Chocobo GP Review
It took over two decades for a successor to Final Fantasy-themed Kart racer Chocobo Racing to be summoned on the Switch. Chocobo GP isn’t some remake or remaster. It’s a proper follow-up, with over twenty years worth of Final Fantasy to draw from.
If you’ve played any Kart racing game, you’ll know what to expect here. Three-lap races with item boxes (called magic eggs here), where you can unleash attacks and other advantages over the opposition in the form of Magicite. With a combination of drifting around bends and using every bit of Magicite, you can get your hands on; you’ll have to fight to finish first place. There are several modes to start within Chocobo GP, although two have effectively been unavailable and won’t be up until the game’s launch. Let’s start with Story Mode; as it turns out, this mode is vital because you need to unlock the racers and tracks here first.
Racing Hero X, the mysterious Moogle challenges Chocobo and friends to a racing competition where the winner will get their wish granted. This starts an adventure, as Chocobo and co-race their way against several Final Fantasy/Chocobo series characters. The story is really tongue in cheek, poking fun at Final Fantasy history with some 4th wall-breaking for good measure. It’s purposely silly, and there’s one running gag that always got a chuckle; they really commit to the bit.
Then there’s the racing. If you want to unlock the tracks or characters, you must engage with the Story mode. If you want access to different vehicle types, you’ll need to complete it. Hell, if you want to unlock a third of the characters, you will have to grind races to earn tickets to purchase them. The problem is that playing the Story mode is the most unpleasant racing game (kart or otherwise) experience I’ve had in a very long time.
The racing itself is alright, drifting doesn’t feel as smooth as Mario Kart, but it’s not as annoying as Crash Team Racing. There are a few different types of Magicite, with some interesting abilities. For example, Swap creates two portals, warping you forward to the one further down the track. Not only can you take advantage of someone else’s portal and get the same boost, but racers can get caught up in the second portal and get sent backwards.
Chocobo GP also has special abilities for each racer, once you’ve built up your meter, you can let loose! For Chocobo, it’s giving you a boost and creating boost rings behind you that others can benefit from.
It’s hard to not compare this game to Mario Kart. There’s a reason why it’s so popular, but when your items feel even more unbalanced than Mario Kart, you know something has gone wrong. It’s not helped by things like the Magical Barrier Magicite blocking other Magicite attacks but does nothing against special abilities. With eight racers, the special abilities are popping off more often than you might expect. Why have a shield that will only stop half of the attacks?
There is a beginner mode and a master difficulty setting, making clear you will still have access to the same rewards for playing either. The main difference between the modes is that Beginner is a slower speed, while Master is considered ‘normal speed’. For a Beginner setting, you would expect that the CPU might be a bit more lenient.
There’s a variety of Final Fantasy locations from across the series, notably Zozo, Alexandria, Big Bridge and the Gold Saucer. In the Story, they act as locations on the way to the big race, sometimes having you race different versions of tracks in the same locations. Some locations have just one track, some have a few, but only one location has two distinctly different variations from memory.
Because the number of tracks is bumped up through the different variations on the same location, no one track ever becomes memorable outside of the frustration you felt towards it during Story mode. Mario Kart is top tier Kart racing; it’s a high bar to meet. Although that’s not to say every Kart racing game can’t be their own thing, there is already Chocobo Racing from the PS1 days.
While it’s not obvious from the difficulty settings, Beginner and Master are the two different speed options. There’s also the speed stats of each racer too, although when you get knocked about and brought to a halt frequently, it doesn’t feel like the racers are that fast. Drifting and getting boosts from them is inconsistent, and that’s assuming you have the space to drift with some very crowded and busy tracks.
You unlock alternate versions of your vehicle with different stats, but you need to finish the Story mode before you can even purchase them with your tickets. Even then, only some can be purchased in the shop, and the rest need to be unlocked in the Extra Mode so you can purchase them in the shop. Chocobo GP really wants you to grind for tickets, and this is even before discussing the other two currencies.
Not far into the story, the magical and special attacks come flying thick and fast, and they will stop you in your tracks. Very few of the items give you an opportunity to regain your position, and even then, there are so many attacks flying around it’s a bit of a mess. It’s hardly new for the CPU to not play fair in a Kart racer. In Chocobo GP, it feels like the penalty for everything is too high. One hit in the first place from a weak attack often turns into a series of different attacks as every racer speeds past you and catches you in their torrent of magic and special attacks. And every now and then, the CPU will give you a break, to the point I had to check there were other racers in that round. The real shame is there rarely feels like there’s a happy medium where there’s a challenge but doesn’t kill the flow of the race.
The Y button for special character attacks is a placement that defies logic. The default accelerate button is A, and then you have to try and hit the Y. There are other control options, but there’s no reason whatsoever to have that awkward placement be the default. There are two different options, and neither of them does much for the awkward placement of the special attack button.
It’s been popular for Fortnite and every other game that can get away with it, and Chocobo GP also has its own seasons. This of course means there’s a ‘season pass’ or a ‘prize pass’ to grind out for more Gil and season-limited racers. The game hasn’t given out any Gil yet, although it will hand over tickets used for unlocking extra racers, kart types, colours and stickers.
Due to the game not being released yet, we’re unable to see how reasonable/unreasonable the pricing is for their purchasable microtransactions; Mythril. At this stage, when you try to get a breakdown of what Mythril does the game drops on you that it expires 5 months after purchase. Now it was gross when Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled sprung their microtransactions post-launch, but I can’t say I’ve seen an expiry date tacked on. I can only guess that it’s to keep players from hoarding their Mythril until there’s a racer they want, or just to make sure you keep spending. The problem is that the game just doesn’t have that kind of longevity, especially when you have Mario Kart forever sitting on the sales charts.
You may have seen that Cloud is playable. He is… if you’re willing to pay for him in Season One. For the game’s launch, players will get 800 Mythril, which can cover the Prize Pass for season one to get you on board. There’s also Gil to earn, although you couldn’t earn any pre-launch, or see what Gil or Mythril actually gets you.
The Chocobo GP mode is meant to be a big selling point, a 64 player tournament mode with only the best staying in the game. Now, this also wasn’t available to try out, so I can’t speak for how well it plays online. From everything reported about it so far, I would go as far to say it is a tournament mode but with more players. The top four players from each race move to the next round until you reach the final eight. The success of this mode will depend on how long you have to wait for it to pull together 64 players to join or how long it takes to work through that many races. Unfortunately, I can’t say anything on those finer details. The testing period was before we got our hands on the game.
Series Races serve as the ‘cups’ for the game, a series of four tracks to rank high enough to unlock the next cup. This would work better if there were enough tracks that you weren’t repeating the same tracks within the series right after it. There’s also the usual Time Attack, Custom Races and Multiplayer. With no real opportunity to test out the online, we will have to cross our fingers that the servers are working at launch.
For a game that wants to keep you playing month after month, you’ll have to push yourself to see the first season out. While there is an okay kart racer here, what’s currently available isn’t enough. How long will people put down real money for the opportunity to earn more racers and maybe tracks? Season passes can be super popular, but those games manage to make the grind to earning attractive.
I’ve spent a lot of time on what’s wrong with Chocobo GP, but there is a cute Chocobo/Final Fantasy game here. It looks nice, and the tracks have plenty going on, especially when you add in all of the Magicite going around. For every nod to the games within the massive franchise that I got, I’m sure there’s plenty I missed that fans will enjoy.
For all of my words and issues with the game, at least there is the Chocobo GP Lite version to play for free. I would recommend checking it out before putting down the real bucks on this game.
Chocobo GP is a playable Kart racer. I wish I could say it was an enjoyable one. The attacks/obstacles are too punishing; there aren’t enough tracks that scream to be played over and over, awkward controls and some yet-unpriced IAP and ‘Prize Passes’. The Story Mode offers some funny moments with plenty of FF winks and nods in the goofiest ways, but completing it is a frustrating experience. Try out Chocobo GP Lite before putting any cash down on this game.
- A cute story filled with Final Fantasy and Chocobo nods
- The game runs well (offline so far)
- Have to play through the Story mode to get to most of the characters and tracks
- CPU is either not present or completely relentless