Vanguard Bandits is a strategy RPG that can probably be summed up as a hybrid between Vandal Hearts and Fire Emblem. But as a game reviewer and fan of strategy RPGs, I am torn with Vanguard Bandits.
Why am I torn? Well, first and foremost, I am very happy to see MonkeyPaw, one of the few companies to even attempt to bring back lost and forgotten games, add this title to the PSN's PSOne downloadable library. If nothing else, this work should be acknowledged and respected especially if fans want to see future releases of other distinctive titles.
However, Vanguard Bandits does not stand the test of time very well, especially when games like Final Fantasy Tactics, which also sells for a $10 download on PSN, and the upgraded Tactics Ogre is also available on Sony's handheld. Further, Vanguard Bandits originally released in 2000, two years after the original release of FFT and Tactics Ogre and three years after Vandal Hearts. With this said, Vanguard Bandits was outdated as soon as it was released over a decade ago.
Gameplay and combat is slow paced and somewhat generic. Sure, attacking from behind or using a certain type of attack will result in a greater hit percentage, but FFT and TO have much deeper combat systems. It also can take many successful attacks to finish off an enemy which slows combat even more.
Perhaps VG's more highlighting feature is the ability to converse with three squad mates after each battle to increase moral. It is a small detail that does not have a vast impact on the overall game but it is charming nonetheless. Ganging up around the enemy also results in an attack bonus which adds a new sense of strategy to the gameplay. The plotline is also basic and expected – an eager son is trying to make his father proud by looking forward to combat against an evil empire. Working Designs, a publishing company that is sorely missed by the gaming community, went through the initial trouble of localizing this title and bringing it to US shores. For the most part, this translation holds up albeit a predictable story arc. The biggest twist comes in the form of a branching path story line, giving the game some added replay value for dedicated player.
The isometric perspective is friendly to the player as the screen can be rotated and tweaked at will. However, the graphics are nowhere as memorable as blood gushing 2D sprites in Vandal Hearts. But VG's highlighting graphical feature takes place when two characters actually clash in a short cutscene, just like when opponents meet in Fire Emblem or Advance Wars. These fighting characters are huge and pretty much take up the entire screen; I am talking China Warrior huge. It this quite something to see, and even more so if witnessed in the year of this game's initial release. It is just a shame that after the first mission, you will want to turn off these scripted animations from the options menu just to speed up the gameplay.
Capping this game off is the surprisingly pleasant soundtrack. Each tune loops more often than is desired, but perhaps this is more prominent since each stage, which can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes to complete, continuously loops a single track.
Vanguard Bandits is not a bad game. In fact, it can even act as a great history lesson for fans of the genre as they most likely missed this rare title when it was first released many years ago. Although entertaining, VG is not the best the genre has to offer, but that does not mean this title should necessarily be passed up.
Not As Good As: Vandal Hearts
Also Try: Fire Emblem, Advance Wars, Tactics Ogre, Disgaea, Rhapsody, Arc The Lad, Front Mission, Rebelstar, Metal Gear Acid, Tactics Ogre, Fallout Tactics, Ghost Recon 3DS.
Wait For It: MonkeyPaw's next release
Follow Me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/zackgaz