Vanguard Bandits - Review

Buying a Game for the Translation

By: Red Raven

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 1
   Interface 5
   Music/Sound 3
   Originality 5
   Plot 3
   Localization 9
   Replay Value 6
   Visuals 3
   Difficulty Varies
   Time to Complete

20 hours x 5


Title Screen

   I will be the first to admit it: I buy Working Designs' games for their translations. There is just something very satisfying in witnessing first-hand the love game designers have for their product. The quality of the game and the actual playing mechanics rank second and third at best; a leap of faith that extends for no other gaming company. After striking gold with both of the Lunar games, I did not give a second thought to the purchase of Vanguard Bandits. Perhaps I shall reconsider such actions in the future.

   To put it bluntly, Vanguard Bandits is a poor excuse of a strategy RPG. Strategy has little to do with the battles, as the game is entirely based around the concept that the player has the best mech in the world (ala T.G. Cid of FFT). The addition of poorly devised battle maps only help to completely strip meaning from the term "strategy" used in conjunction with this game.

   Battles happen as part of controlled story sequences (similar to Kartia), and are "conducted" by moving the player's mechs around the flat, green terrain and attacking other mechs. When attacking the player has the option to view the individual blows that each mech lands (with amusing commentary from the pilots no less), but leaving this option on only drags the mundane battles out much further than necessary. Attacks range from normal to the obligatory "flashy deathblows", with the obvious making the characters more fatigued. I forgot to mention: each character has 100 AP (action points) and each attack causes a separate fatigue meter to rise (indicated, cleverly enough, by FP). Each attack raises the character's FP, and at 100, the character is stunned for a rather excessive amount time. The only strategy present therefore, is to make the enemy fatigued enough to insure victory.

Ah, the glorious fields of...flat and boring terrain.
Ah, the glorious fields of...flat and boring terrain.  

   A bad battle system would be suicide for normal SRPGs, but Vanguard Bandits does indeed make up for some of the lost ground in the translation department. Needless to say, it is as humorous as any of WD's other endeavors. One particular aspect stands out: the characters talk like relatively "normal" people. A real accomplishment considering very few games seem to be able to successfully pull off such an attempt. However, the simple fact that there is no real gripping plot damages the translation's score. Here again we have another suicidal property in a strategy game. The score only remains normal for the simple fact that it never once pretended it was something it was not; this is a Working Designs game after all. The very linear, albeit amusing plot fits a game that does not even take itself seriously...

   Graphically speaking, Vanguard Bandits screams Super Nintendo. As mentioned above, the battlefields are flat and bland colors, and the sprites themselves do not speak of the same love given to the translation. The polygon battle scenes might have proven interesting if they were not so annoying in frequency.

Trash talking is always amusing
Trash talking is always amusing  

   Music is the same way. Generic melodies that lack excitement are the order of the day, and such little variety too. One rather disappointing fact is that the vocal tracks are of sub-par quality as well. They sound "tinny" and unprofessional, lack of coherent lyrics notwithstanding.

   Why would one want to play this seemingly frightening excuse of a SRPG again? To see what the dialogue branches look like for the other endings of course! As silly as that sounds, it proved to be ample motivation for the reviewer to play through at least three of the five endings. This fact really boils down to the judgment call for the game: it's good enough for a cheap purchase, all things considered. If one overlooks all the above-stated flaws and the insane difficulty of the later battles, then one could see the entertainment value present.

   I will not lie: I had fun reading what the characters said, rather than what the plot actually was supposed to be about. If you are a fan of WD already, then you can certainly pick it up and once again admire all of the time spent in the translation and packaging. If you were not a fan however, it would be in your best interests to stay as far away from this game as possible, all things considered.

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