When it comes to spin-offs, the Final Fantasy series reigns supreme. From the action RPG third-person shooter hybrid, Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII (which I actually liked!) to the classic tactical RPG, Final Fantasy Tactics, to even the Dissidia fighting game series, the Final Fantasy series has had a long and fascinating history with spin-offs. One particular Final Fantasy spin-off series that I, unfortunately, barely played was the Final Fantasy Fables series. The Chocobo-centric roguelike series first began with Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales that released for the Nintendo DS in 2007, and then the next game in the series was Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon which launched for the Nintendo Wii in 2008, but, it also did get an enhanced, Japan-exclusive DS port.
Now, however, the series is making a come back with the upcoming release of Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy!, a remake of Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon, and I had the opportunity to play a brief demo of the title. After crawling through dungeons as a cute Chocobo, fighting off enemies with an AI buddy, and meeting a few loveable characters, I could see myself exploring more of the title with a pal via local co-op when it releases on March 20 for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch — even though I’m disappointed that certain features from the previous title will not be included.
At first glance and at the very start, Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy! seems like it’ll be all cute, easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy, a game “meant for kids”, but players will soon quickly realize that the game is actually a bit of a challenging, mysterious, and deep beast, especially with its story. It begins with the treasure-hunter Cid (he looks so stylish in this game, by the way) and his partner Chocobo searching for the fabled Timeless Power gem to power Cid’s airship. During their search, however, the duo gets sucked into a vortex and end up in a quaint, little town called Lostime that just seems a bit off. This uneasy feeling is confirmed when players find out that in the center of the town is a clock tower that rings the Bell of Oblivion, which makes people’s memories vanish. The townsfolk are aware of this phenomenon and actually like it, as they believe life is less painful when you can forget all your hardships. Things take a turn, however, when a strange green haired baby with the name Raffaello, flies into their lives, and with the help of Chocobo, retrieves these long forgotten memories. The rest of the game has you, as Chocobo, team up with Raffaello to dive right into the minds of Lostime’s residents, which are represented as randomly generated dungeons, and recover memories, all the while figuring out what in the world is going on.
Even with just playing the game for only about an hour or so, I can tell that the rest of the story is going to be one wacky adventure. The premise itself simply makes players wonder what’s going to happen next. It seems that Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy! will be a mysterious tale, one that’s filled with hardships, that has an endearing cast of characters. From the characters I met in the brief demo I played, my favorite would have to be Shirma, a kind-hearted, white mage girl who doesn’t like what’s going in Lostime and wants to do whatever it takes to help out.
To help all the townsfolk, Chocobo, with or without the help of a buddy, must go right into people’s minds and make it through a randomly generated dungeon, which at the end, has a boss fight and an item that resembles a puzzle piece. Once this piece is acquired, the person’s memories will be restored and Raffaello and Chocobo will return back to Lostime to freely explore and continue on with the story. Sounds like a breeze, right? Well, dungeon crawling isn’t all that simple and easy due to just how surprisingly deep the core gameplay mechanics are.
After jumping right into a memory, aka dungeon, the game puts players into a turn-based experience where every action the player makes costs a turn, so the phrase “take it one step at a time” rings true in Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy!. This isn’t only the case for Chocobo, though, as all of the dungeon’s monsters also must follow this one-step-at-a-time system, which means that every single move, attack, and spell cast will then lead to enemies doing something in return. What’s more to this system, however, is that each turn will replenish the players hit points (HP) and magic power (HP) a little, and there’s the option of running in place, which refills HP and MP more quickly. As far as roguelike elements go, there’s a hunger meter to keep track of and traps to watch for (some trips are invisible) that make exploring even trickier.
With all this said, it’s clear that Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy! isn’t a mindless and simple game, it’s a game that requires immense strategy, willpower, and at times, luck, as every move counts. Given that I was playing just the beginning of the game, I didn’t run into any major problems completing any of the first dungeons, but, I’m absolutely positive that later dungeons will end up making me break a sweat.
Thankfully, though, Chocobo has the ability to pick up, equip, and even kick helpful gear, like talons that raise attack power, along the way to help make dungeon crawling a bit easier. In addition to this, Chocobo has the power to unleash certain abilities thanks to his (or her?) ability to change jobs. That’s right — the job-changing system from a few Final Fantasy games we all know and love, like Final Fantasy Tactics, is in Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy! and it’s fantastic as Chocobo can be a speedy ninja, a powerful black mage, and much more. What I especially enjoyed about the system is how it has Chocobo rock adorable, class-specific outfits, but on the gameplay side of things, it’s neat how Chocobo is able to use a wide array of abilities and spells depending on the job.
Throughout this preview, you might’ve noticed that I mentioned “a buddy” a few times here and there and this is because Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy! features a new buddy system. For the system, it lets players make monsters turn into buddies, so this means that the more monsters you collect, the easier you can clear dungeons. There’s also the option to explore dungeons with a friend via two-player co-op, which I’m thinking will be the best way to play the game.
Gameplay aside, visually, Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy! is a pleasant HD makeover of the original. The look of it actually reminds me of the look in the recent Square Enix remaster for Secret of Mana. While Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy is colorful and vibrant, it’s obviously easy to tell that the game is more of a fresh coat of paint than a full-on upgraded remake.
It’s important to bring up, though, that the remake does have a number of unfortunate feature changes that actually make it less superior than the original in some ways. The most noteworthy change is that the Pop-up Duel card game feature that was present in the original is not going to exist in the remake. In addition to this, Romantic Phrases, which were used to gain cards for Pop-up Duels, have also been removed as well. One unsurprising change, however, is that the several minigames in the original that required a Wiimote will not be included, and one pleasant change is that Cidventure mode has been tweaked a bit as a result of feedback from fans of the original, and it’s part of the main story mode. Feature removals aren’t ideal, and it’s a bummer that Pop-up Duels have been removed since I sadly didn’t get the chance to play them in the original. I’m hoping that Square Enix releases some sort of patch or free DLC content that adds Pop-up Duels back into the remake.
Prior to playing it, I admit that Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy! wasn’t exactly on my must play. However, this has changed once I had a blast dungeon crawling my way through the beginning of the game. Looks can be deceiving and that’s especially the case with Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy!. Sure, it’s adorable and vibrant presentation is what catches your eye at first, but once you truly get to the heart of what Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy is, you’ll end up discovering a challenging and deep dungeon-crawling adventure.
Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy! is set to launch on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch on March 20.
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