This doesn’t go to say that this game is bad. In fact, I thoroughly liked it. The guys over at Hijinx Studios (formerly dubbed PhoenixSoft) and Konami have both been developing games for a while (the latter being a little more popular than the former). From the revolutionary Game Boy Advance game, Boktai: The Sun Is in Your Hands, to one of the biggest classic games ever, Castlevania, Konami has been there, with Hijinx as their occasional sidekick. I’m saying all this because I want to let you know the caliber at which these companies function and how it compares to their latest release that didn’t quite live up to the Konami standards, but was still enjoyable.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that the entire story is focused on the grapple between good and evil and, ultimately, the idea of God. It takes place during a war that feels a lot like a smaller version of The Crusades, minus the whole "forcing people to become Christian" schpeel. The main character is always mentioning how God will help them through whatever comes their way and his friend is always talking about how God isn’t helping much at all. There’s even a scene where someone gets “possessed” by God, thus making him super powerful. That being said, let\'s move on to gameplay.
Vandal Hearts is a tactical RPG of the simplest sense. You move from square to square casting various spells and attacking various enemies along the way, all while taking turns with the other characters. You have customizable weapon and armor load outs (though there isn\'t much variation among the weapons nor the armor pieces) and, based on your character\'s dexterity, you can only move a certain amount of spaces in any given direction.
Though it does nothing new for the genre, the battle system felt fluid , the controls were practically perfect, the entire game felt stable and, surprisingly, I found not one bug in my entire run through.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed slowly moving digital beings from one square to another, due to the fact that I’m not a huge fan of waiting to do something in a video game. My attention span is little to nonexistent. I prefer fast paced action games, ala Left 4 Dead,Mass Effect and Darksiders. But Vandal Hearts makes me forget all of this.
Due to how slow the game progresses, Vandal Hearts, like any Final Fantasy game ever made, is one of those games that is fantastic to play, but not so fantastic to watch. Whenever I’d be playing the game via our living room HD television and someone stopped to watch me play, they either walked away before the a minute passed, groaned and complained about how boring it looked or simply said the most ignorant thing someone could say about a game after watching you play for roughly 12 seconds, “This game is stupid.”
But don’t let those whiny people bring you down because Vandal Hearts is far from stupid. There are plenty of different things you can buy to equip your character for battle (like swords, maces, chest plates and boots, to name a few) and the game has an interesting skill and spell development system. Based on how often you use a specific weapon or spell, you advance a level in that spell or weapon’s skill tract. You can eventually reach level 40 for each skill and spell. I thought this was a pretty good method of leveling up skills and spells as they’re an essential aspect to combat the various enemies you face.
One last little tidbit I should mention: Graphics. Overall, the game’s graphics are above average. For a Playstation Network (PSN), the character designs are pretty smooth and the spells look very detailed. The only issues I had involving graphics were the cinematics. They’re drawn up in some sort of 2-D, cartoony style that makes all of the characters’ heads nearly as big as their bodies.
After my last save, my final opinion about Vandal Hearts was firm. It\'s a quality PSN title. It is a tactical RPG in almost the purest form. It will not disappoint casual tactical RPG-ers. If you have a few extra bucks and you want to buy an entertaining PSN game that will take you a good five or six hours to complete and give you some easily obtained trophies, Vandal Hearts is definitely the game to go to.
-Nick Lara (Check out my blog http://nextlevelnick.blogspot.com/ )