Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales
Iím not really sure what age group Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales is aiming for. On one hand, the game is absolutely adorable. Cutesy characters populate the land, such as one particularly obese chocobo (think of them as the ostriches of the Final Fantasy world, except they donít look like freaks of nature and theyíre badass). On the other side, the game is chockfull of references to past Final Fantasy games that only the oldest veterans of the series will understand. Itís a strange idea to mix these classic allusions, nauseatingly sweet characters, hordes of mini-games and some card battling all in one game, yet the results arenít necessarily disappointing.
The tale opens with a generic, yet adorable, chocobo just having a good time on an island populated by his chocobo pals, a good hearted black mage and a kind white mage. If youíre still uncertain of what a chocobo is and what exactly are black mages and white mages, then you wonít enjoy this game as much as Final Fantasy fans that can pick up all the references. Cid, the famous summon spells, four magical crystals and a handful of excellent remixed tunes from past games are all enough satisfy the nerdiest fan, though casual gamers might wonder what the hell is going on with some of the happenings.
“The whole book thing is incorporated well into the mini-games, which are competitive affairs similar to Mario Party“To make a simplistic story even simpler, the chocoboís friends, aside from the mages, are captured by some the evil force Bebuzzu and his cronies. Only the brave little chocobo can rescue his friends by exploring the island and playing different mini-games in the form of storybooks. Things are appropriately goofy, although I wasnít sure if the game was going for satire of the Final Fantasy series or a serious attempt at cutesy storytelling. Either way, the story does a great job of stringing together what is essentially a series of mini-games in an interesting manner.
The mini-games being inside storybooks arenít simply a lame way of accessing them. The whole book thing is incorporated well into the mini-games, which are competitive affairs similar to Mario Party. Completing certain goals and the five challenge levels rescues the chocoboís friends, awards a card for battling (more on this later) or unlocks an epilogue to the storybook. Each new story opens with a fable which is usually borrowed from some other story, like the boy who cried wolf or the three little pigs. The new epilogues not only provide amusing ends to the stories, but it causes something to happen outside of the storybook, such as unlocking new areas and games to play.
“The pop-up book visuals of the games are stunning”There are 16 different mini-games, although they suffer from the same fate as most mini-game compilations in that they are too inconsistent in quality. For example, one game titled Leapiní on Leaves has the chocobo racing up a beanstalk by using the stylus to draw straight lines that rocket him upwards. With three other opponents and a variety of traps, this is a frantically exciting way to spend a few minutes. Then there are games like Find That Fiery Chocobo, where the chocobo is racing against others to look for a certain kind of bird on a crowded screen. This is fine for the solo practice section, but it does not lend itself to competition. It was like a Whereís Waldo book, only not nearly as interesting. These are only two of the mini-games, and from a rough calculation, Iíd guess that about 25 percent of the games are poor, while most of the others are at least adequate. Only a couple of them are fantastic.
Despite the inconsistent mini-games, the storybook angle is utilized even more effectively by the impressive graphics. Although the world outside of the storybook mini-games looks sharp enough, the pop-up book visuals of the games are stunning. Rendering the majority of these sections with Paper Mario-esque visuals was a move that could have failed, yet the final result works well and makes sense in the context of this book-oriented game.
“Collecting cards and beefing up the deck is pretty addictive, although the only problem is that some of the battles drag on far too long at times.”In addition to the 16 different mini-games, there are more than 20 so-called ďmicrogames.Ē These games are brief and incredibly basic, such as clicking on moving targets or blowing into the microphone to shoot darts at balloons, but they prove to be great distractions in-between the mini-games. A silver and gold score is given for each game, and beating the scores unlocks new items. Getting the gold is usually difficult, but this is all totally optional, much like fully completing most of the mini-games. Since itís not required to master these short games, itís easy to enjoy them for a few minutes at a time without getting frustrated.
The cards that are won from completing the microgames and the challenges from the mini-games are put to use in the card battles, which occur a couple times during each of the six chapters. The turn-based fights, called pop-up duels, has the fighters draw three cards from a customizable deck of 15, and then one card is placed down each round. Each of the creatures has their own weaknesses and strengths against certain elements, so itís almost like an enhanced game of rock paper scissors. Like that playground game, luck has a lot to do with the outcome of the battle. Still, they are never too difficult, and even though I didnít bother collected all 122 cards, I never lost a duel despite coming close several times. Collecting cards and beefing up the deck is pretty addictive, although the only problem is that some of the battles drag on far too long at times.
Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales is a mash-up of a variety of different ideas, and although none of them are executed perfectly, the game still manages to be quite entertaining. With a single-player game that lasts around ten hours on a speedy walkthrough and with multiplayer card battles and mini-games, itís easy to spend a chunk of time on this adorable and schizophrenic game. Obviously, fans of the Final Fantasy series might find themselves much easily hooked than non-believers, so consider that one of the deciding factors of this title.
Seven out of ten
- Sharp graphics
- Plenty of references for Final Fantasy fans
- A unique blend of gameplay elements
- Some mini-games are lackluster
- Subtract a point or two if you donít care for Final Fantasy
- Gratingly cute