Vulgus is an enjoyable arcade shooter that was made by Capcom back in 1984. This title was distributed by SNK in the United States, as Capcom didn’t quite have their US distribution set up properly then.

The giant insect mutants of Vulgus are having a coming out party, and your invited! (sic)

SNK Promotional material, circa 1984.

Vulgus is pretty simple. You just pilot a spaceship and blast countless enemies. That is what is fun about this game. There is nothing complicated, just pure blasting. You only have two weapons, your blaster, and a limited supply of bombs. The bombs are almost useless because all they do is shoot directly forward. They are only really useful for taking out the larger foes, which they can accomplish in a single shot.

This title uses the time honored top-down vertically scrolling format. The background moves eternally forward, but you can move all around the screen, and can make the screen scroll both left and right.

Your enemies consist of an assortment of fairly realistic looking spacecraft, some of which have a distinctive “insectoid” look to them. I have noticed that there seem to be several different looks for each enemy type. One type of foe will vanish, only to soon be replaced by another one that looks different, but acts completely the same.

This game is endless as far as I can tell, and it doesn’t seem to have a level format. You just move forward and shoot. The backgrounds will change from time to time from planetary surfaces to space scenes and eventually they will start repeating once you blast this particularly large alien formation. I guess that formation could be considered to be the boss of the game. It does give you a large score, but there is no break in the action at all to indicate that it was anything special.

Hardware Information

Vulgus was only available as a conversion kit from SNK (or Capcom in Japan). The marquee to this title was red and it had a strange blue “Vulgus” logo that had red veins running through it.

The game’s code ran on a 2 PCB set that did not conform to any of the usual arcade wiring standards. The boards themselves were pretty much unmarked. The only identifier on my personal set is an SNK serial number sticker (#000393), but even that doesn’t have the name of the game on it. The hardware was a dual Z80 architecture, and it used two AY-8910 sound chips. I personally feel the music and sounds could have been better with that kind of sound hardware, but it may have been a space issue, as this game used every ROM socket on the mainboard.

Where to play

It doesn’t seem that Vulgus was ever ported to any console systems (unless you count the rather crappy Commodore 64 version), but it is supported by the MAME emulator and Retrocade as well. I can’t recall ever seeing a real Vulgus machine, but their could possibly be one still lurking somewhere near you.

This is a fairly decent shooter, and would probably be a good addition to any arcade game collection. You probably won’t find a real machine anywhere, but the circuit board isn’t that hard to locate if you live in the UK or New Zealand. It appears to be a bit more uncommon in America.