Title: Chocobo GP
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: March 10, 2022
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Square Enix
My memories with the original Chocobo Racing always seemed to surround its difficulty. As much as Mario Kart inspired this cute racer, it had a knack for testing your skills across every track. Finally, years later, Chocobo GP arrives, and we’re trusted back into the charming side-stories of Chocobo and friends. Sadly, after playing for hours, I don’t know who Chocobo GP is for as its chaotic racing systems and strange features have me trying to guess who the audience is.
From its menu, Chocobo GP is set up a bit strange. The first option that is highlighted is an online matchmaking mode. I would have preferred this be the Story Mode because when you first boot up the game, you’ll only have access to Chocobo as a playable character, so don’t even try. There’s also the fact that they have this high-energy theme song playing across every menu. Over and over, and you don’t spend too long on the menus, so you only ever hear the first few lines. I listen to the entire track, and then a music-only version starts up…why not just have that be the menu music?
Anyway, to acquire new characters, you’ll have to play through the Story Mode, which is as charming and cringe-inducing as you’d expect. The characters are all voiced and have varied personalities. Characters from across the Chocobo Dungeon series appear alongside Final Fantasy characters and summons. It’s a reunion of sorts, but it carries no actual weight. The interactions during the story scenes often affect the races during each chapter with the goal to either place before a specific character or finish first. However, you can skip it if you want.
While this game is very bright and almost childlike, the banter often includes tongue-in-cheek comments between characters. It begins with a few flirty throwaway lines, but then there’s an added dose of sass in later chapters. I found it hilarious, but I don’t think a kid would understand these exchanges, which was when I began to question if this game was for adult Final Fantasy fans or children.
The race tracks are insane. They are each relatively short in design, with most races lasting anywhere from 3 to 8 minutes across three laps. However, the design is exceptionally chaotic. Tracks have various obstacles that will force you to constantly be on your toes as a random tire or tractor can drift into your way. It’s challenging if it’s your first time playing the track and can really shake up the race if the person ahead hits one of these traps.
Sadly there aren’t many tracks available. As you go through the story, you’ll replay tracks or one in the same area with an extra turn or something. It makes the game feel smaller than it is because, to me, it felt like there were only four tracks, even though there were added routes on tracks.
The chaos continues with the Magicite you can pick up from the track. There are three slots, and it’s possible to combine like Magicite to execute a powerful attack. Further, you can even cast unique summons for various characters that could significantly affect the race.
However, there are some balance issues here. In Mario Kart, the person in first will rarely, if ever, get a boost item, but in Chocobo GP, I received them quite a bit. This is just a bit unfair as there are also special skills each character has that can boost them, so the person in first is at a tremendous advantage. These skills can be executed with the Y button throughout the race, but that requires you to take your thumb off the A button, your gas. Very strange.
As far as racing goes, Chocobo GP can be a bit slow at times if you aren’t utilizing the drift and skills. Some long stretches of road show just how slow these characters can be, but this is most noticeable on Beginner difficulty.
Even if you enjoy Kart racers, Beginner offers high challenge and aggressive AI. The Master difficulty requires you to be flawless for the most part or just get lucky during a race. It’s another time I questioned the audience for the game as there were some races I played over five times on Beginner because I couldn’t complete the mission. I enjoyed the challenge, but this cute game didn’t need to be so hard.
After a match, you’ll earn tickets and Mytheral, which I think can be turned into tickets. Here’s the downer, Mytheral can be purchased from the eShop; there’s even an option from the main menu to purchase it. However, you don’t need to because tickets are granted for playing through the game, which is used to purchase summons, some new characters, and cosmetics. If you fail a race, you’ll also earn Mytheral, so that’s a plus. I just don’t like the idea of making this game about fast-tracking unlockables, especially with an audience that is bound to be children.
And yet, Chocobo GP is often an enjoyable and charming racer. It challenges the player to work through some of the most frustratingly chaotic races and respond with a strategic counter. You’re bound to find a group of your favorite racers and take off through the multiplayer modes, which is where most of your time will be spent following the story.
Chocobo GP isn’t the Chocobo racer from my past, but it is just as whimsically unique as ever. I’m still unsure if it’s a game for children or older Final Fantasy fans; maybe it falls somewhere between. There’s some balance needed, and the tracks have no identity, but you’re playing a game where a bird is wearing rollerblades, so find fun in that. Just be sure to turn down the volume when you get to the menu; oh god, now the song is stuck in my head again.
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