When talk turns to classic strategy RPGs, most players immediately think of Tactics Ogre, Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics. These games could hold one’s interest for hours upon hours. Battles would be so intense and challenging that players needed to constantly find ways – no matter how small – to eke out an advantage that could be the difference between sweet victory or shameful defeat. Tomorrow, MonkeyPaw Games will revive the now-rare Vanguard Bandits on PSN and with it, resurrect the glory days of classic strategy RPGs.
Originally published as Epica Stella by Human Entertainment in Japan, Vanguard Bandits was released by legendary publisher Working Designs in North America. The PSone game was loaded with content: 60 different missions, three branching storylines, crazy plot twists and dialogue on the Ruin Branch, five endings and path-crossing narratives. Vanguard Bandits kept gamers glued to their screens for marathon gameplay sessions.
The game is played from an isometric camera view similar to most games within the SRPG genre. But the 3D battle animations were fresh additions to an already robust adventure. Every attack or defense action brings up a dramatic close-up of the fight, each complete with energizing music and charismatic dialogue. Working Designs included fan-friendly options, such as being able to bypass these sequences and speeding up the overall battle for players that like speed runs.
Similar to another classic strategy RPG called Front Mission, players must take control of entire mecha squadrons which consist of ATACs, or All Terrain Armored Combatants, robotic armor that is controlled by gemstones. These ATACs battle in vast environments, each with differing levels of terrain which gave the player advantages or disadvantages on the battlefield. Working Designs added an assist feature that increases your attack power if you have friends nearby. If you manage to surround an enemy before attacking, your pimp-hand will be stronger than you can imagine, laying down some impressive damage, sometimes taking out that enemy with one round of combat. But the inverse is also true, so players have to think ahead or else they’ll end up surrounded by enemies thirsting for blood in a juiced-up robo-alliance.
Vanguard Bandits isn’t just one of the rarest PSone games ever (a sealed copy can set you back more than $200), it’s also a game that feeds to the strengths of the genre, namely a deadly combination of gameplay challenge, thought provoking strategy, and extremely high replay value.
Vanguard Bandits is a huge game and even three different playthroughs might not be enough for some hardcore gamers. MonkeyPaw Games also plans to release a free licensed PDF of the original 200+ page Working Designs strategy guide for download at www.monkeypawgames.com. Gamers who remember the golden days of strategy RPGs should pick up Vanguard Bandits in the Classics section on the PlayStation Network. For $9.99, you’ll be in strategy RPG heaven. Show your support, follow us on Twitter, and look for more hidden gems to gradually come from MonkeyPaw Games.