Vanguard for the Atari 5200 was named Best Sci-Fi Video Game of 1983 by Electronic Games Magazine. While Robotron: 2084 or Space Dungeon may be more deserving of the title, Vanguard is nevertheless a very good shooter.
The Vanguard ship you pilot always shoots forward when you push the fire button, and it will shoot up, down, or behind you, depending on which way you position the joystick. This shooting arrangement combined with the multitude of enemies you must face and the fact that you can't shoot diagonally means that you must constantly maneuver in all directions and fire frequently.
As to be expected, the graphics in this game are a step up from the Atari 2600 version of the game. Unfortunately, the step is not high enough. This version of Vanguard looks decent, but it doesn't fully utilize the power of the 5200.
The music in this game is very good, and it plays a part in the action. When you fly over an Energy Pod, the music plays. Just as your invincibility is about to wear off, the tune changes, giving you a second or two to adjust. Then the music stops altogether. Also great is the fact that when you are invincible you can't shoot, but you can use your ship for a battering ram.
The boss you must face in the final level is a bit of a let down graphically and challenge-wise, but it's cool that the longer it takes you to defeat him, the more points you score. After a few seconds, it gets very difficult to maneuver in this mysterious City of Mystery.
Vanguard is a nicely designed shooter, but those who have played the Atari 2600 version to death might be disappointed that this game is a little too similar. ~ Brett Alan Weiss, All Game Guide
The graphics are nothing fancy, but they are clear, bright, and varied. ~ Brett Alan Weiss, All Game Guide
The music is nice, maybe a little too nice for a game of this type. The sound effects are interesting. ~ Brett Alan Weiss, All Game Guide
Vanguard is a solid shooter with a fair amount of variety and plenty of action. ~ Brett Alan Weiss, All Game Guide
It won't take you too long to reach and beat the final level, but it's fun to keep going and try to beat your high score. ~ Brett Alan Weiss, All Game Guide
The manual is colorful, and it tells you just enough about each zone. ~ Brett Alan Weiss, All Game Guide