(Pocket-lint) - Chocobo GP is a long-overdue follow-up to the often-overlooked PlayStation classic Chocobo Racing. In fact, it's been 23 years since that came out, so you'd be forgiven for not remembering it. This time, however, Chocobo arrives on Nintendo Switch with more than a few similarities with the top-dog of the karting world, Mario Kart.
To be clear: the gameplay experience of Chocobo GP is largely a mirror of Mario Kart, but that's no bad thing. All the fun and frustration is present and correct, but rather than playing as the plumber and his compatriots, you play as characters, creatures and summons from the Final Fantasy series.
While the colourful graphics and cute characters may make Chocobo GP look like a game for the kids, there's plenty of challenge for even the most seasoned gamer. Races are chaotic and unpredictable and the tracks are filled with their own curveballs to keep you on your toes (or talons, or whatever it may be).
While it may not have the refinement of a certain Nintendo-exclusive karting juggernaut, Chocobo GP has plenty to sink your teeth into. It's a thoroughly enjoyable and chaotic racer that will keep you entertained for hours as you frustrate your friends with a plethora of unique and creative power-ups.
However, we think the asking price is on the steep side, especially with so few tracks to race on. And maybe it's an unfair comparison, as Mario Kart has such a history to draw from, but when compared with the similarly priced Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, there's just nowhere near the amount of content - and that makes Chocobo GP feel like poor value for money.
However, for die-hard Final Fantasy fans, it's a no-brainer purchase. You'll love seeing all your favourite characters in a wacky and playful setting as well as revisiting some iconic locations from the franchise. So if you're just looking for another kart-racer to fill the void until Mario Kart 9 comes along, this one's a lot of fun, but you might want to wait for a sale before diving in.
Chocobo GP Review: Chaotic Final Fantasy karting
- Great fun and sufficiently challenging
- Addictive gameplay
- Loads of familiar faces from the Final Fantasy franchise
- Diverse power-ups
- Irritating menu music
- Not enough tracks to play
- The story is rather thin
- Obvious competition from Mario Kart
Magicite fuelled mayhem
Upon first launching the game, the menu system highlights 'Chocobo GP' mode by default, which is the game's online multiplayer mode. A puzzling decision, as to begin with you'll only have Chocobo unlocked as a playable character.
The Story mode is where you'll actually want to start - as not only will it introduce you to all of the mechanics of the game, but you'll unlock the sprawling cast of characters, as well as learn their individual skills and quirks.
When it comes to the racing, it's a standard karting affair with power-ups dotted around the course and an array of traps to catch you out as you speed along. The power-ups are varied and creative, with some also presenting advantages to other players if you're not careful.
One power-up we found particularly interesting opens up a portal to teleport you forward in the course. It can be super useful, allowing you to skip particularly challenging sections of the course, but the twist is that the portals remain open for a time, either sending other players backwards along the course or giving them the same advantage as you depending on which one they drive into.
Certain abilities can be stacked, too, if you hit the right power-ups in a certain order, giving them an even more powerful effect. It makes for some especially chaotic racing, where you never know what's going to happen around the next corner.
On the other hand, at times, the power-ups can feel a touch imbalanced. When you're in the lead, you are still able to pick up the same speed boosts to make your lead even larger, which is something that doesn't happen so much in Mario Kart, and can be very frustrating when you're on the wrong side of it.
The core mechanics are all very familiar and, as with most karting games, Chocobo GP relies heavily on drifting to gain speed boosts. For the most part, this works well, but occasionally you will hit a track with a long straight and find yourself astonished at how slow you move without the boosts on your side.
Staying on track
The tracks are well designed, visually appealing and filled with easter eggs to keep eagle-eyed fans happy. We just wish there were more tracks to play. There are nine areas in total and each one features at least a long and short variant of the track, but there's not a whole lot of variation other than the length.
Compare this to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which has 48 tracks as well as track DLC on the way, it's easy to see Chocobo GP's limited assortment likely to get stale quite quickly. There also doesn't seem to be as much depth to tracks when it comes to shortcuts and hidden aspects, though it's possible we just haven't found them yet.
The Story Mode is on the thin side and took us less than three hours to complete. Even though that's not the main draw for karting games, it would have been nice to have a little more substance. We're sure Final Fantasy devotees will love seeing their favourites acting out a nonsensical Wacky Races-style plot, but for everyone else, it's mainly the nonsense that shines through.
Outside of the Story Mode, you have access to online and local multiplayer, time trials, series races and custom races. This is where players will be spending most of their time and, thankfully, the replayability is where Chocobo GP shines. It's a great casual game to play with friends either online or on the couch and the unpredictable nature of the gameplay is sure to stir up some rivalries.
Meet the gang
Chocobo GP does a great job including a wide variety of cutified characters from across the series' lengthy back-catalogue. There's a particular focus on creatures and summons, which appear across the franchise, rather than protagonists of specific games.
However, those wishing for a Cloud vs Squall showdown are in luck, as the characters will be added as part of the game's first season - it'll cost you a season pass subscription though.
The art style is great and there's a nice variety of creative vehicles that they race in. We particularly liked Clair's tree hammock three-wheeler and Vivi's whimsical dodgem.
There's customisation aplenty, too, should you wish to change up the colours or apply stickers to your ride. Most of the customisation options require unlocking via the in-game shop where they can either be purchased with Tickets, that you win by racing, or with Mythril, which you purchase on the eShop.
The in-game purchase factor isn't something we're excited to see in a title such as this, but we're relieved that the majority of unlocks appear to be achievable without spending your hard-earned coin.
A fun karting experience that Mario Kart fans will no doubt enjoy, especially those invested in the Final Fantasy franchise. However, the price is a big ask due to the lack of track variety. That said there's a tonne of replayability as the alluring challenge of chaotic races will keep you coming back for more.
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