The original Vandal Hearts came out on the PlayStation more than 10 years ago and its sequel followed just a few years later. It's been a while since we've heard anything about the world of Vandal Hearts, but now Konami is revisiting the series with a prequel, set to be released on Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network. At the Konami event last week, we were able to get a quick look at the game, but unfortunately we weren't able to see much more beyond a battle demo.
The events of Vandal Hearts will take place before the original game, and newcomers will find that this is an excellent starting point if you're new to the series. For those who are familiar with the previous two games, there will be story elements that will provide more insight into the original storyline, given that this was made with the fans in mind. The fighting mechanics should feel familiar to anyone who's played a strategy RPG before; between the story-driven sequences, violent battles are fought and won. Movement is grid-based, so characters are limited to the highlighted squares for each turn. Each character can carry two weapons, so you can shoot a long-ranged bow or make a melee attack with an axe, depending on the situation. Your party (up to six in the game) takes individual turns as they move around the field like chess pieces, trying to find ways to swarm and conquer.
Characters will have affinities to certain job types, but it's up to you to determine which path you want them to specialize in. Some of the features have been streamlined so that you don't have to deal with a ton of menus regarding leveling and statistics. We were told that your characters will develop based on how you use them. For example, if you make a specific character move around the battlefield a lot, eventually his or her movement will increase. If you use a bow and arrow frequently, the character's long-range attacks become stronger. All of this is happening behind the scenes as you play, so you don't have to deal with the micromanaging.
From watching the short battle, it flows like a standard tactical RPG would, but every game varies. Your characters can counter attacks if they've been hit with the same weapon type that they are wielding. If you're standing next to an ally that's low on health, you can use a turn to swap places to try to save him or her from an impending death. Keeping up with the spirit of Vandal Hearts, blood flows liberally--like a fountain--whenever possible.
The art style has a different look and feel than what you're normally used to when it comes to Japanese RPGs. The portraits are like ink cartoons and the environment gives off a more sinister vibe. This is fitting due to the gory nature of the series, but considering that we didn't get to see much, we're waiting to get a more detailed look at the game. No release date has been set yet, but it's supposed to come out later this year on XBLA and the PSN.