Has it really been a week since the last installment of the Pop Culture League? Time flies when you’re commuting to a different state everyday. I have a backlog of blog ideas piling up, which I will assuredly get to this weekend. But first, a new challenge from Brian over at Cool & Collected: “If ______ was an Olympic sport, I’d have a gold medal around my neck.”
What is something I’m really, really good at doing? Overspending on colorful Godzilla figures, eating in the car, hanging adhesive vinyl labels on museum walls, identifying early-nineteenth century portrait miniatures…
Oh, I know! I rock at Vandal Hearts.
Full disclosure: I’m absolutely terrible at 99% of the video games I play. Maybe it’s because I spent too much time as a child with my head in a comic book to develop the same love for video games as others. Or maybe I’m just not meant to be good at them. Either way, I’m the guy who plays a game on easy mode until it becomes just too boring to bear, and then promptly stops playing the game. There have been maybe three exceptions to that rule: Pokemon, which I think everyone is good at, Dynasty Warriors, which is mostly just button mashing, and Vandal Hearts.
I’m not sure how many people have actually heard of Vandal Hearts. In 1997, Japanese entertainment company Konami released a turn-based, tactical role-playing game featuring a ragtag band of fighters locked in heated, turn-by-turn battle against a hidden evil in a semi-dystopian kingdom. In North America,Vandal Hearts was released for the Playstation almost a full year before the more-popular Final Fantasy Tactics hit shelves in January 1998.
Gameplay was rather straightforward: the player and the computer took alternating turns, during which each character could move up to a set number of square spaces before performing an action like attacking an enemy, opening a chest, or casting a spell. Each character class had certain strengths and weaknesses, and each character could advance within their class when they achieved certain levels of experience. Some were predictable: mages could became sorcerers and enchanters, soldiers could become swordsmen and duelists, etc. Others were a bit…odd. Why have your healer become a bishop when she can become a ninja? And why not forego the bowman class for your archer when he can become a sky lord with mechanical wings and a spear?
Even though the gameplay was straightforward, strategy and planning were pivotal to success. Certain levels called for simple carnage (i.e. kill everyone!), others had specific outcomes that needed to be achieved in a set number of turns. Whenever a character or enemy died, a large stream of blood burst from their chest as they uttered a final curse at the enemy (literally, some of them cursed) before disappearing from the map. In many ways, the game earned the “Mature” rating it received, and I was probably a few years too young to have been playing it. Nonetheless, I must have beaten Vandal Hearts a handful of times before turning ten, and another twenty times in the years since. I still have my copy of Vandal Hearts tucked safely away, although I am on my third Playstation system. Once or twice a year, I still carve out a 24-hour period for playing Vandal Hearts, start to finish, with each optimal move and each possible outcome memorized. And somehow, it’s still fun.
Here’s what some other league members are really, really good at:
Diary of a Dorkette would probably enjoy the simple-yet-unforgettable soundtrack of Vandal Hearts.
Fortunately for readers, Toy Break was able to finish his blog post.
Fret not, The Harvey Mercheum, that’s one challenge finished!
Rediscover the 80s has even better video game skills than I.
The Toy Box deserves a big pat on the back for their toy cataloging efforts.
I’d definitely want Marc Allie on my team for trivia night.