Vandal Hearts (PSX) Game - Playstation Video Game Room
Vandal Hearts is a Tactical RPG game developed by Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo Co., Ltd. and published by Konami of America, Inc. in 1997 for the Playstation.
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Vandal Hearts Featured Review
Much Better than I Remember
When I first got my PlayStation in 1997, I was of course drawn to the big titles like Final Fantasy VII and Breath of Fire III. So when I tried other titles like Vandal Hearts, I thought that the game was disappointing and worth forgetting. But now that I’m playing the game with a “playing the game when it was first released”, I realize that this game is a hidden gem.
Created in 1996, VH is one of the first (the first?) game to include CGI movies. Of course, don’t expect the elaborate movies from FF VII; they are limited to the intro of each chapters. Nevertheless, they add a very nice touch to the game, showing the general overview of the adventures you will live. At the start of Chapter 3, when the bad guys form a very blood tyranny, you can see the shadows of people walking in line in chains with a little child watching the scene, intrigued. It’s like looking at stills from an anime.
Otherwise, like most 32-bit tactical RPG, the game is rather static outside the battlefields. Although they have much more variety that Front Mission (on the SNES), graphics are still not as interesting at the Shining Force, where you could walk and explore every village. You merely see a picture of the village or the overworld map and simply “teleport” from place to place.
Fortunately for your eyes, you spend most of your time in cutscenes or a battlefield. In the former (since the scene is usually pretty small), you always see a repetitive background that “floats” in order to make a 3D impression. It’s a nice touch compared to 16-bit game, but I found it rather distracting. It becomes psychedelic at times and get annoying. Also, the characters’ movements looks a little clumsy, especially in the battlefield. When there are cutscenes there, their legs don’t even bend when they walk around/down obstacles.
Speaking of battlefields, they were generally done very well and are very varied. From forests to towns to ancient temples to even a train (although, for some reason, there is no gunpowder around), you will not find two battlefields alike. Their perspective is logic; a bowman will have a great advantage on hire ground and will be able to shoot far away, unless the target is directly behind a tree or hugging a wall. This makes strategy all the more important.
Battles as such were also made well. You hit the enemy directly (and vice-versa) with your weapons, projectiles or spells and screen movement (since vibrating controls didn’t exist) makes you feel the pain. Speaking of spells, they were OK; they really looked much better even in Final Fantasy IV. Piercing Light, for example, just looks like ribbons hitting an enemy. But Phase Shift, that makes the screen move all around, does looks like it hurts.
One big thing I didn’t like about the graphics however (hence, in part, the 7): it’s excessively and uselessly gory. Whenever you kill a living creature (or even an undead like a skeleton), their blood spills around like Wednesday Adams’ in the play with Pugsley from the first movie. Diablo did the blood splatter in a much more “sophisticated” manner. Also, the screen tends to spin a little too much in large battlefields when it goes from foe to foe. It can get nauseating if you use the space bar to save time.
Just like the graphics, the music is much better than I remember it.
One can already tell that the game is 32-bit rather than 16 since the music is much more realistic than the Final Fantasys or even Dragon Quest VI. Most of the tracks are joyous military march when your team is on the offensive, but at least there is variety – at least 4 or 5 of them. Most villages have a nice Medieval touch with their high-pitch flutes and bassoon, while the battlefield at the end of Chapter 2 sounds VERY dramatic – appropriately so, considering the ensuing events.
I gave music a 7 because the enemy phase lacked the diversity your phase does. Unlike FM I, the enemy track has little variety (if at all – I need to listen more carefully) and I generally skip it.
On their side, sound effects were astounding. During each CGI movie, a narrator with a very deep and solemn voice tells you the story. It was probably the first time a game incorporated so much voice acting – rather than just shouting like characters fighting in BOF III. Had Shining Force CD had better technology, it would have probably used the same technique to enhance its game too.
Other than the narrator’s voice, game sounds were also fairly realistic. You can hear river steams flowing, drawbridges falling when you activate the switch and the sound of your weapons cutting through your enemies (or through you!). Some characters also make some sounds when they attack, but it’s fortunately not generalized like BOF III.
The main storyline (more on that later) is enough to keep any RPG fan hooked. It’s full of adventure, plot twists, betrayals, surprises and nearly impossible comebacks. The game’s division into chapters helps reinforce the story telling aspect much better than the SF series did since the story is more elaborate.
Also, unlike most strategic RPGs, mindlessly killing the enemy is usually not enough. Probably because of better capacities, the artificial intelligence is MUCH brighter and will make you realize it by killing your allies if they venture too far alone. The goal of the battle is clearly stated at the start of the fight (and you can see it again at will if need be), and sometimes killing enemies will cost you dearly. Sometimes, moving too early will cause enemies to flee and make you lose, while sometimes trying to go after them will also make you lose since they appear again stronger and will destroy things you need to protect.
Finally, most battlefields have hidden objects are buried in VERY subtle spots. Unless you use a guide, finding them will prove to be a challenge worthy for any completionist. In fact, finding these objects is essential in order to complete the trials leading to the hero’s ultimate class, Vandalier.
Sostegaria. For over a millennium the fertile lands in the heart of this vast continent were ruled by the Holy Ashah Dynasty, descendants of Toroah the Messiah. However, it is man's doom to forget... Amidst all the wealth and exotic pleasures, the nobility lost their way and sank into corruption and depravity, forgetting even the holy teaching of Toroah. It was in these days of unrest that the citizens, struggling under an oppressive regime, rose up and - under the leadership of Arris the Sage took up arms against the Kingdom. That was the first outbreak of violence in what would later be known simply as "The Revolution". The Royal Army's counterattack was swift and fierce, but time and time again they were put to flight by the cunning strategies of Arris and the indomitable will of the advancing Liberation Army. Victory in hand, the rebels set up a Council and worked to establish the continent's first democracy. And so, the republic of "Ishtaria" was born. However, Arris the Sage, whom all hoped would lead the country, mysteriously vanished and has not been seen again to this day.
Now, 15 years later, the shadow of war once again threatens Ishtaria
(From the game’s opening movie).
You play Ash Lambert, a member of Istharia’s security forces. However, in your work you and your companions notice that corruption is eating away Ishtaria. Your first fight is against a petty thief who was jailed, but freed after a mere two months.
Back in the capital of Shumeria, trouble is brewing in the noble’s ghetto. When you come, the Crimson Guards are massacring nobles, who were surrendering. Once you reach the church, Count Claymore deposes his arms, but not before his companions get bloodily killed by the Crimson Guards too. He gets captured and interrogated. He seems to have valuable information…
In the meantime, you get sent to Gillbaris Island where General Magnus (whom you briefly see before the first battle) disappeared 3 months ago, supposedly to stage a coup.
What will you find on that Island? What information did Count Claymore have that spared his life briefly?
What I told you is just the summary of Chapter 1, i.e. at most 1/6 of the scenario. When you do reach the Island, more mysteries await you, and when you finally reach Magnus you will be in for a ton of surprises.
In addition to a story that is complex and captivating, every character in your team gets a moment. You learn why Ash is called a traitor by the bad guys, why Diego doesn’t want to see his father, how Eleni came into contact with Magnus, etc. It was not as elaborate as 16-bit games like Breath of Fire II of FF VI, hence the 8.
Also, the quest for the ultimate class is no easy walk in the park. Not only do you have to find the right objects right away – you can’t go back to a battlefield – but all of the key you ultimately obtain lead you to a trial with fights. You will have to get a prism in a chest, and you will need the right strategy to get it as you only have one chance.
Speaking of strategy, going around the game the first time you play will be very difficult.
As I said above, the AI is VERY intelligent and will take advantage of your characters’ weaknesses (e.g., archers against flying creatures) to massacre them. They also won’t hesitate to gang up on one character, especially if he’s weak and kill him or her immediately. Some enemies can only be killed a certain way; make sure you read all the dialogues surrounding a battle to have clues on how to act.
The battlefields will not make your strategizing easy either. There is a lot of rough terrain that slows your advance – some classes are naturally very slow – so if the objective is to reach a certain point, you will lose many turns just walking there. There are also poisonous swamps at time that will poison anyone (including enemies) finish a turn on them. And poison takes away more than 10 percent of your hit points at the time, so watch out.
But if you are careful, the Trials of Toroah can be a piece of cake. The trick is to keep Ash’s level as low as possible, since enemies will be at his level. It will not be easy – he will unavoidably have to fight in early chapter 2 – but I managed to keep him around level 17 at the end of chapter IV.
Finally, magic is much easier to cast. In previous games, you needed to have a character at the center of your healing zone in order for it to work (and similarly for attack magic on enemies). Not anymore; as long as the golden zone of the spell is within the red zone of the range, you can cast your spell as long as an ally/foe is there. Of course, obstacles in your way can prevent optimal casting…
In short, Vandal Hearts is an excellent tactical game that will test your strategizing like few other games. The graphics and music are very good for the time, there is a lot to explore and the story will captivate you till the very end.
Graphics 7 Sound 7 Addictive 8 Depth 8 Story 9 Difficulty 8
Vandal Hearts Game Description
The combat takes place in a series 3D grid based maps and each character in the party has a certain amount of movements they can perform each turn. As the game progresses, other characters join and leave the party and as they increase in level they can progress along different paths of development. Between each battle there is a cut scene that develops the plot using the same 3D engine as the combat (and often the same areas).
In between battles you have the opportunity to talk to people in cities as well as purchase different equipment for the up coming battles.
Vandal Hearts Reviews
When I first got my PlayStation in 1997, I was of course drawn to the big titles like Final Fantasy ...
Graphics 7 Sound 7 Addictive 8 Story 9 Depth 8 Difficulty 8
Review Rating: 4.5/5 Submitted: 04-23-17 Review Replies: 3
Intro- Sostegaria... For over a millennium the fertile lands in the heart of this vast continent wer...
Graphics 4 Sound 10 Addictive 10 Story 10 Depth 10 Difficulty 7
Review Rating: 3.8/5 Submitted: 08-27-13 Updated: 08-27-13 Review Replies: 5
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Comments for Vandal Hearts
This game is much better than I remembered. It may be short (20 hours), but the story is dense enough to keep you interested
BfCamp123 10-28-16 - 01:37 AM
Very addicting to play and just plain fun.
F. Starr 09-17-15 - 11:56 AM
Not very many screenshots, but it looks grid-based tactics style, which I love. Definitely checking this one out. :)
MysteryMan007 12-17-14 - 09:06 PM
Looks like a great game.
SpinDrive 11-03-14 - 07:39 PM
My favourite game of all time.
nstergiou7 06-06-13 - 05:45 PM
For the love of god please add this game.