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Submission #6163: lapogne36's PSX Vandal Hearts in 4:22:31.46

Console: Sony PlayStation
Game name: Vandal Hearts
Game version: USA
ROM filename: Vandal Hearts.bin
Emulator: BizHawk 1.12.2
Movie length: 4:22:31.46
FrameCount: 933949
Re-record count: 32146
Author's real name:
Author's nickname: lapogne36
Submitter: lapogne36
Submitted at: 2018-11-25 15:58:52
Text last edited at: 2018-11-26 17:32:25
Text last edited by: ThunderAxe31
Download: Download (252980 bytes)
Status: judging underway
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Author's comments and explanations:

(Link to video)

Game objectives

  • Emulator used: BizHawk-1.12.2
  • BIOS: SCPH5501.BIN
  • Luck manipulation

This TAS is faster than the current segmented WR by approximately 1 hour and 26 minutes.

About the game

Follow Ash as he travels throughout the young Republic of Ishtaria to try to prevent a conspiracy against the country. Vandal Hearts is one of the first 3D tactical RPG, released in 1996 on Playstation, and it helped popularize the genre out of Japan. The game runs mostly at 30 FPS and is made of 34 mandatory chapters and 6 optional ones.



As one would expect from an RPG, luck is involved with this TAS. However, it is limited to these 4 specific cases:

  • Blocking an attack : There are 3 types of physical attacks : front attack, side attack and back attack. The odds of blocking these attacks are respectively of 10%, 5% and 0%, and these odds may slightly vary depending on the attacker's and defender's Agl stat. Magic attacks can't be blocked.
  • Characters' stats boosts : The base stats of a character (HP, MP, Atk, Def and Agl) are all solely based on his current level and class, then a "boost" to each stat is applied and can increase or decrease it by up to 3%. These boosts are only updated when leveling up and so they were manipulated as often as necessary.
  • Status inducing attacks : Some enemies (all bats and chapter 2-2 enemies) have a decent chance of paralysing or poisoning their target, which should always be avoided.
  • Mages with 2 spells : Later in the game (starting with chapter 4-5), some mages will have 2 usable spells. Each enemy phase, the game will first randomly choose one of these 2 spell, and then act accordingly to this choice (if there is only 1 of the spell that the mage can cast on my units, the game may still choose the other one and thus not make any action at all).

Apart from these, there is no luck involved. In particular, the A.I. will always react the same way to the same situation, and the damage done by an attack will always be the same (there is no critical hit mechanic).

The game use the "default" PSX RNG, and the only way to manipulate an action is to wait.

General information

Death isn't permanent, but it's game over if Ash is killed. You get money at the end of each chapter based on how many enemies and allies are dead.

Every unit has 1 out of the 7 classes of the game : Knight - Archer - Airman - Armor - Mage - Priest - Monk The rules are basically that Knight > Archer > Airman > Knight, Armor has high defense and HP but low magic resistance and movement, Mage and Priest have high magic resistance but low defense, and Monk is an hybrid class with average stats and no strength or weakness in particular (decent mobility though)

There are 12 recruitable units (you can't miss any), and each of them can be promoted 2 times when visiting a dojo in any city, when they reach level 10 and 20 (Ash can also be promoted a third time after doing a serie of side quests). All characters but Ash have 2 paths choice when promoting for the first time : knights can choose Knight or Armor, archers can choose Archer or Airman, mages and priests can choose to keep their class or to go for Monk. Even with the same stats, a promoted unit is far stronger than an unpromoted one.

Damage dealt with a physical attack depends on the attacker's class and Atk and the defender's class and Def. It is increased when doing a side attack or (better yet) a back attack, attacking from a higher height (decreased if attacking from a lower height), and if you have allies next to the target (the more the better).

Damage dealt with a spell depends on the attacker's level and the defender's class and level (no other stat involved). Unlike a physical attack, you can't increase or decrease the damage with any other factor. The calculation is a little weird as the higher the attacker's level, the less damage he will deal (so you are encouraged to use the latest spells you learnt, also apply for healing spells)

You need 100 experience points to gain a level, and the amount you gain depends on the amount of damage you dealt (one of the strong point of the mages with AoE spells) and on your current level compared to the expected level for the chapter (when attacking an enemy) or the target's level (when using a spell/item on an ally). There is no limit to how much experience you can get at one go, and an underleveled unit can easily catch up with the rest of the army any time by doing cheap damage or healing an ally.

Level-up exploit (unused)

As said before, the more overleveled you are in regard to a given chapter, the less attacking an enemy will give you experience, but using a spell/item gives experience based only on the difference between the user's and the target's level, and a unit can target himself. However you can only do so as long as you have items to use (limited by money and inventory space) or enough MP to cast spells. The trick is that in some chapters (the earliest and most convenient one being chapter 2-4), there are magic circles which restore some HP and MP every turn, so a priest can stand on one of them and cast on himself a spell like Mystic Shield and gain a non-marginal amout of experience. Here is a video of what it looks like : https://youtu.be/AnyA7PHNV4w So you can get 16~17 xp every 20~25 seconds

The main purpose of getting overleveled would be to get Eleni and Zohar to Lv25 to learn the strongest black magic spell and kill large group of enemies with it in the mid game (more or less from chapter 2-5 to chapter 5-3, though it would arguably be useful only for 10 of these chapters). Now I didn't use this exploit first because I don't think it's faster than the normal way, especially for a TAS. Sara would need to spam Mystic Shield for 34~42 minutes (and also the chapter would need to be done differently, costing some extra minutes) to get 17 level-ups, and I doubt it could be compensated later on. The second reason is obviously because it would be extremely boring to watch (in fact all the numbers I gave previously are estimates because nobodyhas ever speedrun this game using this exploit, that's how lame it is).

Route planning

Comparison between the TAS and the segmented run

Chapter TAS Time Segmented Time Time Save
1-1 67 80 13
1-2 198 263 65
1-3 341 411 70
1-4 254 309 55
1-5 103 129 26
1-6 204 320 116
2-1 328 528 200
2-2 332 549 217
2-3 361 343 -18
2-4 515 803 288
2-5 253 405 152
2-6 217 255 38
3-1 72 97 25
3-2 231 317 86
3-3 396 501 105
3-4 212 225 13
3-5 210 263 53
3-6 205 270 65
3-7 427 699 272
4-1 231 297 66
4-2 518 764 246
4-3 358 506 148
4-4 405 721 316
4-5 234 399 165
5-1 347 532 185
5-2 96 276 180
5-3 386 485 99
5-4 222 402 180
5-5 396 785 389
5-6 573 600 27
6-1 715 966 251
6-2 294 310 16
6-3 260 441 181
6-4 369 441 72
Misc. ~700
Total 10330 14692 5062

Outlines of the strategy

Airman is the class with the highest mobility, it can go over water and lava and it even has high stats compared to other classes, so the 4 archers will be promoted to that class to ensure fast chapters clear (Archer is by no means a bad class in this game, but Airman is just better for a TAS). The drawback is that they are weak to the Archer class, but they can usually take 1 or 2 hits just fine.

Next are the 2 mages who will keep their class for their strong AoE spells, and I need them anyway to kill Armor class units. Ash will also be trained because he isn't allow to die and he has access to some spells while being a Knight class, thus helping to kill Archer and Armor units. The Vandal Heart (strongest weapon of the game) is also his weapon for the last four chapters.

With this team, the only units I may have some trouble to deal with are other airmen, though they will still die in 2 hits most of the time.

Nonetheless, the other unused units aren't completely useless as, at the very least, they will lure attacks into them.

Chapter by chapter comments

Chapter 1-1 : Defeat the boss

Nothing special to do here, just defeat the boss as soon as possible.

Chapter 1-2 : Reach the church

Chapters with "reach the exit" objectives are weird in this game, as it will only be completed once all units still alive reach the exit, so it's often faster to let an unit die rather than moving him to the exit. This being said, Diego One Hit KO (OHKO) the ghosts because Ash and Clint can't and he must be Lv8 by the start of chapter 1-4, and then I let Diego and Clint die while Ash reached the church.

Chapter 1-3: Defeat all the enemies

After his first level-up, Ash must have 112 Atk (from now on, Atk = Atk boost and Def = Def boost to simplify things) to effectively kill the golem. Diego found a Fire Gem after dealing with his golems and barely reaching Lv8 (very expensive item at this point of the game).

Chapter 1-4 : Defeat all the enemies

Now that Diego is Lv8 he can OHKO the bats. If Eleni is still alive after the first turn, she will start a conversation with Diego. Both choices cost pretty much the same amount of time, so I went for the one that gave me the least amount of waiting time to manipulate the RNG (the bats must not paralyze Diego and he must block some attacks). Ash must have a high Atk for the next chapter.

Chapter 1-5 : Defeat the boss

The formation on turn 1 minimize the enemy phase duration while allowing me to kill the boss on turn 2. The xp of Diego and Kira is managed carefully because both of them must be Lv10 at a specific timing on chapter 2-1.

Chapter 1-6 : Defeat the boss

The first two Fire Gems were used to trigger the "I will only move if someone is in range or if someone hurt me" I.A.,saving a lot of time.

Chapter 2-1 : Destroy the statues

Diego must have at least 900 xp (Lv10) after the first statue, else he would not have OHKO the next statue later on. he ended up with 901 xp. Kira must have at least 900 xp after her two hits against the statue (she can't OHKO it even with 119 Atk anyway), she ended up with exactly 900 xp. While Grog can reach his statue while staying out of range, he can't OHKO it without a side attack, thus he took a spell on purpose.

Chapter 2-2 : Defeat all the enemies

All the enemies on this map have a decent chance of poisonning. With Diego and Kira promoted, I can reach every enemy without pushing the switch. Since after the dog's attack on turn 3 there is no path available to reach any of my units, the zombies didn't move at all, saving some time.

Chapter 2-3 Defeat all the enemies

One of the most luck reliant enemy phase of the TAS as there are a lot of attacks to block. Eleni got a stronger weapon (no effect onher spells damage) in order to finish the golem with it (she mst have at least 113 Atk when using Dark Star, and then at least 116 Atk to finish him). Other mandatory stat caps include 94 Atk for Diego and Kira, 117 Atk for Ash.

Chapter 2-4 : Reach the entrance

Ideally the fastest way to clear this chapter would be to only take the elevator with Ash, but there is absolutely no way he can reach the entrance alone because of the 2 golems and the ghost, so Diego helped him. Both of them must have above average Atk to kill the golems though.

Chapter 2-5 : Defeat the boss

Lv4 Clint got a perfect opportunity to kill an unit (he must get some levels for a chapter 3-7). I made sure that Kira had a high Atk at the end of the chapter because she will leave the team for a long time and she will still have the same Atk at her return.

Chapter 2-6 : Defeat all the enemies

The A.I. is a little bit weird and sometimes they will stay in range of my units despite the existence of a safe spot. I took advantage of that as much as possible. I made sure that Clint's last level-up had enough defensive stats.

Chapter 3-1 : Defeat all the enemies

The enemies are very weak and yet Sara was previously promoted because else neither her or Grog can OHKO them...

Chapter 3-2 : Protect the pillars

The first sparkie is paralyzed to minimize the overall time while still feeding enough xp into Zohar.

Chapter 3-3 : Defeat all the enemies

The NPC is actually competent since he can kills the bats in 2 hits (nobody can OHKO them in my team).

Chapter 3-4 : Defeat all the enemies

Boulders halve the current HP of it's victims, and Zohar with enough Atk can deal just enough damage to finish them.

Chapter 3-5 : Defeat all the enemies

The enemies will start to flee as soon as I do any action. Zohar and Sara must have very high Atk (something like 114+ on average) to kill the boss with only 3 spells.

Chapter 3-6 : Defeat all the enemies

The armors in this chapter have 100% chance of blocking front and side attacks.

Chapter 3-7 : Defeat the boss

Clint previously got good defensive stats on his level-up because else he would have to block an extra hit (it's game over if he dies in the chapter). From now on I started optimizing Eleni's xp because she must be Lv20 by the end of chapter 4-3.

Chapter 4-1 : Reach the exit

Ash can reach the exit on turn 3, so anyone you can't is going to die. Every one of them can be OHKO, though for some of them (Zohar, Grog) it can't be done by any enemy. I also purchased 4 Aura Gems (I will get 3 other ones later on), which is the strongest purchasable item and can only be bought throughout chapter 4.

Chapter 4-2 : Defeat all the enemies

The "archers" in this map can attack from very far away, therefore they are baited by my weak units to stay close enough from me.

Chapter 4-3 : Defeat all the enemies

After 2 Phase Shifts, my physical units split into 4 groups to kill everything left alive in one hit. Lots of Atk caps to have here (high Atk on Eleni and Zohar, 114 Atk on Darius, 96 Atk on Kira, ...). Out of my 5 units who must be Lv20 at the end of this chapter, 3 made it for less than 5 xp.

Chapter 4-4 : Defeat the boss

It's faster to let every unused unit die instead of moving them up to the third wagon.

Chapter 4-5 : Destroy the pillars

Fights were avoided as much as possible. On the last turn, the 2 mages were manipulated to choose their spell which didn't have enough range to reach me.

Chapter 5-1 : Defeat all the enemies

It's starting to be hard to OHKO enemies, even with a class advantage.

Chapter 5-2 : Defeat the boss

Similar to chapter 1-6, the boss will start to move if he is wounded.

Chapter 5-3 : Defeat all the enemies

Eleni and Zohar each took the only paths that allow them to reach all the golems in the middle with a Phase Shift.

Chapter 5-4 : Defeat the boss

Diego must block the path on turn 2 else a skeleton will attack Darius, which subsequently lead to the boss not moving because there is now one in range.

Chapter 5-5 : Defeat the boss

The boss is too far for Eleni and Zohar so they must stay behind, though Eleni did a Spread Force at the end to go directly from Lv23 to Lv25 and learn Salamander for the next chapter.

Chapter 5-6 : Reach the temple with Leena

There is not much you can do to speed up this chapter beside killing enemies, the latterbeing particularly bulky.

Chapter 6-1 : Defeat the boss

My Lv27 Airmen must have above average Def if order to take 2 Plasm Waves without dying. The boulder on the boss was very effective to save some time since I was short on manpower.

Chapter 6-2 : Defeat all the enemies

Apart from the bats, the enemies are weak and easily OHKO.

Chapter 6-3 : Defeat the boss

Clint and Dolan must die else each of them will trigger a time consuming dialogue at the end of turns 1 and 2.

Chapter 6-4 : Defeat the boss

Unfortunately I can't kill his first phase with one less attack given my current army, and even the second phase was a really close kill (Ash deals 84 damage with 119 Atk).

Possible improvements

I think the overall strategy ispretty good, as I doubt you can go faster by training any more or any less unit than I did. It wouldn't surprise me if fastest strategies were possible for specific chapters, especially for ones where the way to go isn't clear like chapter 3-3 or 3-7.

Special Thanks

  • Zenicreverie and Vandalnabilo for their segmented and RTA runs which served as a basis
  • The encoder who will have to work on this TAS :(

Suggest screenshot :

frame 923684

ThunderAxe31: Judging.

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