REVIEW

REVIEW

Chocobo GP

March 17, 2022

GOOD

  • Nice handling
  • Charming voice acting & writing
  • Some cool power-ups

BAD

  • Earworm music
  • Atrocious microtransaction system
  • Button configuration

BAD/POOR

BAD/POOR

AN INTERESTING AND OFTEN QUITE UNQUE ALTERNATIVE TO MARIO KART WHICH GETS A LOT RIGHT (ESPECIALLY IF YOU’RE A FINAL FANTASY FAN), BUT DUE TO INTRUSIVE & QUITE PREDATORY MICROTANSACTIONS SIMPLY CANNOT BE RECOMMENDED 

As a crisp and fun looking kart racer and a spinoff of the hugely popular Final Fantasy (FF) series – I’m assuming there is will be at least two groups of players interested in Chocobo GP – fans of the genre and fans of the franchise. And after spending a substantial amount of time with the game I’m happy to report there’s definitely something for both groups to enjoy here. Unexpected voice acting, some clever writing with nods to the previous games are sure to please the FF crowd. And decent racing, a variety of modes and a few standout features will definitely offer karting fans something (a little) different to the traditional Mario Kart experience. Unfortunately, the inclusion of a microtransaction system (usually seen in the worst that mobile gaming has to offer) leaves more than a bad taste in the mouth and simply cannot be ignored for a game that costs R929.00.

The racing

Of the two groups described above, I definitely fall into the karting fan category. I was excited to try something new – especially from a big team like Square Enix. Despite a simply stupid opening tutorial that infuriatingly restarts from the beginning every time you fail to do the thing it wants you to learn to do (while explaining it really badly), the basic driving mechanics of Chocobo GP are pretty straightforward – especially if you’ve played something like Mario Kart. Basic braking and accelerating (including the boost you get from starting to accelerate as 3-2-1 appears on screen) is very Mario Kart. The drifting system is similar too with the R-button initiating a drift. Holding a drift allows you to boost out of it and the longer you drift – the bigger the boost. It all feels familiar and once you get the hang of it quite quick and smooth. There are only two basic difficulty modes starting off though – and the easier mode has shorter tracks. I actually found these tracks too abrupt, and if you happened to find yourself at the back of the racing pack – the quick nature of the race meant there was little opportunity to get back near the front. This is a little better on the longer versions of each track (several of which are clearly ‘inspired’ by Mario Kart) – but I still felt that the randomness of the powerup system just didn’t hit the right balance with all items available to all players/positions it’s pretty easy to get continually pummeled even when in last place.

Balancing whether to use powerups immediately – or charging them up for a stronger effect later – brings a level of strategy that I quite enjoyed.

In terms of the powerup system – there’s actually quite an interesting departure from the Mario kart system. Similarly, there are boxes to hit on the track (called Magicite eggs). However, rather than being completely random (or based on your racing position), different coloured eggs included different power-ups – and you’re able to use a power instantly or save it hit the same coloured egg and have your powerup increase in effectiveness. So for example, obtaining a fire magicite ability allows you to throw a fireball directly in front of you. Keeping it, though, and hitting a second fire magicite egg, gives the fireball homing capabilities. And a third will actually send the fire to the front of the pack and hit right across the track. It takes a bit of time to get used to it – but balancing whether to use powerups immediately – or charging them up for a stronger effect later – brings a level of strategy that I quite enjoyed. In general, the powerups themselves are a bit hit and miss and many feel very much similar to what we’ve seen before, However, the one I absolutely loved was the warping ability. This creates a blue portal that when entered shoots you further ahead allowing you to exit via the red portal – often right at the front of the pack. The trick is the portal may throw you out right before a turn and both eh entrance and exit portal remain open for a few seconds after you use them. This means not only can you use blue portals created by others to get ahead, but if you happen to inadvertently enter a red portal – you’ll actually be sent backwards. It’s fun and chaotic in the best way.

Also, unlike Mario Kart – each character also has their own unique ability which is can be used by collecting their version of coins. Once charged you can unleash the ability which ranges from an extended speed boost for some characters to actually defensive and offensive abilities for others. It again adds another layer of complexity that really does take a while to master – but also makes it feel rather different from other kart racers I’ve tried.

The writing

Another way Chocobo Gp stand out is in the variety of modes on offer. There is an online mode where you can compete against 64 other players in an 8-kart-per-round knockout format that felt pretty stable and was really enjoyable. There is also a variety of multiplayer and single-player options – including a Mario-cup-like 4-race series, and even a design-it-yourself customisable option where you can decide how tough to make the CPU players, whether you want to include magicite power-ups and so forth. It’s great to have all these options. However, the standout (especially for FF fans) will be the story mode.

There are some fun references to previous games and the writing was often quite funny and quirky with full voice acting in the story mode.

The story mode is nothing too deep y but you’re tasked with completing races in order to qualify for a big final race in which the winner will walk away with one wish being granted. This kind of broad outline allows the game not only to introduce (or re-introduce) you to a variety of characters but also serves as a good way to show off the game’s mechanics. What really makes it stand out – is all the characters have pretty decent voice acting and while I’m not a big FF fan – it’s clear that there were some fun references to previous games and the writing was often quite funny, quirky and intended for a slightly older audience than the one Mario Kart may aim for.

On the music side of things, fans will likely hear several familiar tunes. However, the song that plays constantly over the title screen is very anime and definitely an earworm. This is not necessarily a bad thing for everyone, however, after hearing it again and again while playing – I now also hear it in my sleep and don’t think I will ever get that repetitive saccharine melody out of my head.

The rest

Sadly, despite some generally positive views about Chocobo GP I still felt like it was nowhere near as fun and addictive to play as Mario Kart or even Crash Team Racing. And that, unfortunately, is not its worst feature. As you’ve probably noted from several rather damning social media posts – the most negative aspect of this game is the aggressive monetisation tactics it employs. To be honest, much of these options are for aesthetic alternatives (like changing the colour of your vehicle or what background you display) and as such, they are not of much interest to me personally. Also, because I don’t have that personal connection to FF – even the characters that were locked behind hours and hours of grinding or spending money didn’t have that much appeal – especially after I had unlocked what I felt was a reasonable roster just by playing through the story. However, that’s really not the point.

Visiting the store and seeing that there is not one, not two but three different in-game currency options not only seems unnecessarily complicated but it feels icky at best and exploitative at worst.

For some players (especially younger ones) this may become a real issue. And worst of all this is a game that is sold for full-price – and then still expects this kind of further financial support. And personally visiting the store and seeing that there is not one, not two but three different in-game currency options not only seems unnecessarily complicated but it feels icky at best and exploitative at worst. Square Enix has already responded to some of the fan outcry and changed some of the targets and grind required (and you can read about that here), Unfortunately, even after some of the early adjustments – it still feels overused and badly handled. And I for one really hope for a complete overhaul of the systems – before I’d feel comfortable recommending it.

 

March 17, 2022

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