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Vanguard Bandits

by Smasher Dynamo

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Original Thread: Chicks Dig Sideburns! Let's Play Vanguard Bandits!

If you liked this LP, you might also like King of Dragon Pass by Mystic Mongol, Princess Maker 2 by SynthOrange and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas by Jerusalem

Introduction



Vanguard Bandits was a strategy RPG for the PlayStation. In Japan, it was released in 1998 and known as Epica Stella. Working Designs released it in America two years later as Vanguard Bandits.

FAQ

What is a Vanguard Bandit?
Well, 'Vanguard' means the leading formation in army, or, more generally, something at the forefront of a larger movement. 'Bandits' means 'bandits.' Put them together and....you know, what, I'm not even sure who the titular Vanguard Bandits are supposed to be, and it's not clear that Working Designs did either.

What's the gameplay like?
It's kind of like Front Mission crossed with Fire Emblem crossed with a hefty pile of disappointment.

What was Working Designs?
Working Designs was an American studio that localized Japanese games that no one else wanted to bring over in the '90s and the early part of the '00s. Remember, this was back in the day when Square thought they couldn't sell Final Fantasy V to Americans. Anyway, Working Designs most famous projects were their releases of the Lunar series to the Sega CD, and later, to the PlayStation. They're also famous for injecting their translations with humor that would be appreciated, at least in theory, by American audiences.

As for why Working Designs folded in 2005, well, it's really more a question of how they lasted so long. They started out working on games for the Sega CD and then the Sega Saturn. That in and of itself should have killed them. They also basically only were able to localize games that no one else wanted, i.e. games that were usually not very good. Finally, they kept including feelies in their products long after the rest of the industry had stopped due to the cost. Not exactly the most sustainable business model in the world...

Why are there mechs in what otherwise appears to be the medieval era?
They aren't mechs, they're ATACs...which are essentially the same thing. Anyway, the story of the game is that once upon a time, there was a rocking past civilization advanced enough to create mechs for warfare, but then they all died off. Centuries later, some less advanced people arrived on the continent and found 10 ATACs in ruins. They somehow reverse-engineered these machines to make new ATACs, albeit not as strong as the excavated ATACs. Quite how they managed to do this is never addressed.

Okay, then, what about the game's backstory?
Most of the important things will come out in the course of the game, but here's a brief summary. Once the entire continent was ruled by the Pharastia Kingdom and its vassals. Then, one day, the leader of one of these vassal-states, the Junaris Empire, decided they'd rather be the ones ruling the continent and conquered most of the Kingdom's territory. That was about 16 years ago, and the Empire is still trying to crush the last remnants of the Pharastia Kingdom.

Branches? What are you talking about? What's going on? Where am I?! Answer me, damn you!
There are three different branches in the game, leading to five different endings. The Kingdom Branch is the default path of the game. You get party members by the bushelful, and most of them are actually useful. It's also the easiest path in the game. The Empire Branch requires that Bastion be level eight by the end of chapter 3, which can be a pain in the ass. You get many fewer units, and most of them aren't very good. The Ruin Branch requires that you have beaten the game at least once and then make a particular choice after a certain mission. It's probably the hardest branch, and certainly the oddest. I'll get around to all three branches and all five endings in time.


Table of Contents

Challenges


Challenge #1

Explain to me what the hell 'Vanguard Bandits' are and who in this game is such a 'Vanguard Bandit.'

Results

I and the voices in my head have finished deliberations. The winners are as follows:

Honorable Mention (.5 Points)Because God knows this thread needs all the help it can get
Alectai, Mehuyael, and Feinne

3rd Place (1 Point)
Simply Simon

2nd Place (3 Points)
Deceitful Penguin

1st Place (5 Points)
The White Dragon

Oh, don't get me wrong, I didn't want to give the win to The White Dragon. Every instinct in my mind cried out against it. But in the end, I had to do it. For the children.



Challenge #2

Vanguard Bandits takes place in a Continent divided into petty medieval kingdoms. There's no evidence that technology has progressed past about the 12th century. And yet, these kingdoms are capable of building and maintaining armies of giant robots for use in war. Explain how the hell this is possible. Bonus points for the correct use of the word 'chancery.'

Results

I have tabulated the results of Challenge #2. I have...considered them carefully.

Third Place
Simply Simon

Second Place
The White Dragon

And you get an extra point for providing art.

First Place
Feinne

And you all get a point for using 'chancery' correctly.



Challenge #3

I feel as though we must class up this LP and show that we are men of thought and learning.

Which character from the Iliad does Bastion most resemble?

Oh, that's too limiting. Feel free to use a character from any work in the Epic Cycle, from the Cypria all the way to the Telegony.

By the way, if I ever complain about not enough people doing challenges, please quote this hopelessly arcane and moronic challenge.

Results

It's time to take out the trash. And by trash, I mean the last challenge, which went....poorly. At any rate, I'll give Feinne and Simply Simon five points each for trying to save the thread from...well, me.



Challenge #5

There is no challenge 4 and you can't prove that there ever was, let us speak no more of it.

We've heard a lot about the Ultragunner, and it sounds like it kicks some serious ass. Write or draw or convey to this thread in the manner you most prefer a vision of what you think the Ultragunner looks like based on its name alone.

Results

Third Place
Einander

Second Place
Feinne

First Place
Simply Simon




Challenge #6

In honor of the revolt in Avalon, I have conceived a new challenge.

Vanguard Bandits is essentially the story of aristocrats going to war with other aristocrats for dominion over the many, many serfs on the Continent. But, being a graduate of one of the supposedly better liberal arts colleges in America, I am compelled to wonder, what of the common man? What does he gain from decades of conflict?

Render unto this thread a vision of what it's like to be an average person in the world of Vanguard Bandits. Use whatever medium you choose to express these thoughts, though I will give bonus points for art. (This thread needs art like a fish needs water.) But, comic strip, short (very short) story, Soviet-style historiography or propaganda or whatever else you come up with is cool.

But, don't do it for me. Do it for Comrade Faulkner!

Results

Where, due to low turnout, everyone's a winner.

3rd Place

Tie!
Simply Simon
Feinne

2nd Place
Utgardaloki

1st Place
McTimmy






Leaderboard
Feinne: 15 Points
Jeremor: 10 Points
Simply Simon: 8 Points
The White Dragon: 7 Points
Glazius: 6 Points
McTimmy: 6 Points
Deceitful Penguin: 3 Points
Utgardaloki: 3 Points
Einander: 1 Point

Countries/Characters

Pharastia Kingdom

The good guys of the game  At least in the Kingdom branch . On the losing side of a decades-long struggle with the Junaris Empire, they look to Bastion to save them from certain defeat.


Bastion
Our hero by default. He's got a secret past, but not a particularly interesting one. You've played a jRPG before, yes? Well, he's essentially the most generic jRPG you've ever seen. Still, he's pretty good in battle. Granted, that's a function of him getting the best ATACs in the game for his exclusive use....but still. Actually the sole heir to the Pharastia Kingdom, he is also the only one who can pilot the legendary Ultragunner and defeat the Empire. Yeah, Bastion is the Kingdom's only hope. Shit like this is what killed the feudal system. 


Kamorge
Bastion's father/mentor/teacher. By virtue of the laws of drama, he is not long for this Earth. a.k.a. Alugard, the King's former bodyguard. Gets killed by Faulkner in Chapter 3 


Puck
An apprentice tech working for Kamorge and Bastion. He's actually does something important in exactly one battle, and it will be the last one I do.


Milea
An orphan that Kamorge took in and turned into his and Bastion's personal servant. Kamorge is kind of an asshole that way.


Devlin
Hateful, hateful Devlin. Oh, how I loathe thee. Anyway, Devlin whines about everything, a lot, constantly. That's about his only character trait. He's so awful that his personality is literally programmed to make it harder for you to get a good ending.


Barlow
A walking, talking fat joke who, in curious alignment with his character, is primarily good at taking up space.


King
The former monarch of the Pharastia Kingdom,  Apparently did not quite get the concept of a bodyguard, and got himself killed because of it. 


Galvas
A Kingdom General who....you know what, fuck Galvas.


Ganlon
A Kingdom general  Who is, without a doubt, the least successful traitor in human history, killed by Devlin cooking him alive in his own ATAC in Chapter #8. Or, alternatively, Radcot can stab him in the back. Either way, he's definitely dead. 


Thomson
Another Kingdom general  Who. improbably enough, is also a traitor. Although, in his defense, he only betrayed the Kingdom to save his mens' families. Still, that didn't save him from Nana caving in his chest cavity with her ATAC. 

Junaris Empire

The villains of the game. You know, for the average serf, the difference between Empire and the Kingdom is probably minimal.


Sadira
An imperial princess who ranges from irritating to wishing-I-were-playing-Fire-Emblem-so-I-could-kill-her-off-permanently annoying.


Faulkner
The main villain of the story. Wants to conquer the continent. According to Wikipedia, he's also considered one of the most important writers of Southern literature in the United States.


Franco
Sadira's right-hand man.


Halak
Sadira's other lackey who talks like Yoda. Why? I don't know, I suppose Working Designs thought it would be funny. They were wrong.


Zakov
An Imperial Commander who speaks in vays dhat are ufften hard zu understant. How bad is it? Simply Simon, who is actually German, couldn't even manage the accent.


Duyere
The Crown Prince of the Empire, whose character is never developed much beyond 'arrogant asshole.'


Savaro
A Kingdom general  who was tricked into believing that the King had killed his wife.  Father of Faulkner.


Degalle
Leader of the Junaris Empire. Appears exactly once in this game, in a flashback.  And now he's dead. 


Madoc
The chief ATAC architect of the Empire. Full of good ideas that end up causing problems for our party.


Cecilia
Sadira's Bodyguard/Ninja/Maid.

Avalon Principality

Led by Duke Zeira (shouldn't that make it the Avalon Dukedom?), they are steadfast allies of the Pharastia Kingdom.


Zeira
Duke of the Avalon Principality, we'll be seeing a lot of him. Aggressively bland and uninteresting, but a decent enough character in a fight. Because the game knows this, it will be many missions until we actually get to control and gain xp for him, until them, he's an experience-stealing NPC.


Reyna
A member of the Avalon Defense Corps that Bastion meets in Mission 1. The least irritating female character in the game by default. The AI hates her.


Ione
The other member of the Avalon Defense Corps Bastion meets in the first mission. She's a place holder until you get better, more interesting characters to use. She also exists as proof that Japan is fully capable of creating androgynous characters who are actually female.  Leaves after Chapter 4 


Kaidul
Ione's father, a sergeant in the Avalon Corps.  Decides to rebel against Duke Zeira and negotiate a separate peace with the Empire, which somehow leads to him getting killed by other rebels almost immediately. 

Nordilain Forest

The Empire's closest allies. Led by Duke Logan, their troops specialize in fire magic, which seems like a poor choice for a heavily forested country...


Logan
Duke of the Nordilain Forest, he loves fighting and honor and that sort of shit, you know, kind of like a Klingon from Star Trek. And you know what, Deep Space Nine was by far and way the best of those series. The Original Series? Maybe if I were either more pretentious or thirty years older. Next Generation? 90% of the episodes are coma-inducing. Voyager? Come on! Enterprise? If you think Enterprise is better than Deep Space Nine, you aren't welcome in this thread! And fuck the reboot! Wait, what was I doing again?


Claire
The daughter of Duke Logan, leader of the Nordilain Forest (which kind of sounds more like a football/soccer club than anything else). Talks like a valley girl because the employees of Working Designs were confident that I wouldn't discover the secrets of time travel and get revenge. They were right...for now.


Shion
Claire's middle-aged teacher/advisor/secret admirer.

Kingdom of Dionne-Lehve

A kingdom led by Marquis Dionne-Lehve...er....that doesn't sound right. Anyway, they're apparently a small kingdom composed entirely of mercenaries. I'm not exactly sure how that works.


Marquis Dionne-Lehve
Leader of the Kingdom of Dionne-Lehve, he maintains a strict 'blood-in, blood-out' policy among his allies.


Andrew
He's a ninja/mercenary/quote machine who ends up actually being one of the most useful characters in the game. You other characters could learn a lot from him.  Secretly a ninja assassin working for Marquis Dionne-Lehve.  More powerful than a dozen Devlins put together.

Muspel Nation

A desert country ruled by Duke Radcot. In a guerrilla war with the Avalon Principality.


Duke Radcot
Leader of the Muspel Nation, he has a reputation for treachery, but is it really merited?  Yes, yes it is. Later is either treacherously slain by Faulkner or heroically vanquished by Bastion and friends depending on the choices you make. 


Nana
A young girl  Who helps Bastion escape from Radcot's castle. Also Duke Radcot's daughter, making Bastion an accidental kidnapping genius. Sees her dad die, which leads to her joining our growing party as part of Bastion's "No Child Soldier Left Behind" initiative. 


Kyu-Kyu

Type: Water/Ground
Height: .3m
Weight: 3 kg

Its cry is said to be so melodic that once heard, it will never be forgotten. Evolves to Kyutonic at level 24.

Duchy of Hibernia

A duchy led by Lord Alden who maintains a policy of strict neutrality.


Lord Alden
Leader of Hibernia, all he's done so far is literally hang out on the edges of battle and watch.


Melior
Alden's...assistant? Wife? Prime Minister? I don't know, whatever. I just realized that it appears that not a single person in this game is married.

Southern Alliance

A coalition of small towns at the extreme south of the Continent. You do NOT fuck with the Southern Alliance.

Miscellany of Merit



The White Dragon shows us the secret origin of ATACs.


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