Vandal Hearts is a series of tactical RPGs released by Konami. Three games have been released in the series so far, the most recent one being a prequel to the first.The first game follows the story of Ash Lambert, an imperial soldier. The second switches to a Natran bandit named Joshua caught in the middle of a civil war. Both stories involve the same Sword of Plot Advancement, the titular "Vandal Hearts", and its influence on the outcome of the wars, but they have little to do with each other.The original Vandal Hearts follows the story of Ash Lambert, a soldier in the Republic of Ishtaria, as the government is gradually being corrupted into an empire. It was a fairly standard tactical RPG, with its main differences from the rest of the genre coming in the form of a small amount of interactive scenery; one could kick boulders out of the way, push blocks, and so forth. Characters were restricted to a limited tree of classes based on their initial predetermined classes. Each side in battle would move all of their characters as part of their turn, then the other side would get a turn. Many missions included goals other than defeating all of the enemies, such as surviving X number of turns, reaching a certain point on the map, or destroying all enemies while preserving at least one villager.While Vandal Hearts was not a major hit, it still enjoyed a certain status as a cult classic. The cast of characters is often heralded as one of its strong points. They range from domestic policemen to ancient sages and drunken sailors. And that's just amongst the heroes. The plot and script were also solid and above average for a translation from Japanese at the time, though by today's standards it would be rather predictable. The gameplay was also lauded by reviewers for having a clearly defined system wherein each class type was alotted its own "position" within an army, and the level design meant that each time the game was replayed, it could still be challenging. The game was originally released for the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation in 1997, and a decade later, plans were made at one point for a Nintendo DS re-release, but those never materialized.Two years later, a sequel was released. Vandal Hearts II: Heaven's Gate was a huge shift in tone, both in terms of plot and gameplay. Featuring a completely different world and an entire new cast of characters, it takes place in the kingdom of Natra, which is in the middle of a Succession Crisis that threatens to explode into a full-on Civil War. Our hero, Joshua (in the manual anyway), is a young boy in a small village. One day, the village takes in a weary traveler named Nicola... who turns out to have grand plans for Natra...Vandal Hearts II expanded on the first game by doing away with the class system (a character's class is determined by their armor and weaponry), adding learnable skills through the weaponry, allowing mission maps to be repeated, and introducing the "Dual Turn System". In the Dual Turn System, the player and the computer simultaneously give commands to one character each, and these characters would take their actions at the same time. This would sometimes require the player to second-guess the computer, as the enemy the player wanted to attack may not be standing in the same place when the attack went off. One aspect of the original that was downplayed in the second game was the variation in mission objectives; while there are a few missions in Vandal Hearts II with a goal other than "Defeat All Enemies" or "Defeat the Boss", they are far fewer in number and proportion than in the original game. Unlike the first title, this was a Playstation exclusive.While the plot was larger and the background information available was greater, some felt the individual characters were less distinctive. Also, some fans and reviewers were put off by the new "second-guess" system, preferring the old system.After almost 11 years of silence, Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgment was released in January 2010 as a downloadable title on the PlayStation Network and Xbox LIVE Arcade. Being a Prequel to the first game, it returned to the world of Ishtaria and ditched the Dual Turn system, brought back the first game's varied mission objectives, and introduced a somewhat Elder Scrolls-like character advancement system, where characters' stats improved automatically based on their actions. The story follows a young priest named Tobias Martin as he battles a Well-Intentioned Extremist for the fate of his country.
This series provides examples of:
Aborted Arc: In Vandal Hearts I, the characters briefly discuss whether the archeological evidence they're about to find might give the land's deposed former rulers a legitimate claim to the throne. This is never mentioned again.
Alas, Poor Villain: Every game in the series has at least one villain turn semi-sympathetic just before their demise.
Vandal Hearts I's Hel Spites gives a speech about his honest intentions moments before being assassinated.
In Vandal Hearts II, Queen Agatha finally opens up and shows caring and compassion... just before her child poisons and stabs her to death for everything she's done up to that point. Meanwhile, her former ally, Cardinal Ladorak, gets in over his head when he accepts Godard's help in furthering his agenda, and is burned to death when Godard learns that he is beginning a Heel-Face Turn.
Flames of Judgment's Daldren Gray is a bit more sympathetic all around, but especially in his last words: "Have mercy on my little girl."
All There in the Manual: Many of the character and setting details in Flames of Judgment are only mentioned in the in-game journal.
Kira becomes this on defecting back to you in Vandal Hearts.
Queen Agatha is planning to become this near the end of Vandal Hearts II, but her daughter and son-in-law team up to assassinate her just as she starts to explain herself.
Liana Talbot in Flames of Judgment, who was an assistant Mad Scientist before becoming a childrens' teacher at a religious charity. If you read all the journal entries, it's even implied that she helped kill Tobias' mother.
Ax-Crazy: Most of the villains by the end of Vandal Hearts II; Shance Aya in Flames of Judgment.
Badass: Grog Drinkwater is a washed up alcoholic former sailor who can still use a sword as well as his professionally trained allies.
Badass Longcoat: Zohar Abu freaking Sa'id. An ancient, legendary sorcerer. His long black robes are really cool. Plus, while all the characters have a strange squatting animation while idle. Zohar just stands there, hand in pocket, with his white hair flapping in the breeze.
Big Damn Heroes: When Clint, Eleni, Amon, and Darius bust out of prison only to find themselves trapped in some tiny stretch of sand where archers can wreak merry hell on them, Ash and co. turn up to storm the impenetrable prison and save the day. (It's okay, the prisoners were political dissidents that supported the good guys' rebellion.)
Bonus Dungeon: The key/prism levels in the first game. To a lesser extent, the various hidden maps in Vandal Hearts II and Flames of Judgment.
Brainwashed and Crazy: Numerous characters in Vandal Hearts II are mindwiped into killing machines by Godard, including Adele's grandfather Lord Kossimo, Ladorak's three operatives Jacob, Jamir, and Manon, and Friar Mahler. Their character portraits include completely vacant eyes to represent their brainwashing.
Call Forward: Flames of Judgment includes references to Grog's fetch quest, Huxley's ending, and several characters' last names from Vandal Hearts I.
Chest Monster: A certain level in Vandal Hearts I is packed with mimics, mixed in with occasionally-legitimate chests, one containing a unique, very powerful helmet that won't be outdone for a few chapters.
Clothes Make the Superman: Vandal Hearts II had HP and MP determined by the characters' armor. Used to a smaller extent in Flames of Judgment.
One of the few genre staples missing from Vandal Hearts. The nearest we got to mention of religion is the 'Holy Ashah Dynasty' from the ancient past and that Huxley and Sara can become Bishops and Archbishops.
Played straight in Vandal Hearts II. The Church State of Nirvadia is supporting the eastern faction in the fight for control of Natra; Cardinal Ladorak has been promised the papacy if he succeeds in uniting Natra with Nirvadia. The church itself unwittingly worships a Dark Messiah as their patron saint.
Demonic Possession: In the final act of Vandal Hearts II, Godard takes over the body of King Franz, and reveals that he has been jumping from body to body for a century and a half.
Depraved Homosexual: Mohosa in Vandal Hearts II. He is captivated by Yuri's good looks, and is implied to have been regularly sexually molesting the catatonic King Franz for years when Joshua and co. arrive.
Clive Beckett in Vandal Hearts I is mortally wounded, gives a Deathbed Confession, and appears to expire (complete with sad, mournful rain), but a line of dialogue afterwards reads, "We may yet save him!" and a later line says, "Clive's going to be okay!" Given that he's never seen again after his "death," one wonders if the writers just felt sorry for him and slipped those lines in when no one was looking.
Connor Ganson in Flames of Judgment is mortally wounded, then revived by the All-Loving Hero.
Disposable Woman: In Flames of Judgment, Eleanor doesn't make it through her first scene.
Downer Ending: Probably the worst ending in Vandal Hearts II where all of Joshua's childhood friends die, and he eventually ends up becoming a bitter and jaded man who founds a totalitarian empire that rules for 300 years before finally collapsing.
Driven to Suicide: Adele in Vandal Hearts II, unless the player does everything it takes to prevent it from happening. Namely, reunite all four childhood friends: Adele, Yuri, Clive, and yourself. Getting Clive to survive simply means choosing the right dialogue option. Getting Yuri to survive requires finding the Vandal Hearts.
Vlad from Vandal Hearts IIspeaks like a caveman, but as he explains, that's just because he's not from around there.
Subverted in Flames of Judgment, where Altyria pretends that she only speaks her native tongue, but actually speaks both languages fluently.
Empty Shell: In Vandal Hearts II, King Franz has become this by the time the party finds him thanks to his mother's brainwashing spell. His eyes are closed in his character portrait and his dialogue is limited to "..." (except when he is ordered to speak by his "programmers") until Godard possesses his body near the end of the game. It is not until the epilogue that Franz, though only in spirit form, finally speaks and acts for himself.
Vandal Hearts I has you escort Leena, Eleni's past self, around a narrow stone path that can be raised or dropped into the sea at will so she can open an ancient shrine which is protected by the same ancient guardians who later serve the Big Bad. It... almost makes sense in context.
Flames of Judgment has you protecting Connor during his Roaring Rampage of Revenge, and later protecting King Everett (twice). Thankfully, the former is a capable fighter, and the latter's usually pretty smart about letting you protect him. Usually.
Face-Heel Turn: Yuri in Vandal Hearts II upon discovering that the religious tradition in which he was raised is based around worship of a mass murderer. This is later reversed if you have the Vandal Heart to explain the reason for St. Nirvath's actions.
For Science!: In Flames of Judgment, Liana's journal reveals how she gradually lost her grip on right and wrong as she chased success in the science lab.
Gambit Pileup: Just try to keep track of the plots behind the Natran Civil War.
Generational Saga: Flames of Judgment is implied to be the start of one, as both endings conclude by zooming in on Tobias' child, whichever child that ends up being.
Genre Blindness: Diego asks Eleni why she can't summon the golems she previously used to attack them.
Get on the Boat: The first game features this between a couple of chapters. The second involves it without the actual boat, when the hero flings himself through a window into the river. The third features this near the end, complete with a nod to the first game.
Zohar questions the protagonists' righteous quest, asking if it rather isn't self righteous instead, and if they are certain what they are doing will make the world a better place and not just mess it up even more.
Obtaining all the keys and prisms in Vandal Hearts.
Obtaining the multiple endings in Vandal Hearts II.
The fabled Gradius Sword from Vandal Hearts II. It has only been obtained through sheer chance or use of a gameshark.
The game won't readily tell you that, while passive effects like Recovermarks (on shields) stack, some active Skills also stack, like Brawler skills found on Urns everywhere. The only clue is that Jamir, one of the major bosses stack them and you won't know why until he uses said skill on you (hint: more Brawler skills means you punch more, and if you punch more...).
Hidden Backup Princess: In Vandal Hearts II, the country of Natra is torn apart by a war of succession between the families of Julius and Lagore, the sons of King Zekras. However, Adele is revealed to be Zekras' illegitimate daughter (Graud, whom she believed was her father, simply married her mother while she was pregnant) and enters contention for the throne in the second half of the game. In the best ending, with Lagore's son Franz dead and Julius' son Nicola in exile, she becomes sole ruler of Natra.
High-Pressure Blood: The original game was given an M rating virtually on the matter of this alone. The second game toned down the blood sprays (but included other kinds of brutal violence), while the third turned the blood back up somewhat, but skated by with a T rating.
Holy City: Nirvadia, which is a city-state much like the real Vatican.
In-Universe Game Clock: In Vandal Hearts II, the in-game date and time of day advance with every move the player makes across the world map. Also, some maps feature different enemies and even different treasure depending on the time of day.
Jerkass: Kane Spites, to great lengths, although he's not without his villainous qualities that he's loyal to his father and his friends. In the face of Ash, however, he certainly embraces being an asshole Card-Carrying Villain.
Joke Weapon: The second game will sell you a replica of the famed Vandal Hearts, called V-Harts (notice the lack of "e"). If it wasn't for the fact that it carries a somewhat useful Skill, calling it a Joke Weapon doesn't even begin to describe it.
Dragoons in Vandal Hearts hit hard, but have limited speed and movement.
Heavily-armored characters in Vandal Hearts II, especially those equipped with the Gravi-X Armor; it gives tremendous HP and Defense buff, but with greatly reduced movement speed.
Mirror Boss: In the aptly named Optional Map "Zero: Mirror Room" from Vandal Hearts II, you face off against carbon copies of your party, down to their equipment. It is highly advisable that you equip lesser versions of your spells because the AI is somehow more proficient at using it against you then you using it against them.
Multiple Endings: Vandal Hearts II has several widely different endings depending on choices made throughout the game. Flames of Judgment has two somewhat different endings, depending on which love interest you favor during key conversations.
Musical Nod: The battles on the hidden maps in Vandal Hearts II are all accompanied by one of three music tracks, each one a more densely-orchestrated version of a battle theme from Vandal Hearts I (namely "Fortress", "A Crisis", and "Decisive Battle").
Nerd Glasses: Calvin in Flames of Judgment. Darius, although they're more like nerd goggles, in Vandal Hearts I.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In one mission in Vandal Hearts I, you need to defeat a number of enemies with at least one villager surviving. However, the villagers are mind controlled and attacking you. This wouldn't be TOO bad (after all, they are merely villagers) except your characters insist on counter attacking ANYTHING that attacks them. Defeating the enemies on this stage isn't nearly as difficult as preventing your easily angered party from slaughtering the town.
No Doubt The Years Have Changed Me: In Vandal Hearts II, Joshua encounters Nikolai on the street years after their previous meeting. In that time, Nikolai's gone from a proactive, politically-charged warrior to a self-pitying drunkard. Also, Joshua's stepsister has become a prostitute.Yeah, it's that kind of game.
In Vandal Hearts II, Pike constantly questions the other characters' reckless, impractical decisions.
This role gets taken up by Connor in Flames of Judgment, though in a subversion, he himself has a habit of going Leeroy Jenkins when provoked.
People's Republic of Tyranny: The Vernantze Republic in Vandal Hearts II, which supports Nicola's claim to the throne of Natra, is in fact ruled by corrupt aristocrats, the only people eligible to stand for elected office.
Early in Vandal Hearts II, a villain hypnotizes kindly old Lord Kossimo into attacking the protagonist, prompting the player to kill him in self-defense. Even though (1) you can avoid his attacks indefinitely, (2) you have access to a spell that can freeze him in his tracks without hurting him, and (3) you should be able to just leave the room (you jump out a window in the very next cutscene), the game won't let you advance until you kill him.
Liana in Flames of Judgment is mortally wounded during a pre-battle scene, and lies wounded on the map during the fight. None of your healing abilities will help — in fact, even in the dialogue afterwards, Tobias tries a healing spell, but it doesn't work.
Puppet King: King Franz in Vandal Hearts II is an almost literal puppet; his mother saw his talents as king as a threat to her own agenda and brainwashed him into a mindless automaton who only speaks or acts on command. When Franz disappears during the fracture of Agatha's alliance with Cardinal Ladorak, both Agatha and Ladorak find new puppet kings in Gregor and Nicola, respectively.
Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Vandal Hearts II includes all three, twice each. Vandal Hearts I and Flames of Judgment both feature a scene where a town gets torched, though not quite to the brutal extent of II.
Recurring Boss: Almost every major boss in Vandal Hearts II is fought several times throughout the game - Godard, Commander Jacob, Lieutenant Jamir, Lieutenant Manon, Doom the Thunder, Godeau the Grief, Thorpe the Gorgeous, Warden Mohosa, Friar Mahler... one sign that the game is reaching its end is the final defeat of the recurring bosses, one after the other.
Reforged Blade: One of your main purposes during your quest is to obtain the legendary sword Vandal Heart. However, if you take on a number of subquests along the way - collecting all the Spheres, passing all the Trials, obtaining all the Keys - then towards the end, you can upgrade the main hero, Ash, into the 'Vandalier' class, which makes him virtually invincible and turns the rest of the game into a cakewalk. As part of this transformation, the Vandal Heart is turned into the even-stronger Vandal Heart Reforged.
Saintly Church: The Church of Restoration in Flames of Judgment is a legitimate religious charity, with no particular ambitions beyond that.
Sealed Evil in a Can: A magic ring in the first game, which tends to corrupt the holder and those around them.
Sequel Hook: At the conclusion of Vandal Hearts II's ideal ending, Vandal Hearts I's protagonist appears to lead the second game's protagonist on another adventure.
Shoot the Medic First: During one of your fights against Godeau, Thorpe, and Doom, you will notice a mage wielding a shield (very much an oddity for AI mages) minding his own business at the edge of a map. Turns out his shield has the ultra-rare ReAnimator spell which can bring any of the Boss characters back to life after being defeated (though their HP depends on their condition several turns before they are dead, so there's that).
Shut Up, Hannibal!: In Flames of Judgment, when the manifestations of the party's sins appear and deliver an elaborate round-robin monologue, Connor's response is, "Did you guys rehearse that before we showed up? 'Cause you really nailed it!"
Vandal Hearts II is decidedly cynical, as exemplified in a scene where Nikolai heroically stands up for the townspeople, drives off the crooked, lecherous tax collector - and makes their situation much worse by bringing the wrath of the tax collector's boss down on the town. How cynical is the second game? It opens with a scene of Rape, Pillage, and Burn, no survivors. The entire game can basically be summed up as No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The RPG.
Vandal Hearts I and Flames of Judgment are both somewhere in the middle; in both, the world is bleak, and there are no perfect, easy solutions, but the heroes do at least succeed in preventing things from getting worse.
Stable Time Loop: In Vandal Hearts I, Leena gets thrown into the past thanks to Xeno to prevent her to unseal Vandal Heart. But beforehand, she managed to get a pendant from a certain 'Eleni'. Instead, she got thrown into 18 years in the past, found by Magnus Dunbar and adopted as the aforementioned Eleni. Then she grew up, journeys to the point she got thrown back in time to give young Leena her encouraging words and pendant, and eventually unseals the Vandal Heart. Nice Job Setting Leena Up To Be Eleni, Xeno!
Sword of Plot Advancement: The Vandal Heart sword fills this role in the first game, as the characters need it to defeat the villains' Weapon of Mass Destruction. In the second game, finding the Vandal Heart sword is an optional subquest, not necessary for beating the game, but necessary for achieving the best ending. In Flames of Judgment, the sword is first forged during the game's climax.
Sword defeats bow, bow defeats air and air defeats sword.
Mages are weak but wise, armour is strong but slow and monks use word and claw.
Talking Is a Free Action: Comes up often in Vandal Hearts I and II, where characters frequently have long conversations in the middle of battle. Mostly averted in Flames of Judgment.
Teenage Wasteland: Most of the adult men in Flames of Judgment were killed in a war sixteen years before the game begins; thus, most of the characters are either very young, very old, female, or the scarred, middle-aged veterans of the war.
Terrible Trio: In Vandal Hearts II, Ladorak and Agatha each have a group of three enforcers. Ladorak's trio is led by Commander Jacob and includes the brawny Lieutenant Jamir and the agile Lieutenant Manonnote Jacob and Jamir are seen leading the destruction of the village in the game's prologue; Agatha's trio is led by Doom the Thunder and includes Godeau the Grief and Thorpe the Gorgeous.
Time Skip: Following the killing of Lord Kossimo in Vandal Hearts II, the game skips ahead eight years as Joshua goes into hiding and becomes a mercenary.
Vandal Hearts I includes one of these near the end, complete with the obligatory de-coupling train cars.
This happens twice in Vandal Hearts II.
After the Time Skip, the protagonists pull a Train Job, although most of the action takes place on the ground once the train has already stopped.
Later in the game, you get intercepted by Manon, second-in-command of East Natran Spec Ops. At that time, you are on a train. So does she, with a collapsible bridge that attaches to your train.
Transformation Of The Possessed: In the final battle of Vandal Hearts II, Godard, who has taken over the body of King Franz, transforms into an enormous demon that takes up almost the entire battlefield. After he is beaten, he reappears as a partially-decomposed, multi-limbed version of Franz.
Vendor Trash: Several items in the first and second games exist only to be sold. Not that it is a bad thing; what else would you have a piece of super expensive gold ingots, bullions and rare metals for? Though in the first game selling some means you can't get one of the Trial Keys to obtain the Vandalier class.
Weaksauce Weakness: A-Magic Armor in the second game have a reasonably high defense and HP, but takes double damage from any and all kinds of elemental magic.
We Cannot Go On Without You: Most of the battles in all three games end if the main hero is defeated. Occasionally, the games suspend that rule, and include battles where the hero can "die," but another character can't.
Queen Agatha in Vandal Hearts II kills her husband, King Lagore, and brainwashes her son, King Franz, so that she can be the real string-puller in the Natra government. However, her real goal is to use the power of the Natra military to break apart the Twin Empire of Zora-Archeo and free Archeo, her native land, from Zora's oppressive rule.
Daldren Gray in Flames of Judgment wants to wipe out a rival country in a quick, brutal campaign — because if he doesn't conquer their fields, his country will starve.
Highlights include leading governments, marrying sweethearts, becoming important political figures, following ambitions all the way to... having an Archbishop of near unrivalled magical power working in a bakery (so she can be near her Love Interest), and her only rival for such powers working on a stamp collection. Granted though, he's old.
The "stamp collection" ending is spoofed in Flames of Judgment. "So what're you gonna do when this is over?" "I don't know. Start a stamp collection?" "No, seriously."
The second was more pessimistic, as is the whole universe. Your mentor-like figure and politician ends up assassinated, and one of your party members disappears to Walk the Earth. Others do get a more fitting end as your Funny Foreigner of a friend eventually leads the rebellion that freed his land, and the resident lecher ironically marries his Slap-Slap-Kiss, controlling girlfriend.
Year Inside, Hour Outside: Vandal Hearts I - After spending one day in a parallel universe, Ash and his friends return to find three years have passed in their time. And Zohar said they're lucky, they could've ended up in a thousand years in the future.