Feda: The Emblem of Justice (SNES) Review

Click here to visit the Feda: The Emblem of Justice description page for screenshots, guides, and save files.

Review by tankMage (March 2018)

Score: B-

   Feda: The Emblem of Justice was not an easy game to review, primarily because of it’s translation, which is simultaneously one of the best and worst aspects of the game. Feda was never released in the English speaking world, so it fell upon ROM Hackers to make it available to those who do not speak or read Japanese. On one hand, the translation team did a beautiful job with the dialogue, but on the other, many of the enemy names are more or less phonetically translated (I’m still trying to figure out what the hell a “Buffeel” is) and I find it hard to accept the original dialogue is as edgy as the translation would lead is to believe. But hey maybe it was? At any rate the dialogue took what would have been an otherwise trite plot and added a lot of flair to it as well as imbued the cast with a sense of personality that is rarely seen in video games. Aside from that, Feda boasts some nice battle animations that get repetitive after a while and an ethics system that wasn’t fully capitalized upon, so all in all this title is a slightly above average Tactical RPG that gets by on style more than actual substance.

Story

   The plot is centered around a warrior named Brian who once fought for a world spanning empire that has begun to abuse it’s subjects a bit too much. Brian turns on his commanding officer when ordered to slaughter innocent villagers and is sentenced to death. Luckily, his friends Ain and Dora bust him out. The trio flee for their lives and eventually find themselves tangled up with a liberation movement that is working to free Arcadia (the nation the game is set in) from the empire. There’s a lot that happens over the course of the game, but it’s the sort of stuff that one would expect from an RPG.

   What really makes this game stand out in terms of story is the dialogue and setting. Mildras Garz is a world ravaged by continual warfare and its inhabitants are cynical to say the least. Characters swear, make bawdy jokes, and hint at the atrocious deeds of some of the villains very plainly. While players will see words like “fuck” and “shit” pop up from time to time, the dialogue never comes off as gratuitous seeing as how the characters are soldiers who have had to suffer through the tragedy of war and have little patience for etiquette. It also serves to lighten the mood, since this game deals with some pretty dark themes like genocide and child abuse. Players who aren’t bothered by this game’s risque chatter will be treated to a story that is thought provoking and funny at times, despite its familiarity.

   The cast of this game is pretty large as well as diverse. There’s humans, elves, centaurs, and creatures that I can’t even identify who join the player. Some of them are good, while others are evil and who joins you depends on your actions. Follow orders, fight battles carefully, and lawful characters will join. Kill everything that moves and chaotic characters will join you. Most of these characters have interesting back stories, but once they team up with you it’s unlikely you’ll hear from them again unless you chat with them in your base. The core of the cast is fairly well fleshed out and the player gets a real sense of what makes them tick, but there isn’t much in the way of actual character development, which actually makes sense considering many of the life changing decisions the heroes make take place in the first ten minutes of the game.

   Feda has a few gaping plot holes that could use some filling. Late in the game an important character undergoes a fairly major change, says they will explain things later and that’s all the information the player gets. A bit of vagueness can enhance a story, but Feda certainly left me hanging. I also had trouble understanding a certain character’s motivations, which the game tried to hint at, but ultimately the clues did not add up. In other cases, the game is highly consistent especially if you pay attention to the opening cutscene. Even the villains have some degree of depth, which is always welcome.

Translation

   This is a major sticking point with this game. Japanese is very different from English and there are many phrases that do not translate precisely from one language to another. As a result, translators have to interpret various Japanese phrases so they make sense in English. Of course, this leads to the question of “How much interpretation is too much?”. I’ve compared more literal translations to the one done by Stealth, Magic, and Destiny and it seems that they took a fair bit of liberty with the story (which they admit to) but it’s hard to say exactly how much, since I also have good reason to believe the more literal translations were censored to comply with the terms of service used by the websites they appear on. With that said, it seems Stealth, Magic, and Destiny did a good job of preserving the spirit of the story while remaining accurate…just don’t take for granted that some of the more colorful language actually appeared in the original version of the game. That’s about all I can say, because I don’t speak Japanese and would be grateful if anyone fluent in Japanese could confirm or refute my hypothesis.

Graphics

   Well this game has everything you’d hope for (and maybe some things you wouldn’t want) in a Japanese Tactical RPG: cybernetic dragons, busty dog women, cutscene battles, flashy spells, and ninja roaches. So yeah, Feda: The Emblem of Justice is visually eclectic and ultimately looks like a grittier Shining Force, which shouldn’t be surprising since the same team made both titles. Most of the areas are bland, flat maps that were common to 16-bit Tactical RPGs and the sprites that appear on the maps are not at all impressive. Instead, Feda comes to life through brief combat cutscenes that hold up even to this day… well, if you are into sprite art. Both payer characters and NPCs are beautifully drawn (aside from a few exceptions) and about as smoothly animated as one could expect from a product designed for old CRT TVs.

These scenes may look nice, but they get old after a while.

   Not only do these cutscenes look amazing, there’s also quite a few imaginative character and creature designs. Even fairly common monsters like zombies have a certain flair to them in Feda. Magic and Special Attack effects really steal the show and many players will want to try new party members out just to see what they look like in combat. The developers did cut corners here and there, however. While spells and attacks may look nice, the damage animations for both your heroes and enemies are merely a series of comic book style bursts that are the same no matter what attack is used, which was a let down, especially since you see a soldier getting fried by a mage in the intro. You can also expect to see a lot of enemies reappear as pallet swaps, but considering the fact that the heroes are fighting a formal army, it makes some sense for enemy units to look similar. It seems likely that these problems stem from the fact that the size of the game was supposedly cut from eight megabytes to six, which was almost certainly a financial matter.

   In an ironic twist, the beautiful cutscene type battles do this game a disservice, because players cannot skip through them. In most cases this doesn’t matter much, since the cutscenes are only a few seconds long, but you will notice it when fighting battles that involve a lot of magic and special attacks, which seem to draw out forever. I had to play this game on an emulator and the cutscenes made battles drag out so much that I found myself hitting the fast forward button quite often, which is something I almost never do.

Music and Sound

   The music in this game is hard to describe, since it sound like a J-Rock/Funk hybrid. At any rate the music is good, especially if you like slap bass. Too bad the tracks are often very short, which is to be expected on the SNES, but they’re also repetitive since there’s really only a handful of songs that make up the BGM. As a result, the music in this game becomes annoying and the problem is compounded by the fact that the game switches battle music every time a combat cutscene plays. Even with its failings, the soundtrack suits the personality of Feda fairly well.

   It is often hard to find much to say about sound effects, since they are one of the more subtle aspects of game design. There really isn’t much to be said about Feda’s sound effects either. They get the job done without getting in the way of other aspects of the game, particularly the music. Spell sound effects stood out in this game, however, with many of them being cool, but not really much different from those found in other RPGs.

User Interface

   Feda: The Emblem of Justice’s user interface is ok when it comes to moving characters around and inputting commands, but the inventory system is terrible. Commands are fairly straightforward and the system is surprisingly streamlined for a game of it’s time, since players will spend very little time fiddling with menus. The commands are also organized in a manner that minimizes the number of button inputs the player needs to perform by placing the most frequently used commands at the top of the list. You can even change weapons very easily in the fight command window, though the utility of this is limited. While they may have gotten the gameplay controls right, the devs screwed the inventory up. Players have to enter their camp just to speak to the NPC that controls their inventory, then they have to go through a complicated multi-step process to juggle items around and equip their characters. Luckily, the game doesn’t require the player to use the inventory system much at all, but it is a factor.

Gameplay

   At the end of the day Feda is a run of the mill tactical RPG. Players will explore towns, move around a map, and fight battles, many of which are quite easy. In battle, the player can move his or her units around one of many maps and attack enemies with weapons and special skills. The game usually alternates turns between the player’s characters and computer controlled foes. The fact that the turn order is fairly loosely constructed and allows the player to move any unit they wish during their turn given that the unit has not already acted in the current round makes battles a lot easier than those in many other  TRPGs. Sometimes this can work against the player however, since enemies have the same luxury and they can attack weakened characters in a manner that is sometimes difficult to predict.

   Feda’s Chaos/Law morality system comes into play during combat. Brian or another character will often issue orders at the beginning of a battle that can range from ”Kill all enemies” to “Get to the other side of the map”. Players can either follow or ignore these orders, which will result in them being awarded either chaos or law ranks. It is generally more difficult to play the game lawfully, since the player must often avoid killing enemies while their characters get beat on, but the nice thing about the system is there are good reasons to play as both alignments. Your rank in law or chaos will determine the ending you get as well as who joins the party and both alignments feature some cool characters.

   While the morality mechanics help make the game more interesting, Feda is pretty basic. All of the characters appear to have set stat growth and generally fall into the usual mage, fighter, archer categories, though some characters, like Ryoukhan blur the lines a bit by being able to fight with weapons as well as magic. While many of the possible characters have unique skills, they basically amount to special attacks that deal extra damage, elemental attack spells, and healing magic. Enemies often lack special abilities and the player will only rarely be hit with status effects like silence or poison. Put together, these factors make the gameplay feel shallow after the initial novelty of recruiting a bunch of party members with unique attack animations wears off. It also makes the enemies rather boring, though I’ve seen worse instances of repetitive and half assed enemy design. There are a few bosses who aren’t very creative, but in a game that keeps throwing hapless shock troops at the player, these bosses stand out and some of them can be challenging if you play as law.

Replay Value???

   I went through this title twice in order to write a walkthrough for it. Being able to play through a game as a good or bad guy is usually a fun way to get some more mileage out of it, but not so much in this case. Sure the characters that join as a result of the player’s decisions are interesting, even a bit original in some cases and there are multiple endings, but the game itself is very linear. Nothing really changes in terms of missions or the way most NPCs react to the player, even if they go around slaughtering everything that moves. As a result, I found myself getting really bored with this game the second time around, even with a bunch of new characters to throw into battle as well being able to do as I pleased since I was going for a chaos alignment. The long fight scenes that would pop up every time a unit acted didn’t help either, which oddly made Feda feel as slow as some more modern titles with excessively long CG scenes. So, yeah, despite the dev’s efforts, the replay value of this title is down in the dumps.

Final Thoughts

   If not for it’s sassy dialogue and imaginative artwork, Feda would be a mediocre tactical RPG. In fact, it would be worse than mediocre, it’d be downright boring. The SNES wasn’t exactly known for it’s Tactical RPGs (aside from a few notable entries), so it’s good that this title exists, because fans of the genre and the SNES at least have something to play aside from Ogre Battle. It’s also fairly obvious why this title never made it to the States, because it would have ruffled a few feathers even if it’s dialogue is only half as edgy as the fan translation suggests.

Recommendations

Feda: The Emblem of Justice for the SNES is a good choice for gamers who are looking for something a little different, but it probably won’t satisfy hardcore fans of tactical RPGs.

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