Vandal Hearts was released to the Playstation by Konami in 1996. It was later released to the Sega Saturn as well.
Vandal Hearts was the first strategy game I ever played. I did play Ogre Battle on the SNES before Vandal Hearts, but I just can’t classify Ogre Battle as a strategy game since there’s no strategy involved, but this isn’t an Ogre Battle review, so I’ll stop talking about it.
Being an early strategy game, Vandal Hearts isn’t overly complicated. There are a few classes, and each class is better equipped to kill another class; guardsmen kill fighters, fighters kill archers, archers kill flyers, etc. There are attack magic users, and support magic users as well.
The story starts off simply enough with some crappy cut scenes; I mean, they’re crappy by today’s standards. A long time ago, there were some descendants of a holy hero. Those descendants were the rightful heirs to the land. They grew greedy and complacent. The government sucked. There was a revolution.
Then, for some reason, General Magnus goes to these ruins to look for something, and bright lights assault him.
The game picks up again with some bandits attacking what appear to be merchants, but no! It’s the po-po!
Ash is the protagonist, and he works under Commander Beckett of the SDF, or sometimes called the DSF for some unknown reason. It’s either Security Defense Force or Defense Security Force. I guess it doesn’t matter.
Shouldn't it be the ISF for Ishtarian Security Force...?
It turns out that the police, and the military don’t get along, and the leader of each is trying to become the next Prime Minister. In the background, the evil wizard, Xeno, has learned of a way to command The Flames of Judgment, which were once used to destroy the world. He’s also in league with Dolf, a mysterious man who is manipulating everyone.
Naturally, Ash gets caught in the midst of it all, and being the stalwart warrior he is, he must gather friends, and stop the ambitions of evil men. The only way to accomplish such a feat is to find and wield the Vandal Heart, a magical sword, which can stop The Flames of Judgment.
Well, Vandal Hearts is damn near perfect. There are only a couple of soundtracks, but they’re all awesome. The graphics are good if a little pixilated, but the animation is superb.
The game designers put a lot of time and effort into the animation; the characters have tons of facial expressions while they strike, dodge, or get whacked. Even the bad guys do neat little things; the wizards’ staves’ mouths move while they cast spells.
You don’t see that kind of stuff anymore today. Sure, the game designers spend a lot of time and effort in making every leaf on a tree sway, but, and I compare these games often, Oblivion had numerous facial expressions, whereas its successor, Skyrim, didn’t have shit for facial expressions…why? Even the facial expressions on Mass Effect were gawd awful.
Oh, but back to Vandal Hearts; it isn’t overly difficult or complicated. It has great replay value, and it has two endings… if you can discover how to become a vandalier…
It can get repetitive. Most of the battles are won by defeating all enemies on the screen. Sometimes, the win condition is: defeat a certain bad guy. Once or twice, you have to survive for X amount of turns, so there’s some variety, but not much. The lose conditions are always “Ash Dies.” The other characters can get creamed, but they’ll come back for the next battle.
Another thing that bugs me is that there are no random encounters, or ways to grind for levels. There is an in-game exploit, but it’s technically cheating. There’s also no way to earn extra cash; you get a set amount of stages, and that’s it, so if you don’t cheat, you’ll always get to the end around level 30-32.
Obviously, these are very minor drawbacks, and you wouldn’t even give ‘em a second thought if it was your first play through, but I gotta’ bitch about something.
Ultimately, Vandal Hearts is a great addition to the Playstation library. It was so well received that a sequel was released. VH 2 had a really great story line, and I liked the characters, but the game play was complete shit, and it totally ruined the game.
Some VH fans made a third game for the Playstation network, but it was a very short game, and not really worth mentioning.
Stick to the first Vandal Hearts; it’s the only one really worth playing, and I give it a B+.
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