LifeisXbox’s Chocobo GP review | The Nintendo Switch aims to keep its title as reigning platform for Kart Racing games with this latest Final Fantasy inspired one. It’s not a genre Square Enix is totally new to either, with Chocobo Racing on the original PlayStation that was well received as a cult classic.
The concept of Chocobo GP will surprise no one: it’s almost a carbon copy of what Mario Kart 8 does on the same platform, but with some Final Fantasy characters, tracks and music added into the mix to give that extra draw for fans of the series as well as suckers for nostalgia like myself. In this review, we’ll obviously look at the game for its own merits, but don’t be alarmed if we compare it to MK8 here and there: both games are very much alike!
Most Memorable Moment
There were a few memorable moments in Chocobo GP, but most of them boiled down to nostalgia or that great feeling of recognition when your brain realizes “I know this” and you instantly revisit long dormant parts of it that make you feel giddy like a kid on Christmas. Something that will ALWAYS succeed in just that, is hearing the Final Fantasy victory fanfare:
ℹ️ Reviewed on Nintendo Switch| Review code provided by Nintendo, this review is the personal opinion from the writer.
What we Liked!
- Familiar faces | The biggest draw to the game is by far the Final Fantasy branding behind it. You’ll get to play as characters you know from the main games in equally familiar rides. Take Terra, for example, as seen in the screenshot above, riding the famous Magitek Armor from Final Fantasy VI. Whenever you unlock a new character, you’ll instantly want to give it a try to get a feel for how they behave on the track and what their special ability brings to the table.
- Familiar Kart gameplay | This might feel like a downside to some, as it doesn’t do a lot to innovate the genre, but anyone who’s played a few rounds of Mario Kart will instantly grasp the controls of Chocobo GP. It has the same drifting through corners mechanic, as well as collecting various attack or defence items on the track to use to your advantage.
- Story Mode | It’s rare for Kart racers to include an actual campaign, and although it’s on the short side with only a few chapters, it’s still a nice addition. There are some childish attempts at humour that are sure to entertain a younger audience and for Final Fantasy fans, there is plenty to enjoy. It’s also a treat to hear some of these characters from older games fully voiced!
- Tracks full of little details | The tracks you’ll be racing on are full of tiny little winks & nudges from the main series and they look absolutely spectacular! Racing through Alexandria from Final Fantasy IX or seeing the almost-too-obvious use of Gold Saucer as this game’s version of Rainbow Road is like a shot of Dopamine to me.
- Lots of Special Attacks | There are a TON of different attacks to use and some of them are pretty clever. I never expected Portals to be used in a karting game, but this ended up being one of my favourite items to receive: launching you forward more effectively than a regular boost would if you go through a blue portal and with the added benefit of warping opponents backwards if they happen to drive into the red portal. You also have ice attacks freezing opponents in place, fireballs that chase them down or shields to protect you. The variation feels better than in most other games in the genre, and it’s also a nice touch that you can get a powered up version if you pick up multiple of the same attack item.
- Special Abilities | Each character has a special ability that you can use when a bar fills up after time or by picking up crystals on the track. Outside of the different stats for each character, this makes them feel unique and using such an ability at the right time can make the difference between winning and losing. Chocobo himself will just get a speed boost, but the majority of characters have an offensive attack that can wreck multiple opponents.
- Missing content | While I loved the tracks included here, it’s hard not to compare the meagre offer of only 9 tracks to the 48 you get in Mario Kart 8 (with more on the way soon through DLC!). Sure, Chocobo GP has some variations on each one, with a short and a long track + the option to play a mirrored version, but you’ll have seen most of what the game has to offer in a single weekend.
- The music | The main menu has an original sung soundtrack that was fun at first but quickly grew annoying. Final Fantasy has some of the best soundtracks in videogames and while some of them are here, I would have loved to hear even more variation than the 1 song per track we have currently. I did spot that you can buy some music, but more about that in the section of things we didn’t like later.
- No accessibility options | One of the things that made Mario Kart 8 so enjoyable to my 6-year-old daughter, is that I could tune the settings so the game helps her steer. Or how I could enable gyro-controls to help her navigate her kart down the track. (it’s more natural to kids to physically move the handheld Switch versus using the analog sticks). To me personally, it didn’t matter, but it does gatekeep the game from being played by younger kids or gamers with a disability.
- Unlogic button prompts | This is just a small nitpick, but Chocobo GP will always instruct you to use Y as the button for special abilities, which is not an easy button to use in a racing game where A is the one you constantly have to press to accelerate. You can alternatively use ZL, which is much more natural-feeling, but the game fails to confer this information.
What we Disliked
- Too many haymakers| There are too many powerful abilities in Chocobo GP and they can feel pretty unfair at times. I’ve often felt like my skill at the game only came second in importance to winning a race and that first and foremost, you’ll need to get lucky with the random abilities you’re given. Even worse is when the opponents are shooting off devastating attacks in rapid succession. You’ll quickly lose your first place and end up dead last if three of those hit you one after the other.
- Battle Pass focus | Chocobo GP is designed as a live service game where more characters and cosmetics can be earned by playing in the titular GP. You’ll need a Nintendo Switch Online subscription to be able to play it and if you don’t pony up some real-life cash, you’ll be missing out on some unique unlockable characters and other benefits. What’s worse: if you pay for the lower tier one, which will only give you extra rewards, there is no way to upgrade to the higher one mid-season, which jumps your level to 60 and instantly gives you this season’s special character (currently: Cloud from Final Fantasy VII)
- Slow progression | Outside the characters you unlock through the story, or pay for with Mythril, you’ll have to earn tickets and gold. There are missions in the Online GP that will give you gold and tickets can be earned anywhere, simply by picking up crystals on the tracks, but they’re not exactly generous with them and you’ll have to play several cups just to unlock a single character.
- No Restart option | Weirdly, Chocobo GP doesn’t offer the option to restart a race, not even in any of the single player content. You’ll have to quit to the main menu and reselect your character and course. This felt like a huge waste of time. Especially combined with:
- So many loading screens | Whenever a new track or menu has to be loaded, you’ll have to wait quite a while to see anything. Often giving you nothing more than a black screen with a white “loading” icon on it for what feels like ages.
How long to beat the story | 2-3 hours
How long to complete the game | about 7-10 hours to unlock all story characters & cups.
Robby lives and breathes video games. When he’s not playing them, he’s talking about them on social media or convincing other people to pick up a controller themselves. He’s online so often, he could practically list the internet as his legal domicile. Belgian games-industry know-it-all.