North American box art
|Platform(s)||PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Microsoft Windows|
Vandal Hearts (ヴァンダルハーツ) is a turn-based tactical role-playing video game developed by Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo for the PlayStation and later ported to the Sega Saturn by Konami Computer Entertainment Nagoya. The PlayStation version was distributed in Japan, North America, and Europe. The Saturn version was only released in Japan. There was also a Microsoft Windows version developed and released in South Korea.
The game spawned a sequel, Vandal Hearts II, also for the PlayStation. A prequel, Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgment was created for the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. In 2004 Konami announced a Vandal Hearts game for the Nintendo DS, but it was later cancelled.
Thousands of years ago, the holy man known to history as Toroah the Messiah traveled far and wide across the continent of Sostegaria, spreading his teachings throughout the land. After his death, his descendants and heirs assumed absolute political power over the region, forming the basis of the Holy Ashah Dynasty and ruling through a combination of religious doctrine and military power for millennia. The kings and queens of the Holy Ashah Dynasty, however, did not always rule wisely or justly, and, as time passed, the citizenry began to resent the power of their leaders.
Fifteen years ago, this growing discontent found its ultimate expression in the person of Arris the Sage, who united the desperate and resentful anti-royal factions throughout Sostegaria and shaped them into a powerful guerrilla army. Under the cunning leadership of Arris, this Liberation Army managed to outwit and outmaneuver the Royal Army, and finally smashed through to the palace of the Ashah Dynasty itself, and burnt it to the ground.
With the monarchy dissolved, the rebels establish a ruling council founded on the principles of democracy and popular sovereignty. From the ashes of the Holy Ashah Empire emerges the Republic of Ishtaria. The leaders of the revolution naturally assumed leadership positions within the new republic: all, that is, except for Arris himself, who suddenly disappeared and has not been seen of, nor heard of, ever since.
Today, the fledgling republic is in increasingly dire straits: the autocratic Minister of Defense, Hel Spites, and his elite anti-terrorism squad, the Crimson Guard, are using ever-increasing force to stamp out the last vestiges of resistance to Ishtarian rule, while they allow outlaws to roam the countryside and pirates to sail the seas. Meanwhile, Ash Lambert and his colleagues at the third battalion of the Ishtarian Security Forces begin to suspect a conspiracy at the highest levels of government. Ash's attempts to draw attention to the situation, though, only draw the ire of the conspirators themselves, leaving only Ash and his allies to foil their plans and restore order to the nation.
In Chapter 1, we meet Ash, Diego and Clint, who are posing as merchants. A group of thieves comes to rob them, only to find out that Ash is a member of the Security Forces. Ash, Diego and Clint dispatch Zoot Gach and his thieves. Despite Diego wanting to end Zoot's life at that point, the three companions head back to the capital Shumeria. Ash reports on what they found in the valley to their boss, Clive Beckett. Clive wants to know more when the meeting is interrupted by a citizen reporting a riot in the Dover District. This is a slum where the former nobles who lived the rich life under the Ashah Dynasty still live. Diego, Ash and Clint assault a church, and meet up with Kane, the leader of Hel Spite's elite Crimson Guard. Ash and Kane trade some words, and the three beat back the monsters that appear and head to the church. There, they meet up with Count Claymore, who instigated the riot in the first place. Kane shows back up and arrests Claymore, simultaneously killing the remaining nobles in cold blood. Clive shows up as Ash is ready duel Kane, and cools the two off. The next day, a mysterious man by the name of Dolf shows up at Clive's office with a mission. Three months before, General Magnus Dunbar left for Gilbaris Island on a secret mission. He and his companions disappeared, and are presumed dead. Ash is to find out what happened to the general and report back to Dolf. Ash leaves with Clint and Diego, most think they are on leave because of what happened in the Dover District. As they pass through the ruins of the Ashah Dynasty's castle, they run afoul of some clay golems created by Eleni Dunbar, the daughter of General Magnus. She and her manservant Huxley Hobbes join up with Ash. They also run into some brigands guarding a bridge, where another archer named Kira also joins the band. When the make the port to take them to GIlbaris Island, Grog Drinkwater refuses on account of Hassan the Pirate, who killed Grog's sailors and brother. Ash and his companions go to the desert to kill a sand creature that is stopping overland trade with a neighboring nation. Once they slay the beast, Ash confronts Grog, saying that "drinking won't bring back the dead." Grog joins the party and they confront Hassan. After whipping the pirates, they find out that Hassan is actually Grog's brother, and that the life of piracy "killed" the man who was Grog's brother. The party then travels to Gilbaris Island after burying Hassan at sea.
Battles are carried out on a series of grid maps, which include cells not accessible like water, trees and buildings. Although the environment is three dimensional with a perspective that can be rotated by the player, the characters are two dimensional sprites. A character's movement allowance for a turn can be used all at once or split, between two or more movements. Turns are on a side-by-side basis; the player moves all of their characters before the AI is allowed to take its turn.
Most stages are completed by killing all the enemy characters. Other stages have different victory conditions, such as killing one particular enemy character, moving characters to a specific location on the map, or killing certain enemies while saving others. In every battle, the death of the party leader results in an immediate loss. Losing other characters in the party causes the loss of gold. The character is gone from the current stage and can return in the next stage. On stages that include rescuing other characters, the death of these characters also results in a loss.
A variety of characters join the battle party throughout the course of the game. Every character fits into one of seven character classes: Swordsman, Armor, Archer, Hawknight, Monk, Mage and Cleric. The strengths of each class are determined through a hierarchy similar to the hand game Rock, Paper, Scissors (and Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, another tactical role-playing game released in 1996): melee fighters (such as Swordsmen and Armors) are most effective when fighting against Archers. Archers are most effective when fighting against airborne characters such as Hawknights. Hawknights are most effective when fighting against Swordsmen. The other three classes are magic-users: the Monk pairs healing magic with average physical strength, where the Mage specializes in attack magic, and the Cleric specializes in healing magic. In addition, Mages are also most effective against Armor. Most magic-using classes have weak defensive capabilities when compared to other classes in the game and most attacking magic spells are stronger against heavily armored opponents.
Vandal Hearts received mixed to positive reviews. Critics generally praised the incorporation of three-dimensional terrain and positioning into combat strategy, the sound effects, and the visual spectacle of the spells. However, most critics disapproved of the linear progression of the gameplay and story. Reviews in both GameSpot and Next Generation likened Vandal Hearts to a bare bones reduction of the Shining Force games, eliminating the exploration, town wandering, and replay elements that had helped make those games classics. Next Generation nonetheless had a firmly positive overall assessment, arguing that "the lack of exploration is offset by the extremely engaging combat sequences." GameSpot instead considered it a "fatal flaw", and deemed Vandal Hearts a typical example of a fifth generation game with solid design and impressive graphics but less advanced gameplay than games of previous generations, though he highly praised the strategy involved in the battles. Art Angel of GamePro found several elements of the gameplay unusual and refreshing, such as the ability to choose each character's class, and was especially pleased with the full motion video cutscenes. He concluded, "Vandal Hearts' original gameplay and strong graphics and sounds should satisfy even the most particular RPGers." Dan Hsu of Electronic Gaming Monthly criticized that the game sometimes spoils its own plot twists through its use of omniscient point of view, for instance by showing that the player characters are being betrayed before they learn it themselves. However, he praised the enemy AI and said the variety created by the different character classes "won me over." He and his three co-reviewers gave it EGM's "Game of the Month" award.
- Harris, Craig (August 10, 2004). "Nintendo DS Line-up, Part Two". IGN. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
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