The original Chocobo Racing was one of the best kart racing games of its day. Back in 1995, Square Enix turned the Final Fantasy series into a cute racer and it starred a handful of classic characters, magic and locations. Chocobo GP, while not being a direct sequel in any way, acts as a sequel to the original game. While it is bigger, it fails to live up to its closest competitor, Mario Kart due to its unbalanced racing, obnoxious personality and lack of polish.
Chocobo GP isn’t a bad game but sadly, it is aimed at a much younger audience of gamers. This is clear from its annoying soundtrack and cutesy story mode. I am all for cartoon humour but this game took it to the next level. So much so that within an hour of playing, I muted the music because I could not handle the main screen soundtrack that played the same kindergarten song over and over again.
It also didn’t help that the music was so much louder than everything else that it was painful at one stage. The same can be said for the voice acting as every character in the game features this over-the-top, high-pitch voice that could give you a headache. I get it, this is meant to be a cute and colourful game but it is more like a circus of noise here. It is sad too because some race tracks feature unique spins on classic Final Fantasy music but I could not enjoy them because every time I ended a race I was taken back to that damn main menu song.
Music and voice acting aside, Chocobo GP is a colourful game and for the most part, it looks fairly decent. Characters are highly-detailed and their vehicles mostly all tie back to something in the Final Fantasy series. Be it Terra riding her Magitek mech or Vivi’s alternate Black Waltz kart. The Final Fantasy love isn’t in short supply here. The story mode in Chocobo GP is mandatory if you want to unlock new characters as each chapter introduces new ones to race as.
While the story mode unlocks new racers, some of them are also locked behind purchasing them in the store using tickets – even after unlocking them. I know, it is strange. These tickets are obtained by simply playing the game or completing side objectives in the various story chapters.
I want to tell you I knew what was going on in the story but sadly, I skipped the majority of the cutscenes due to how cringe and tongue-in-cheek they were. After a few chapters, I realized I wasn’t missing anything here and just focused on doing the races in-between each cinematic to unlock new tracks and characters. I urge you to do the same. I wish Square Enix didn’t lock these characters behind the story because it is best avoided at all costs. It is tedious and quite frankly, annoying.
The real meat of Chocobo GP is in its racing and it is decent. There are 12 Series Races to go through that act as the game’s main content. Of course, need to unlock characters to use them on these tracks but the track selection is great. Most of them are also inspired by characters in the game or actual locations in Final Fantasy. There are also 23 characters so there’s a lot here to enjoy.
If you have played any Mario Kart then racing in Chocobo GP will feel very similar. You accelerate across the track and can draft around corners. While drifting, you can charge up a dash and by letting go of the drift button, shoot yourself forward. The big difference here is that each and every character in Chocobo GP packs a pretty cool ability that can be used during races. Shiva freezes other characters, Terra unleashes a missile barrage on the track and Chocobo gets a giant boost forward.
You can also pick up spells and abilities by driving through floating eggs scattered across the track. Each item can stack up to three times unlocking a more powerful version of the base spell. For example, Fire becomes Fira and then Firaga. Just like the Final Fantasy games. This Magicite comes in all sorts of forms. There are even portals that open up and teleport you ahead of the track.
This is where the game’s unbalanced issues come into play. Whereas Mario Kart would provide more powerful pickups depending on your position in the race, Chocobo GP just throws everything at everyone all the time. There’s no balance in these races at all. You will be hit with the worst item even right at the back of the pack. It also doesn’t help that some of these items knock you down and it takes a few seconds to regain your posture. I was often 5th or 6th and got knocked by Ifrit’s flames only to suffer a four-second stun and end up 8th.
The ability to always deploy something, either Magicite or a character ability really causes some rather nasty and unbalanced races in Chocobo GP. There’s a difference between needing the skill to race well and being slammed, kicked, burnt and frozen in quick concession when you’re only in 5th place. In Mario Kart, these things rarely happened and it was bound down to luck but in Chocobo GP, it was a constant issue. The AI just sucks and spams everything all over the place without any real thought behind it.
My other gripe with Chocobo GP is the in-game store. While you can unlock characters with tickets earned in matches, Square Enix clearly has plans to monetize everything in the game too. There’s a “Mythril” tab that wasn’t live during the review. Expect to see this filled with all sorts of cosmetic items soon after launch. There’s also a season pass that already includes Cloud and Squall as additional racers. While you get the first pass for free, this is not a good look for a game before it has even landed on shelves.
Chocobo GP isn’t a bad game but don’t expect a polished and refined kart racer here either. It is here to make money and Square Enix is tugging on the heart strings of Final Fantasy fans to get it. It is just a pity the game is so childish that kids who play it won’t have any clue who anyone is.
Story - 6/10
Gameplay - 6.5/10
Presentation - 7.5/10
Value - 6/10
Chocobo GP isn’t a bad game but don’t expect a polished and refined kart racer here either.
Great dose of Final Fantasy
Kids will love it
Main theme song is painful