For a game you can download relatively cheap, this is looking good.
When I first walked by the Konami booth, I have to be honest and say that I pretty much ignored Vandal Hearts. This game simply wasn't on my radar, so when I got dragged over there for an appointment, I can't say that I was terribly excited. This is what is so great about E3, the games that prove you wrong or catch you by surprise. I don't know the history of the Vandal Hearts series, so I can't approach it from that angle. Instead, I'll tell you how it felt as a fan and a veteran of strategy/tactical RPGs.
When I started up the demo of the 360 version of Vandal Hearts, I wasn't really drawn in by the graphics or the art style. I thought it looked a bit subpar for a 360 game. The game itself also looked pretty typical as it featured your standard party of kids fighting monsters on a grid. Once I got a bit deeper into it, I started to get impressed by the wide range of combat options offered to you at any one time. You could freely switch between two weapon types per character with no penalty, a feature more games should implement. I also had more magic options than I knew what to do with. There were healing spells, hexes, buffs, and a few I didn't recognize. The battle itself featured really nice animations and moved at a pretty fast pace. One character I liked in particular was a large knight on my team who swung a giant mace around him in a circle. I had to learn the hard way to keep my allies away from him while he went to town on the enemies. I really liked watching him take down enemies and watching blood spray out from their fallen corpses. It may have a bright color palette, but like Diablo III, this game has a dark undertone and can get pleasantly violent.
The art stlye has grown on me, especially those ghosts.
Before long, I had taken down a bunch of low level soldiers and was up against a giant sandworm. I wasn't expecting this kind of a challenge during a demo, but he sure did give me a run for my money. He even took out that big knight I was so fond of. The giant sandworm was such a pain because he would periodically dive underground leaving a cloud of poison in his wake. He also had me scattering my party, so I wouldn't be devastated when he popped back up. By the time I was done, I felt like I deserved an achievement.
After taking the sandworm out, the developer mentioned to me that it was a downloadable game for PSN and XBLA. That's when I really went from "ok, this is better than I expected" to "really impressed." I asked if it would be full retail, and he said "no, it would be relatively cheap considering how many playable maps and alternate endings there would be in the game." That revelation changed my whole view on the game. In the context of this being a downloadable game, the art style and graphics turned from "ok" to "wow, they put a lot of effort into this downloadable title." If they can manage to put this on PSN and XBLA for 30 bucks or less, then I would definitely recommend it from what I experienced, especially since it will have a lot of replay value with multiple endings and Trophies/Achievements. Geez, this is one more game to buy. E3 is making me broke, at least this one should be easier on the wallet.