[[quoteright:350:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/vanguardbandits3_8772.gif]]

''Vanguard Bandits'' (known as ''Epica Stella'' in Japan) is a strategic role-playing game for the PlayStation in a medieval fantasy world in which knights and soldiers pilot [[HumongousMecha mecha called]] [[FunWithAcronyms ATACs]].

This game takes place on the wartorn Continent of Eptina. In the midst of the conflict archaeologists in the Pharastia Kingdom discovered giant armored mecha that they called [[RobotNames All Terrain Armored Combatants]], that could be controlled by the thoughts of the pilot seated inside the unit's head. The Kingdom used the power of these [=ATACs=] to assume control of the entire continent, and then decided to use them to keep the peace in their new territories. Unfortunately as the [=ATAC=] technology began to spread, the kingdom lost hold of their place and went from managing the continent to trying to survive. The rebels turned into a superpower of their own and now the [[TheEmpire Junaris Empire]] is poised to take over the continent themselves. During the chaos a young warrior named [[TheHero Bastion]] begins to fight against the Empire and his journey will shape the face of Eptina.

Vanguard Bandits has a lot in common with old anime shows; the localization by [[WorkingDesigns Working Designs]] has a lot of [[NarmCharm Narm Charm]] with a lot of silly lighthearted moments but still holds the potential for some darker events. It possesses a large cast of characters that cover a range of motivations and attitudes, though most fall pretty easily into identifiable roles. With [[MultipleEndings three separate story paths]] it holds a surprising amount of replay value.


!!Vanguard Bandits provides examples of:


* AbsurdlyHighStakesGame: Lord Alden bets his prized Altagrave ATAC on the outcome of a chess match. A game where he's undefeated. [[spoiler: He loses the rematch game and the girl who beats him happilly runs off with the machine.]]
* AceCustom: The TIC-TAC.
* AMechByAnyOtherName: All Terrain Armored Combatants, or [=ATAC=].
* ActionGirl: Pretty much any female character.
* AnIcePerson: Anyone who uses a Water Stone gets access to Ice attacks. But special mention goes to Lord Alden, the Ice Wolf. His [=ATAC=] has a unique attack called Blizzard Break which is one of the strongest attacks in the game.
* AuthorityEqualsAsskicking: The leaders of each nation get their own Excavated [=ATACs=].
* AwesomeButImpractical: The Altagrave's Blizzard Break attack costs a paltry 10 FP and has a 2.05 damage modifier and 25% accuracy modifier. But it's crippled by an extremely high AP cost of 80, meaning if the Altagrave moves it probably can't use the attack.
* AwesomeYetPractical: The Tidal Wave attack of the TIC-TAC ATAC is easy to consider as the best obtainable attack in the game. Costing only 30 AP and FP, has a 2.66 damage modifier, a 30% accuracy modifier and a range of 2. You can and should abuse this attack as much as possible.
* BadassAdorable: Nana, while not your strongest character she is the youngest ATAC pilot you can get and has quite The Bahamut to back her up.
* BadassPrincess: Sardia, who packs one of the best [=ATACs=] and can acquire her own unique and extremely powerful attack in the same mission you officially start using her.
* BecomingTheMask: Cecilia learns to love being a Ninja Maid. [[spoiler: And maybe even learns to love...]]
* BigBad: Faulkner, it's rare when something bad happens that isn't at least on his order if not done by him directly.
* {{Bifauxnen}}: Ione
* BigDamnHeroes: Happens A LOT. The Second Mission alone has the protagonist team coming to the aid of survivors of a nearly destroyed convoy and then has another group of [=NPCs=] show up to help as well.
* BigEater: Barlow; in the Japanese version, he mentions cake in ''every single line of dialogue he has''.
* BittersweetEnding: In the good ending, you kill Falkner and bring peace between the Empire and the Kingdom... but you had to kill many of the people you cared for due to Falkner's Zulwarn turning them against you.
* BoringButPractical: Turbulence. Enemies are hardwired to Defend against it and two casts of it on an enemy who Defends will make them skip their next turn.
* BossBattle: Many, and of a quite many forms too.
** BossBanter: Faulkner delights in taunting the party anytime he's on-screen.
** BossInMookClothing: Sharkings.
** DuelBoss: One of the final missions has Bastion try this against Faulkner. [[spoiler: Then subverted as Bastion gets help to deal with him.]]
** FlunkyBoss: Pretty much every Boss in the game has an assortment of minions fighting alongside it.
** NoFinalBossForYou: If you're on the Kingdom Bad End well...
* BrainwashedAndCrazy: This is the special power of Faulkner's [[EvilWeapon Zulwarn]] [=ATAC=]. He uses it in three of the endings: in the main "good" ending, he uses it on several of the minor heroes, forcing the heroes to [[BittersweetEnding sacrifice their friends for freedom]]; in the main "bad" ending, [[spoiler:he hits Bastion with it, forcing him to attack his allies]]; and in the [[spoiler:Cecilia]] ending, he attempts to use it on [[spoiler:Cecelia as punishment for her HeelFaceTurn]]. This does not sit well with Bastion and causes his [=ATAC=], Ultragunner, to blast Faulkner with a counterattack.
* BrokenBird: Cecilia
* CanNotSpitItOut: Sadira's crush on Bastion is obvious to everyone, potentially even Bastion but that doesn't stop her from constantly trying to hide it.
* TheChessmaster: Lord Alden [[spoiler: and Milea]] as literal examples of a chess-playing master and Faulkner as the scheming manipulator example.
* ChildProdigy: Puck
* ChuckCunninghamSyndrome: Happens to [[spoiler: Milea]] on the Empire Branch. Every other character from before the split gets accounted for, even the few that only existed in one mission on the Kingdom Branch. [[spoiler: Devlin]] gets this treatment too on the Ruin Branch, not appearing even after giving a speech about how [[spoiler:--he]] wanted to keep fighting, while nearly every other character gets seen or mentioned again.
* DubNameChange: Ultragunner was originally named Ursragna in the Japanese version, which is a Japanese transliteration originally referring to the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verethragna ancient Avestan deity/concept of victory]].
** Also Bastion was Randy in the Japanese version, no idea why they changed it though.
* TheEmpire: Junaris Empire, though there are couple of good people you will be fighting primarily Imperial tropes in nearly any fight. That and Faulkner... Just Faulkner.
* EverythingsBetterWithPlatypi: Nana's pet Kyu-Kyu.
* EvilWeapon: Zulwarn, Faulkner's ATAC. [[spoiler:On the Ruin path, Puck pilots it in the final battle... and in the Ruin ending, it turns him evil.]]
* FatBastard: Radcot, Leader of the Muspel Nation. Even the soft spot for his daughter does little to offset this.
* GadgeteerGenius: Puck and [[spoiler:his grandfather]] Madoc.
* GettingCrapPastTheRadar: The dialog can get pretty racy when you least expect it. Andrew is the biggest offender of this, But Ione proves for have a dirty mind herself.
* GreatOffscreenWar: The first war is nothing but a blurb in the manual. The second war has been going on for fifteen years before the game starts and various things reference it. The only shot of it the players get is a flashback. Everything else is word-of-mouth.
* GuideDangIt: Several. The game doesn't tell you that Morale determines your ending on the Kingdom Path, and getting on the Empire Path is not really intuitive (Bastion needs to be Level Eight or better after the fourth battle, which requires focused grinding). Recruiting Nana's not obvious, either (you need to ''lose'' one battle to trigger it).
** At least the manual helped with finding the Empire Branch.
* HarmfulToMinors: Poor Nana sees her father's murder in one path.
* HeelFaceTurn:[[spoiler:Cecilia in her ending of the Empire Path]]
* HotbloodedSideburns: Andrew has some impressive normal sideburns of his own, but the big man with the Go Nagai Sideburns is Duke Logan.
* InfinityMinusOneSword: The Alba ATAC, Bastion starts with it, and though the Ultragunner and most Excavated [=ATACs=] are superior, it's still a solid suit for other characters.
* InSeriesNickname: Lord Alden the Ice Wolf.
* JusticeWillPrevail: Kingdom Soldiers are often like this, proclaiming that the Kingdom will win even as they're defeated.
* JustLikeUs: Bastion can learn first-hand that the people of the Junaris Empire aren't as evil as he's been led to believe.
** [[spoiler: [[BigBad Faulkner]] learned this lesson while working for the Empire to destroy the Kingdom. Faulkner being Faulkner, he came to the conclusion that the Kingdom and the Empire are just as ''bad'' as one another. Hence his goal to eventually destroy both and rule over what is left.]]
* TheKingdom: Subverted. At the beginning the Pharastia Kingdom seem to be going this way but a few missions in you see that the Kingdom isn't as good as people claim.
* LethalChef: Reyna, and blissfully unaware of it too.
-->'''Reyna''': Bastion, why haven't you tried any of my cooking yet? Just because Ione got sick doesn't mean YOU will!
* LostTechnology: Excavated [=ATACs=].
* LovableSexManiac: Andrew. His sleaze is offset by his [[LargeHam larger than life]] personality and the constant rejections he receives.
* LoveTriangle: The choice between Sadira and Cecilia is one of the main focuses of the Empire Story Path.
* {{Magitek}}: The [=ATACs=] are piloted by the thoughts of the pilot and powered by magical crystals.
* TheMole: [[spoiler:Ganlon]] on every path, [[spoiler:Cecelia]] on the Empire Path.
* NeverMessWithGranny: Halak
* NewGamePlus: Nothing carries over, but you can only reach the Ruin path on a second playthrough.
* {{Ninja}}: Andrew and Cecilia, no matter which path you choose you'll have a ninja to back you up.
* NinjaMaid: Cecilia takes it one more step by also being a Mecha pilot.
* TheObiWan: Kamorge
* OffModel: The quality of animation in the Opening animation changes between frames.
* TheOnlyOneAllowedToDefeatYou: On the good ending of the Kingdom Path, if anyone but Bastion lands a killing blow on Faulkner, he gets half his health back and taunts you.
* PowerCrystal: How the [=ATACs=] are powered and partly why the Excavated [=ATACs=] are so powerful.
* ThePowerOfBlood: Type AB, and a lot of it, fuels the Zulwarn.
** In the Ruin Path [[spoiler:Puck figures out a way to reduce the blood needed to fuel it. He only uses a few ''drops'' of his own blood to reactivate Zulwarn, though it still corrupts him.]]
* QuickDraw: The Counter ability allows a character to preempt an enemies attack against them from the front at the expense of taking extra damage if they fail.
* RebelliousPrincess: Sadira has made it her personal mission to weed out the darker elements of the empire and she has the mecha to back her up.
* RecycledInSpace: ''[[VideoGame/{{Langrisser}} Der Langrisser]]'' WITH GIANT ROBOTS!
* RelationshipValues: The game keeps track of the morale of your characters and this often influences which ending you'll get. Though the Empire path really only weighs the values of the two love interests, the Kingdom path weighs the total morale of your group as a whole.
* RidiculouslyCuteCritter: The mysterious Kyu-Kyu. Technically, it's a platypus.
* TheRival: Devlin. Even though he's on Bastion's team he will constantly question his every action and challenge him to contests. Expect him to always have crappy [[RelationshipValues Morale]] it's nearly impossible to get him to like you.
* RobotNames: Done with both the [=ATACs=] and the TIC-TAC.
* RoyalBrat: Duyere on any Branch, Sadira on the Ruin Branch.
* SchizoTech: Middle Ages. [[HumongousMecha Giant robots.]]
* ShipperOnDeck: In the Empire path, everyone except Cecilia ships Bastion/Sadira.
* SingleStrokeBattle: The Wind Strike attack does this.
* SpoilerOpening: With three Openings it was bound to happen. The first is relatively free, other than perhaps the obvious conclusions that the main character and main villain get their own unique [=ATACs=]. The second opening however, which doubles as a gameplay demo, shows multiple scenes late in the game and spoils a fair bit. The third Opening, which can only be accessed after already beating the game, is a Gag Opening that can spoil you on the Ruin Branch of the game.
* StrangeSyntaxSpeaker: Halak seems to have a case of Yoda speak.
** "Filled my depends with joy I have!"
* SuperPrototype: The excavated [=ATACs=] are examples. All normal [=ATACs=] are reverse-engineered off the originals, which can't be replicated due to their unique weaponry and power stone. [[spoiler:Subverted in the Ruin Path. The Empire gets a hold of Ultragunner and its power stone, but can't make it work at all. Meanwhile, the brand new unique [=ATAC=] Puck builds for Bastion, the TIC-TAC, is as powerful as any of the "legendary" excavated [=ATACs=] and boasts the single strongest attack the player can use in the game.]]
* SweatDrop: One of Franco's portraits has this.
* SweetTooth: Barlow is always seen snacking on some candy.
* ThePowerOfFriendship: Bastion needs to be good friends with his allies on the Kingdom Branch. If he is, he can stop the enemies trump card, if he isn't, [[BadEnding well...]]
* ThePowerOfLove: [[spoiler: Causes Cecilia to betray Faulkner during her ending of the Empire Branch. As Faulkner tries to use Zulwarn to mind control her against Bastion, [[CrowningMomentOfAwesome the Ultragunner counters and blasts away half of the Zulwarn's 662 HP]].]] Don't mess with love when one of the participants has something called the Ultragunner.
* TookALevelInJerkass: Because of the branching paths, certain characters can react vastly different then how they were before. [[spoiler: Sadira on the Ruin Branch is the biggest example, playing up the [[RoyalBrat Spoiled Princess]] thing to ridiculous heights. At least it is on purpose, as the rest of the party hates her for it and how her {{Jerkass}} ways keep landing them in trouble.]]
* UnluckyChildhoodFriend: Happens to Milea on the Empire Branch. [[spoiler: She straight-out vanishes for the entire thing, leaving Bastion to choose between Sadira and Cecilia.]]
* ValleyGirl: Claire, yet she still manages to be an ActionGirl.
* VestigialEmpire: TheKingdom.
* VillainOverride: The specialty of Faulkner while piloting the Zulwarn ATAC.
* WeakenedByTheLight: [[spoiler: The Ulragunner blasts the Zulwarn for half of its health in one of the final battles. In another it nullifies its powerful mind control and ability to interfere with ATAC operations.]]
* WhatTheHellHero: In the Empire path, if you pick Cecilia over Sadira, the rest of your companions will call you out for hurting the Princess' feelings.
* XanatosSpeedChess: After every battle Faulkner changes his plan to compensate for whatever advantage the heroes have earned. Enemies recover legendary ATAC? Force them to delay offensive use by dealing with internal matters. Enemies ally with another country? Convince your battle-hungry ally to fight them, then wipe them all out once they've weaken each other enough. And recover all their Excavated [=ATACs=] in the process.
* YouHaveFailedMe: On one path, Faulkner makes it clear to Radcot that he won't tolerate screwups. By means of a knife to the gut.
* YouHaveOutlivedYourUsefulness: Depending on a decision early on in the Kingdom Branch, [[spoiler: [[TheMole Ganlon]] could end up dead at the hands of Duke Radcot.]]\
** Also, [[spoiler: Duke Radcot to Faulkner in yet another branch of the Kingdom path.]]
* YouLoseAtZeroTrust: Say hello to the [[BadEnding Bad Ending]] if the morale of your characters is too low on the Kingdom Branch.
* ZergRush: Many times over the game you'll be completely outnumbered by weaker enemy units. And sometimes you'll be outnumbered by stronger enemy units too!
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