Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Genres: Party, Racing
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 10/3/22
A code was provided for review purposes
Pocket Full of Gil
Chocobo GP is finally here after its sneak peak was published by Square Enix just before Christmas 2021. It brings a brand new karting experience to the Chocobo franchise and sets itself up across multiple worlds and realities throughout the beloved Final Fantasy series.
For those unfamiliar with the history of the flightless Chocobo. These cheeky birds have been a mainstay in every single Final Fantasy game since the 2nd one back in 1988. They are avian creatures and serve as almost horselike companions as the undisputed mascots of the Series.
Kart Racing games have such an uphill battle every time we see an iteration arrive to our favourite gaming platforms. It is impossible to avoid drawing the inevitable comparisons to that famous Karting Game No.8. For that game there is just absolute universal appeal. With its rubber banding race mechanics, gentle learning curve, seamless control response and an all star cast of Nintendo greats. For Chocobo GP? Well it has an all-star cast but fails to replicate much of the magic.
Square Enix have cleverly launched Chocobo GP with a lite version. A demo like experience that allows players to participate in the 64 player Chocobo GP Tournament Mode as well as the prologue of the story mode (which is only 1 race and less than 5 minutes of story forming).
The Diet Coke of Gaming
It’s a smart way to allow players to demo the experience and decide if the full purchase is right for them. It also shows you a sneak peak of what life looks like if you stick with Chocobo GP. Save up your tickets and Gil and unlock Squall Leonhart as a drivable racer from my personal favourite Final Fantasy VIII. Save even more and unlock Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII. It’s very much a tease to encourage you to stick with the game and push on past this initial Lite option, and in some ways it feels like a business model built on, If the customer buys the full version we may be able to convince them to spend more money on in-app currency, purchases and character unlocks. It the customer sticks with the lite version, we’ll work even harder to convince them to part with their cash.
From the moments of launching the first Chocobo GP tournament race you’d be forgiven for thinking this may be the opening camera crawl for Mario Kart. It really does offer an uncanny familiarity to the aforementioned game. From text styling pre-race with an overly saturated and well executed colour palette to the panning camera shots of the course whilst loading. Right down to the fact that pressing down A with 2 seconds of the race countdown remaining gives you a speed boost. This level of emulation doesn’t stop there. Drifting is mapped to the shoulder buttons as you’d expect, dispatching your gathered special abilities is also mapped to the left shoulder button.
There are of course some differences of note, and not all of which have been executed particularly well. As a whole the courses are not particularly inventive or unique in their style or execution. They are bland and repetitive and rarely kindle anything more than a typical feeling of going through the motions of the race. Even stumbling across a Course set in Alexandria (the setting of Final Fantasy) didn’t provide enough unique style or innovation to the experience and this was a bit of a shame.
An Innovative Story
A saving grace for Chocobo GP however was the story mode. Working through 8 joyful chapters of JRPG like storytelling caught me by surprise. It truly felt like I was able to escape into a Final Fantasy like world of art, with superb character development and voice work which really enhanced the experience. It was absolutely the highlight of the game, and these 3 hours were a great way to introduce and unlock new racers and the story progressed.
A Steep Curve
The aforementioned rubber banding feels almost non-existent at times in Chocobo GP. The learning curve is a little sharp at times, and this often feels like a racer more rewarding of luck than skill. At times, its absolutely punishing and you can be struck from 1st to 8th place in the blink of a Magicite shockwave. Alas, there are no no zooming bullets in sight to assist your recovery.
All in all, Chocobo GP is a solid kart racing experience, incorporating a world I know and love and characters I love to experience behind the wheel. The experience is somewhat marred by a lack of originality and the over the top draw to In-app purchasing. For me it just taints an otherwise enjoyably fun experience that is great shared with the whole family.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
You can purchase Chocobo GP in the eShop here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.