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As I drift around the final corner, gunning for the finish line and leaving the other chibi racers in my wake, I realise I’m struggling to define my time with Chocobo GP. On the one hand, it’s a cute kart racer that celebrates the Final Fantasy franchise. On the other hand, it’s contending in the same arena that the Mario Kart series has dominated for as long as history can remember.
The argument here isn’t whether or not Chocobo GP can compete with something of MK’s status, because nothing can. The question is will Final Fantasy fans enjoy this title enough to break away from other, more established party racing games?
See the trailer for Chocobo GP here:
First and foremost, Chocobo GP is fun to play. The controls and mechanics are easy to click with. The levels, vehicles and characters are a joy to behold. There are a variety of game types available, from Story Mode to the titular ‘Chocobo GP’ online tournament, where you take on 63 fellow racers and have to finish in the top four to qualify for the next round. Sadly I wasn’t able to test any online or local multiplayer options during the review phase, so I can’t comment on them, but they apparently exist according to the menu screens.
So, it’s as a single-player experience that I’ll be measuring Chocobo GP, so it feels wrong to slap a score on it as so much of the kart racing genre is based on playing with other people. That being said, the game’s Story Mode made me smile and frown in equal measure.
The cutesy aesthetic is delightful, presenting a world of colours so bright you almost want to take a bite out of the screen. This child-friendly imagery somewhat clashes with the heavy guitar rock that plays during the opening title sequence, but matches the game’s bubblegum pop menu theme perfectly.
Starting up Story Mode, you’ll find the saccharine visual style is matched by the cartoonish cutscenes and simplistic gameplay objectives. Characters all talk in a manner befitting kids’ TV shows, and many races see you trying to finish higher than a specific character instead of having to come first.
Whether you play on the Beginner or Master difficulty settings, the game’s objectives and rewards remain the same. It’s worth noting that the Beginner option didn’t make the races a formality. One level in particular took me over eight tries due to some outrageous AI weapon placement. It was a ‘laugh or get angry’ situation, and I wasn’t in a laughing mood.
Speaking of weapons, there are a handful of different items to use while racing. Some boost speed or teleport you across the map, while others serve as shields or projectiles. The teleportation portals that help you are blue, so stay away from the red ones that push you back (I found that out the hard way).
In addition, each character has their own signature ability. Working similarly to items, these powers are charged up by gaining Magicite, a collectible currency spread out around the tracks.
As for the characters, fans of the franchise will recognise the names of Chocobo GP. Recurring characters like Cid, Irma and Ifrit make up the cast, with customisable options to change up their looks. In addition, there are plenty of karts to unlock. There’s also another in-game currency you earn while playing that’s required to unlock tracks, characters and more.
Before you buy, be aware that Chocobo GP is available in two forms. In addition to the paid option, there’s the free-to-play Lite version. This “deluxe demo”, as Square Enix describes it, offers the 64-player online mode, local multiplayer and the story’s prologue. Any progress in Lite can be carried over if you buy the full version.
It’s hard to see Chocobo GP as more than a sweet, simple racing game. From my limited experience, it’s easy to label it as shallow and uninspired, but that doesn’t seem fair given that I was unable to test the 64-player online mode, or any multiplayer options for that matter.
However, as a Final Fantasy fan, I appreciate this instalment in the franchise as a cute, pleasant aside to the usual JRPG formula. It may not be groundbreaking, but it has its moments and is well worth a try considering it has a free version.
Pros: Cute aesthetic, variety of unlockables, free version available
Cons: Single-player modes feel shallow, frustrating at times, maybe too childish
For fans of: Final Fantasy, Mario Kart, party games
Chocobo GP was tested on Nintendo Switch with code provided by the publisher. The game releases on March 10, 2022. Find a guide to GAMINGbible’s review scores here.
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