Vandal Hearts (ヴァンダルハーツ) is a Japanese turn-based tactical role-playing video game by Konami, developed by Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo for the PlayStation and by Konami Computer Entertainment Nagoya for the Sega Saturn. The PlayStation version was distributed in Japan, North America, and Europe. The Saturn version was never released outside of Japan. There was also a Microsoft Windows version developed and released exclusively in South Korea.
It was among the first console role-playing games to be released for the 32-bit systems. It was one of the earliest tactical role-playing games to be released in North America, and garnered a small cult following. The game proved popular enough to spawn 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.
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 disparate 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 the their plans and restore order to the nation.
- Ash Lambert (Hero) - The game’s main protagonist, a man with a strong sense of justice. Ash's friend, Clive Beckett, supported him in the past and later made him a platoon leader of the Ishtarian Security Forces. Despite his position, Ash must struggle to maintain confidence under the stigma of being the son of a man who betrayed Arris. His Hero class is a special type of Knight that additionally learns healing and attack spells.
- Clint Picard (Knight/Armor) - Fellow member of the Security Forces. A somewhat reserved and quiet person, he is nonetheless a reliable friend. Events in his past have made him extremely cautious, especially when it comes to his comrades.
- Diego Renault (Archer/Hawknight) - A carefree member of the Security Forces who’s outspoken personality greatly contrasts Clint’s. He seems to have some sort of anxiety about the merchant town of Kerachi.
- Eleni Dunbar (Mage/Monk) - She was an orphan of the war. Eleni was found and adopted by General Magnus. When Magnus goes missing on the Island of Madness, Eleni, being a powerful mage despite her young age, decides to travel with Ash in order to find the current whereabouts of her father.
- Huxley Hobbes (Cleric/Monk) - Eleni’s teacher, care taker and a humble old healer. When she decides to find her father, Huxley insists on accompanying the party as well, much to Diego’s dismay.
- Kira Wulfstan (Archer/Hawknight) - A fierce fighter and mercenary for hire who saves the party from bandits while they battle on a collapsing bridge. She sometimes endangers herself unnecessarily in battle, seemingly without caring much for the consequences of her actions, something Clint berates her for.
- Grog Drinkwater (Knight/Armor) - A master sailor. After his brother disappeared during an incident with pirates, Grog lost all will to sail and decided to drown his problems and sorrows in wine. When Ash asks him to sail to the Island of Madness, Grog accepts, under the condition that Ash completes a task that seems nearly impossible.
- Dolan (Knight/Armor) - A sensible and responsible soldier under Magnus’ command who cares greatly for those under his command. When many of his men start slipping into madness, he frees what few remaining soldiers he has and flees to safety.
- Amon (Archer/Hawknight) - One of the soldiers under Dolan’s command. Although a clever man he is also something of a pessimist. His exact relationship with Sara is somewhat ambiguous.
- Sara (Cleric/Monk) - A spirited soldier saved by Dolan. She’s close with Amon but evasive about her true feelings towards him when prompted by others.
- Zohar Abu Sa'id (Mage/Monk) - A mysterious wizard of legend who disappeared from history hundreds of years ago and is later found in another dimension.
- Darius (Archer/Hawknight) - A prisoner whom Clint encounters. He seems to have history with Huxley.
Battles are carried out on a series of grid maps made up of squares, which may include different heights such as steps and walls and squares not accessible like water, trees and buildings. Although the environment is three dimensional the angles used make it appear similar to an isometric view. Every character participating in battle has a set number of squares that they can move, and one action (such as attacking, casting a magic spell, or using an item) they can perform per turn; a characters movement allowance for a turn can be used all at once or split, between two or more movements. Once every friendly character has performed their actions for a turn, hostile characters take their turn. On every stage the player controlling the friendly characters goes first, and they can move their characters in any order they wish.
Most but not all stages are completed by killing all the enemy characters. Other stages have different victory conditions, such as killing one particular enemy character, moving your 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 immediate loss. Losing other characters in the party does not cause defeat, instead it causes the loss of gold, which is a greater penalty than it seems as there are a finite number of battles in the game and thus also a finite supply of gold. If a friendly character dies they are only 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 loss.
The game features a variety of characters who 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: 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.
- IGN. Nintendo DS Line-up, Part Two. August 10, 2004.
- Syonyx. "Vandal Hearts FAQ/Walkthrough version 1.25" Walkthroughs on GameFAQs. March 6, 2004. Accessed on January 22, 2005.
- "Vandal Hearts." MobyGames. Accessed on January 22, 2005.