Welcome to Capcom Summer!
When you think of Capcom- what comes to mind? For some, it’s Street Fighter. Others- It might be Mega Man.
For me- it’s their first games. The ones that might be overlooked today. Trojan. Pirate Ship Hagmaru. Son Son. Legendary Wings. Forgotten Worlds.
My plan is simple- to go over the first five years of games from this legendary company that changed the landscape of arcades and home gaming- forever.
Although the company formed in 1979, the beginning of our story didn’t start until 1984.
The name Capcom is a clipped compound of “Capsule Computers”, a term coined by the company for the arcade machines it solely manufactured in its early years, designed to set themselves apart from personal computers that were becoming widespread. “Capsule” alludes to how Capcom likened its game software to “a capsule packed to the brim with gaming fun”, and to the company’s desire to protect its intellectual property with a hard outer shell, preventing illegal copies and inferior imitations.
Now that we have gone over a brief overview- lets get to their first game- VULGUS!
Release date- July 1983
Lead programmer- Tokuro Fujiwara
Staff- T. Toyohara, Masanori Kimura, Y. Morita, A. Fukuda, S. Okada
Sound- Ayako Mori
“Vulgus is a 2D vertical-scrolling shooter game in space and Capcom’s first video game. The player controls a typical spaceship. He has one single objective: he must destroy incoming enemies. The spaceship has two weapons – primary gun with infinite ammo and a bombs (very limited ammo). Game has no “end” – so “surface of a planet” and a “space field” backgrounds repeat with increased difficulty until the player has lost three lives (on its default setting).”
Capcom needed a game to start their long library- Vulgus fit the bill. A short, nails hard shooter, it was effective first conversion kit from the fledgling company. It was distributed by SNK. Many Capcom games in first few years were released by other companies in US territories. Tokuro Fujiwara came from Konami- where he programed Pooyan, and one of my favorite platformers- Rock -N- Rope. He wanted to make a game like Xevious, but harder. Anyone who has played Xevious knows it’s hard. But it staggers it’s difficulty in the beginning. With Vulgus- it’s hard right after you hit the start button. They come from all sides of the screen, circling around your ship.
The mini enemies are worth 50 points.
Mega Enemies are worth 1000 points.
In each special formation, destroying all enemies within it will increase by 500 points for each formation you destroy without dying up to 5000 points.
If you use cannons, the points multiply for each enemy it destroys within their line of fire. Hit them when they are lined up straight,
Vulgus nets you 100,000 points.
The items make or break you in this game.
Pow – gain extra bombs. Get used to this one- Capcom will use this icon many times.
Avoid these at all cost below:
S – enemy speed increase
E – Enemy firepower increase
D – more enemies
And… There’s a 10,00 point star! but it means picking up the letters as well!
Letters and powerups appear on the ground in the pattern POW, POW, letter, but if you have all the missiles you can already carry then they will all be letters. Between each area with a space background, if you pick up a certain number of letters without dying and before you get to the space background again, a 10K star will replace the next letter. Here are the areas, how many letters you must pick up, and what their sequence is (it’s always the same sequence, which leads me to believe they have some other importance as well):
Round 1: 4 – ESDE Round 2: 6 – EESDEE Round 3: 6 – ESSDES Round 4: 5 – ESDEE Round 5: 8 – ESSSDDED Round 6: 8 – EDSDDSEE Round 7: 8 – ESSSDDES Round 8: 8 – EESSDDES Round 9: 8 – SEESSDSE
The Yashichi, which is usually either a power-up or extra life item, made the first of its two appearances in a game as an enemy. The POW and star items also appeared in many games.
The question remains- were there any home ports?
A fully complete quasi-sequel/port was made for the Nintendo Entertainment System titled Titan Warriors, featuring new music and several new features, but was ultimately unreleased. It looks like a great game- Like many Capcom games on the NES- it was refined a bit more, making it a better game. Which I think was very important for Vulgus- it needed to evolve. It’s sad it didn’t get a release. But- worry not- The rom has been released for everyone to enjoy!!! Check it out- let your search engine be your friend!
Vulgus was also brought home In the Capcom Collection vol1 for PS2 and other systems back in 2005, and the Capcom Stadium vol1 in 2022.
So- what do you think of Vulgus? I think for a first game- it was a solid first game. Back in may day, this was the space shooter to get the high score on in 1984. And its difficulty pulled in the true high score breakers in- for about a year. Then space shooters kind of fell by the way as games became more defined- space ships just weren’t enough in 1985. Games like Capcom’s own Commando (a game we will be talking about soon) completely changed the landscape of the arcade.
But- if you want to start at the beginning with a very hard space shooter- you cant go wrong with a few rounds of Vuglus.
Until the next Capcom game-
Keep Playin’ Like It’s 1981.