Otaku News Special: Chocobo Tales Review
Date: 2007 June 29th Friday [17:42] | Posted By: Azure
Hot on the heels of my Spectrobes review (well not so hot but work with me here) comes this review of another DS title, this time by Square Enix. The charming mini game RPG Chocobo Tales. Which stars Final Fantasy's bird mascots.
Chocobo Tales has to open with one of the most adorable opening sequences ever. Chocobos parade across the screen in a squiggly hand drawn style, setting the atmosphere nicely. This is a Final Fantasy title literally drowning in cute.
The game sees you playing as a young yellow Chocobo, who lives with the white mage Shirma and the black mage Croma on a Chocobo farm. The story starts with Croma returning from a long journey with a strange magical book, he unwisely opens it and releases the evil Darkmaster Bebuzzu who was sealed within. He promptly escapes sealing all the Chocobo into magical cards, luckily a bunch of magical books have been left scattered about which might just help set them free. It's up to the play as the main character ( an unnamed yellow Chocobo) to wander around the island the game is set on looking for a way to rescue his friends.
The game is set around finding and progressing through these books which contain mini-games relating to series of Final Fantasy themed fairy stories for example "The boy who cried Leviathon". Once opened each book displays the prologue which sets up the scenario, then by completing different criteria in each game various bonuses including new story endings can be unlocked. The story ending effect the game world, allowing the player to progress or unlock secret cards or even simpler micro games.
The mini-games are surprisingly well executed, for example the first game "Race to the Top" involves making the turtle like adamantine race around a wiggly track, by steering him with the stylus. Taking the stylus off the screen makes him duck into his shell, which is handy for avoiding obstacles. For such a simple mini game it is horribly addictive, so that short sessions can span hours you're not too careful. Whilst some of the mini games are easy to pick up, others require that some time is spent to acquire skill such as "underwater Escapades" which involves rubbing the stylus up and down furiously to make a Chocobo swim up and avoid a Leviathon. Lifting the stylus makes the Chocobo sink so that you can avoid obstacles, getting the timing right is sticky and more then a little frustrating.
The micro games can be fun especially the retro based Cid games, but they aren't as well worked out as the mini games. Many don't even have an excit option, frustrating for a portable game.
Another major aspect of the game is collecting cards, which are used for the game's battle system which comprises of card duels. Each card has four zones on each side which can either be attack, defence or blank. Both sides choose a card, the one who is fastest goes first. Then the zones are matched, if your card has a sword where the enemy has a blank you attack (or do half damage if they have a sword). The cards are also elementally themed, and once used add a crystal to your gauge of the same element which can be used to unleash special abilities from the cards. It's a fairly simple system, almost like Top Trumps but it works amazingly well. It becomes important to try and play through as many of the objectives in the books as possible in order to unlock rare cards.
Chocobo tales also allows you to battle other players online. Whilst match ups can take ages to find a partner, the system overall works pretty well. I noticed no slow down at all. Another nice touch is the inclusion is the ranking system which allows you to check how your skills compare with other players. If you have friends with the game you can also exchange friend codes and compete direct.
The menu system is also really clear, and allows you to jump right into a mini game from the start if you don't want to delve straight into the full game. Thankfully it also allows you to save anywhere, a blessing in a DS game. Chocobo Tales also includes two save spots which means that you can let family or friends play or compete online without running your rank.
For what is essentially Final Fantasy for kids there is actually quite a deep story running through the game. Whilst the Bebuzzu story may be clichéd, playing through all the game targets allow you to explore a few areas off the beaten track which explain more about some of the villain's motives. Chocobo Tales also opts for humorous self referential dialogue, and it's no bad thing keeping the tone light.
Chocobo Tales is a surprisingly engrossing game. The mini-games are top notch, tied together with a surprisingly solid story. The cynical might say this is Sqare Enix trying to grab fans while they are young and they are probably right, but at least they did a great job of it.