September 05, 2010

Vanguard Bandits

I decided that it might be fun to jump into my time machine and dust off a few of my classic PSX titles. Having spent so much time playing the newer graphics rich next gen games, I found myself constantly in the mood for something with more substance. That's when the idea hit me, "When did I have the most fun playing games?", on my old consoles.

Vanguard Bandits was created by Working Designs, the same company that developed the Lunar series on Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn. The game itself is based around Bastion, who is a run of the mill kid that ends up finding out he's the prince of a kingdom. As the player, you get to decide the outcome of the story. There are a number of options available through the dialog that allow you to change relationships with characters, acquire new ATACs, and also determine which of the three kingdom story lines you complete.

Instead of fighting hand to hand, characters use giant mechs called ATACs. As you can probably tell from the box art that game looks very reminiscent of Escaflowne. At the time when it came out in North America, Escaflowne was a huge show, and me being ignorant to much of anything about anime, thought this was the Japanese PSX version of an Escaflowne game. Turns out the game shares some similarities to Escaflowne with respect to story and the design of the ATAcs. 

Vanguard Bandits is a turn-based tactics game. Characters can utilize various attacks by measuring a combination of an AP and FP gauge. Each attack has an AP and FP value and each ATAC has a limit to how much AP and FP it can use in a full turn. I should also clarify that a full turn constitutes the attack phase as well as the counter phase. The counter phase is essentially the characters reaction to an enemy attack. Moves are acquired by equipping certain types of stones with elemental properties and using acquisition points to boost stats. When stat reaches a certain level, the character can learn new moves. 

The game itself is fairly linear by today's standards. There is little ability to customize ATACs. Basically you can change their weapons, add an elemental stone, and change their additional item (such as attack boost, or agility increase). Players also have the ability to swap ATACs between certain characters. The story line lets you choose options for dialog as you progress through the game, which lead the player to one of three different endings (one for each kingdom). There is also the ability to use a secret ATAC by following one of the story lines.

Graphically, this game was decent for its time. The battle map is very similar in design as Final Fantasy Tactics. You move sprite based characters around on a grid style map. The battle sequences are all polygon 3D. This element adds some aesthetic appeal to the overall graphics element.

Vanguard Bandits Gameplay
As a whole this game is pretty good. Although it is short, only 20 missions per story line, the fact that it has to be replayed in order to achieve the various outcomes makes up for this. The graphics are well rounded, and even playing it on my PS3 with HDMI on plasma it still looks decent. Its a shame that games have moved away from placing focus on gameplay and geared more towards aesthetic appeal. I can't tell you how many newer games I have bought and been disappointed with even though they look amazing.

One small side fact, this game was actually released in Japan under the title Epica Stella. Upon North American release it was changed  to Detonator Gauntlet and then changed again to Vanguard Bandits.
Vanguard Bandits Intro Movie

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