Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon Every Buddy! (Switch eShop) Review
Anyone who knows me well is most likely aware that I love Chocobos. The weird, gigantic, chicken-like creatures from the Final Fantasy series have captivated me for close to two decades. It’s part of the reason I’ve stuck with the series for as long as I have — if there’s a Chocobo in a game, you better believe I’m going to play it. I even played Assassin’s Creed Origins specifically to get my hands on the monstrosity of a camel/Chocobo hybrid featured in its crossover DLC. Needless to say, when Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon was announced to be getting an HD remaster on Switch, I was overjoyed — and it probably won’t come as a surprise that, when I finally got my hands on the game, I was pleasantly surprised by how ridiculously fun it was. It’s far from perfect, and it suffers from some serious pacing issues, but for everything it gets wrong, it gets a dozen more things right.
For those unfamiliar with the game, let me lay a foundation of what Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon is. Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon is an RPG dungeon-crawler, and part of a subgenre called, well, Mystery Dungeon. Mystery Dungeon games are a mashup of a few other genres — part RPG, part dungeon crawler, part roguelike — and while the genre is pretty niche in the West, a few bigger titles have made waves outside of Japan, most notably the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series. Mystery Dungeon games see the player crawling through randomly generated dungeons, usually on a grid, where the monsters move and attack only when the player does. If you make an action, like taking a step or activating an ability, so does every monster on the current floor of the dungeon.
Chocbo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy! takes the foundation of the original game, Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon, and adds a little bit of flair from other games like Pokemon Mystery Dungeon. The star feature of the remaster is the new Buddy system, it’s even in the name. As you crawl through dungeons and defeat monsters, you’ll earn buddy points from each monster you defeat. Rack up enough points, and you’ll unlock that monster to bring with you on your adventures. You can even bank up points on smaller monsters to make unlocking their stronger counterparts easier — every buddy point you earn defeating Goblins after you’ve unlocked them will count towards unlocking Goblin Kings later in the game. Once you come across a Goblin King, all you have to do is defeat it once, and as long as you’ve accrued enough points in the Goblin family of creatures, you’ll unlock it straight away. It’s a surprisingly elegant system, and it makes grinding out buddies a relatively painless affair.
And you probably will be grinding a bit, the difficulty curve in Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon is not particularly friendly. While I imagine it’s technically possible to run through the game without grinding out buddies, equipment, classes, and levels, there’s a pretty significant spike in difficulty about halfway through the game that would make it remarkably difficult to progress naturally. Unfortunately, that means you’re going to be replaying a lot of dungeons, facing a lot of the same enemies, and it gets very repetitive. Randomising the dungeon each time you run through it helps break up the monotony somewhat, but it’s still just more of the same. Of course, that’s not a problem if you’re enjoying every aspect of the game, but if there’s even one mechanic that’s grating to you, it might get very tiring.
Once you’re in the dungeon with your buddy, they’ll trail behind you, move on every action like you, and attack nearby monsters for you. Each one also has a special ability you can use in combat, and these abilities can range from a simple attack, to halving an enemy’s HP, to even healing you. In addition to monsters earned through the buddy points system, you can unlock special buddies, usually humans with extraordinary abilities, by completing optional challenge dungeons that unlock as you progress through the game. There are a lot of interesting buddies, and each one is useful in certain situations, so there’s plenty of room to experiment and find the buddy that’s best for your play style.
That’s not to say that your buddies will do all the heavy lifting, however. The player character, a Chocobo called Chocobo, also has their own class, in a system that’s not dissimilar to the job system in previous Final Fantasy games. Each class has its own set of abilities, as well as its own stats, strengths, and weaknesses. A Knight Chocobo has abilities and stats better suited for physical attacking, with a high attack and defence stat, while magic defence is lacking. A Black Mage Chocobo, on the other hand, has terrible attack and defence stats, but a high magic stat and a wide range of elemental abilities. You’ll unlock more of these classes as you progress through the game, but a lot of them are… underwhelming. Many are far too situational to be of any use for more than a couple of floors, and the rest are just better versions of earlier jobs. That’s not to say they don’t each have their uses, but it’s not worth investing much time into the Knight class once you’ve unlocked the Dragoon class.
Story-wise, Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon falls fairly flat, too. Chocobo and his adventuring buddy Cid are exploring a dungeon when they fall into a portal and find themselves in the town of Lostime. Lostime is a town that’s er, lost to time, as the name might suggest, where the citizens are cursed with losing their memories every time the clocktower bell tolls. A comet falls from the sky, revealed to be an egg containing a very fast-growing infant named Rafaello, and Chocobo, Cid, and a host of weird and wacky townsfolk are given the task of investigating the mysteries of the town. It’s not much of a story, and it only really serves to give a reason to explore dungeons, so you shouldn’t really expect a Final Fantasy-level narrative here. But even if it’s predictable, it gets the job done, and it’s filled with adorable little Chocobo moments, so it’s hard to really fault it for being a little more understated.
There’s not much to write home about visually either, with much of the visuals being nothing more than upscaled versions of the games Wii counterpart. It doesn’t look bad by any stretch of the imagination, but the non-character textures are a bit muddy, the animations aren’t very smooth, and everything very much looks and feels like a game from the Wii era. Again, that’s not a bad thing! Wii games generally didn’t look all that bad, on reflection. But it very much wears its age on its sleeve every step of the way. On the upside, however, the music is absolutely wonderful, even if it gets a little bit repetitive along the way.
Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every BUDDY! Is a bit of an interesting spectacle. It’s a remaster that nobody asked for, in a series that’s largely been forgotten, in a genre that doesn’t really get much attention. In a way, it’s almost worth playing for that spectacle alone. But spectacle aside, there’s a lot to love, and the game is filled with charm and adorable, fictional bird moments. Sure, it gets a little repetitive, and the difficulty curve is steep, but it’s got a solid foundation, and if you can push through the grindier elements, there’s a lot of fun to be had.
+ Adorable as heck
+ Buddy system is great
+ Incredible music
- Gigantic difficulty spike
- Middling story