So Vandal Hearts makes its long awaited return to the gaming scene after it first being introduced to us by Konami many years ago on Playstation and Microsoft Windows. The Vandal Hearts series had a small but hardcore fan base after the Psone title was released, its turn-based tactical direction got some gamers hooked for life. Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgement is a prequel to the series and the next instalment for us gamers to enjoy, the question is has Konami and Hijinx Studios done enough to challenge and entertain gamers of this generation and past using the best parts of an old nostalgia filled title like Vandal Hearts but with enough evolution and direction to bring the gameplay up to today’s standards.
Vandal Hearts is a turn based so straight away it is only going to be for certain tastes as some gamers can find turned based games very slow and boring, often sometimes irritating. I do have a fondness for turn based games, I am a freak for planning and strategizing, nit-picking and general fussing over the smaller details, if this sounds familiar Vandal Hearts could be for you.
At the beginning of the game you’re introduced to a short cut scene to get you familiar with some of the games characters, after this you will be placed on one of the many small but attractive looking maps the game has to offer. The battle grounds are all miniaturised with tiny trees and chests, which is visually really effective for an arcade game and relates to the older maps in the past titles. The map space is used efficiently and is not too over crowded with objects, which is important as the grid is a big part of what you use in Vandal Hearts, the maps however still seem a tad too small and lacking detail in places.
The tutorial is worth paying attention to as it explains how your stats work, the more you use spells and attacks the more the bar rises for that particular core skill. This means characters can be trained in certain skill areas (like classes), that’s if you want to, you can just train all your skills to become a cutesy killing machine, I do like the fact that the choice is completely in your hands. Also in the tutorial you will get you first taste of turn based danger, attacking is easy: you get into range depending on the weapons you have, choose the attack command or spell and execute the command. The gameplay relies heavily on its command system and Vandal Hearts menu layout is easy enough to use, just press A on what you want to do, the title sadly does lack a variety of items and you will find the selection just short of enjoyable.
The game is based around stages but you will have some say in where you move to, when you can progress to another area like a camp, shop or even bonus stage the map will appear with the option/direction you can take. There’s not a lot of choice in direction all the time but it makes a refreshing change from gameplay and gives you a chance to change equipment at camps by pressing Y to check your status. As you make your way through the game you will pick up other various characters, though they look attractive and are visually well designed it doesn’t add much more enjoyment as most characters can be trained in the same way, in a sense they have little or no defining characteristics to make them stand out. The equipment menu is a little boring for my tastes and two item slots are only available for each person, which is irritating as to use items in battle like Herbs you must equip them first. Buying and selling items is easy but again a little lifeless with the lack of items, and when you’ve proceeded to the later stages of the game it just seems obligatory.
Though the game has a couple little drawbacks it offers the chance for some brilliant mini strategies, when you have acquired spells and some decent equipment the game does get a bit better. Some of the puzzle like scenarios you’re placed in make for some good turn based gaming and the odd Team Attacks helps to when characters are aligned a certain way.
It is a good turn based game with a couple of minor irritations and does have certain elements that relate to the older titles. Sadly I didn’t get much of that great nostalgia feel as it looks and plays just like most arcade games released on XBL and PSN, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the overall quality of arcade games is on the rise but I was expecting a little more originality from Konami and Hijinx Studios as this was such a rare game to get hold of back in the day.
Developer: Hijinx Studios, LLC.
Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc.