sequence played over and over again. The sound effects are pretty bad as it sounds like more like static than anything else. It sounds like noises that are coming through an AM radio that’s sitting under a tunnel. Although, the music doesn’t come into play much since survival is more important than taking some quality time to listen to the game’s soundtrack. You’re more likely to tune out of the music and focus more on the game.
It’s unfortunate that Vulgus never saw the legengdary status acquired by other arcade shooters like Space Invaders or Galaga because it really is a quality title. It has survived through various video game compilations, PDA software releases, and is available for download on the internet if you look hard enough. It’s a fun timewaster that makes for an enjoyable break-time game. It’s not exactly going to blow anyone’s mind due to its limited design but its challenging game play and easy controls make it a classic game in the shooter genre. It’s simple, but it’s simple fun.