I’ve made it known that I am passionate about my tactical RPG’s. Very. While I’ve yet to find a series of late to fill that void (I appreciate you for what you are Fire Emblem, but you’re just not good enough), I still have a few to fall back on that don’t rhyme with Sminning Smorce. Topping that list is Vandal Hearts for the original Playstation, one of the few PS1 games that still holds up today.
Once upon a time Konami made games other than Metal Gear and Dance Dance whatever (is that still a thing?). Hard to believe I know. They even dabbled in making RPG’s, like Suikoden. Better still, they were good. Really good. Then they stopped. One of their offerings was Vandal Hearts, a 16-bit art style bloody Tactical RPG. This game told a great story that focused on a smaller band of characters while retaining the elements of a great TRPG.
This game didn’t reinvent the wheel with the battle system. It was the typical fair. What made it different was the story, moreover, the character development. With only twelve available, it was easier to focus and build them, learning to depend on them for different reasons. One of my problems with games like Final Fantasy Tactics was doing the opposite. I would spend hours level grinding my band, only to have a new character join with some unique ability. Then it becomes a choice.
One element of the game that might be offputting to some is the blood. A shower of blood would launch out of characters when attacked. This didn’t affect me either way, but might be a problem for some.
There was a sequel, simple called Vandal Hearts 2, for the PS1. Sadly, I was never able to play it. Somewhere around the first or second battle, the enemies would attack in the exact same pattern, and every time, at the same moment, the game froze. I was unable to progress, and let down. I’ve heard mixed reviews, from astounding to forgettable. If I could find a working version today, I’d definitely give it a try.
In 2010 there was a prequel for PSN and XBLA subtitled, Flames of Judgement. I haven’t gotten to this one either as the artstyle is odd. Many’s reaction to this is best summed up by saying “Oh yeah, that was a thing,” I think it’s safe to assume no one cared.
My fondest memory is finally unlocking the hidden and very missable Vandalier class for protagonist Ash. Wow was it amazing. Aside from getting the best armor in the game, he would have access to every ability (over seventy), and able to use infinite use attack items. When you attacked, rainbows shot out instead of blood. You were basically a god. It was amazing.
I still maintain the original Vandal Hearts is a fantastic experience for any RPG fan. It makes me lament the time when RPGs were simply, better. It wasn’t the graphics that cutscenes that mattered, it was the characters and stories. Vandal Hearts has that in spades.
Ever hear of this one? Unlock the Vandalier? Comment below!
Seriously, the sequel pissed me off.