Ok, before I get into talking about the game, I should share that I love the original Vandal Hearts on the PlayStation. I also can find enjoyment in just about any tactical RPG regardless of how simple and vanilla it is. That said, Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgment is neither simple nor vanilla, and I enjoyed it very much.
The most impressive thing about Flames of Judgment is the fact that it is being developed here in the United States. Konami USA's own Ryan Graff is credited with the original story and design for the title with the development being handled by an LA-based company known as Hijinx. Having a traditional Japanese-style tactical RPG created here in the US is definitely unique and it manages to stay true to the original style of the first Vandal Hearts in many ways.
Interesting Story Scene
The combat is a typical grid-based experience, but it's in character customization where the game really shines. Each character can use multiple types of weapons including swords, bows, or hammers and can swap between them during combat. While swords and bows are your typical fare, hammers allow you to attack the four squares all around a character, friend or foe. Characters don't have specific classes either; instead the game sports a system in which weapons, skills, and spells level as they are used. This doesn't mean all characters are just cookie cutter types, because some characters have skills that lean toward either magic or melee combat. It's an interesting system and works quite well within this context.
Overall, Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgment is a very solid tactical RPG experience. It's wonderful to see a game like this get distributed via Sony and Microsoft's downloadable services. When the game is released this winter, I'll be ready and waiting to download it, not only to play, but to see exactly what happened in the origins of the Vandal Hearts series.