In a surprising revival of Chocobo Racing, Square Enix has released Chocobo GP – a kart racing game featuring some fan-favorite figures from Final Fantasy, along with some new entries.
With some players raging over microtransactions, is there a gem shining under some controversial decisions? Or should you instead go for the near-simultaneous release of the newest Mario Kart 8 Deluxe DLC?
Chocobo GP is your standard kart racer in terms of the basics. You drive a vehicle around a few laps of a racetrack. Along the way, there are environmental hazards, boosts, and item pickups to use. There’s nothing too unusual, like Kandagawa Jet Girls where you’re playing as two characters.
That said, it feels like one of the more chaotic kart racers I’ve played and I really enjoy it for that. Item pickups give you magicite, which lets you fling around a wide variety of magic. From summoning Bahamut to tornados you can control, it has some interesting ones. There are even portal items, which not just you but anyone can run into and teleport forward or backward.
Beyond items, there are somewhat unique character abilities. After they are charged, a special power can be used. These are sometimes very similar to items in giving a boost or a form of attack, but some are different like making the character invisible. Aside from the different balances between character speed, acceleration, and such, this helped to make trying different characters interesting as I unlocked them.
The environmental hazards go hard here too. Learning their timing and keeping a constant eye on them is needed to survive the course. Weaving between plumes of fire, only to get shot by lightning or frozen by another player isn’t unusual.
The courses themselves can be tight too. While one of the extreme examples, there’s a Golden Saucer course that feels inspired by Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road. If the sharp turns and the falling off the edge weren’t enough, it’s bright and has patches of rainbow colors.
One thing I really enjoyed about this kart racer is that getting first place was usually not too difficult. Keeping it is another matter.
Chocobo GP comes with six modes. These are:
- Chocobo GP
- Story Mode
- Time Attack
- Series Race
- Custom Race
To clarify, I’m playing the full release of Chocobo GP. There is a Chocobo GP Lite. This gives access to the Chocobo GP mode and a couple of other things as a free demo. Considering that this is the main mode, it’s quite generous. I recommend giving it a try to see if you enjoy the game.
With that said, if you’re diving right into the full game, the story mode is the best place to start.
The story of Chocobo GP is quite simple. A greedy moogle and his chocobo friend hear about a race, with the prize said to be a wish that can grant their deepest desire. They and a variety of characters they meet along the way head towards the Grand Prix, having to help people and face challenges along the way – all solved by races.
Many familiar Final Fantasy characters turn up, from summons like Shiva to characters like Vivi and Steiner. There are plenty of references and the occasional piece of fourth-wall breaking. It’s a fairly child-friendly story and not too serious. Logic often doesn’t apply too, especially when the story is matched up with the requirements to win.
There is a twist or two along the way, one which certainly made Chocobo GP feel like it fits in as a Final Fantasy game. But for the most part, it was just fun to see the comedic moments and appreciate the cheesy (but well-performed) voice acting.
The reason why it’s best to start here is that it goes through tutorials throughout the entire story. It’s possible just to jump into Chocobo GP mode, but even beyond teaching the basics like drifting, it gives some detailed tips on how types of magic work.
Tons of characters get unlocked in the story mode too. Many of these are unlocked automatically as completing levels, but some need to be unlocked in the shop, which will be explained later.
Aside from a couple of difficulty spikes, I enjoyed story mode a lot. It helped me to learn the game and the levels. Completing it unlocked some nice extras like mirror mode in custom races. Even then, I came back and played more as there are optional missions and a post-completion mode.
Chocobo GP – The Grand Prix Mode
As mentioned, this is the main mode. It’s a 64 player online tournament mode, consisting of four stages. 8 players are in each race, then each time the top 4 advance until it ends up in the final round.
After training my skills in story mode, I thought I was ready to take on the world – I was wrong.
Despite not managing to be crowned as a Grand Prix winner just yet, I’ve played a good amount of this mode. The skill level is quite high and it absolutely brings that chaos I mentioned before to an even higher level.
As you play, you level up and get rewards. It’s noted as season 1, so I’m assuming that after a set amount of time passes, it’ll change to season 2 and levels will reset.
This is where we start to get a bit controversial. While you can absolutely play Grand Prix mode without buying anything, players get more rewards if they have a ‘prize pass’. Some of the more desirable rewards are locked behind that – at the moment, that would be Cloud Strife, his alternate vehicles, and cosmetics. So it’s not possible to outright buy a character with Mythril, but it’s needed to give the player a chance to unlock them through playing.
The prize pass can only be bought with Mythril, which is a premium currency, apart from a tiny amount gained through racing. On starting the game, I had enough Mythril for a prize pass and more through bonuses, but I don’t expect that situation will continue. Do note that free Mythril will expire after some time, but paid Mythril won’t unlike some social media users and websites have claimed.
Shops and Unlocks
Chocobo GP has three currencies and shops. They sell characters, vehicles, cosmetics, background music, and the prize pass. The Mythril has already been mentioned, but there’s Gil and Tickets too.
Gil comes mostly through completing daily and weekly challenges, but leveling up in the Grand Prix helps too – even more with the prize pass. One of the popular characters is currently only available with Gil – Squall Leonhart. It’s certainly possible to acquire a reasonable amount of Gil if playing enough, but it won’t be easy without a prize pass.
While I’m not a fan of characters or vehicles being locked away behind microtransactions (though I’m less worried about cosmetics), the ticket shop does help to reduce that concern.
After playing through the story, I unlocked a ton of characters. By that point, the ticket shop also has plenty more to unlock. There are only the two mentioned characters that I can’t currently unlock outside of these two places. Tickets are earned just through playing normally and at a fairly quick rate. While unlocking Cloud or Squall might be the result of hundreds of hours of playing and some money spent, unlocking Ifrit, Shiva or Ramuh is closer to the result of 30 minutes of playtime, if that.
As the vast majority of the content that I cared about is freely available, I feel that the implementation of microtransactions here goes down from a travesty to distasteful. After all, it’s not like some of our favorite JRPGs like Atelier Sophie 2 don’t have expensive season passes.
Lights and Music
Moving to a more positive topic, Chocobo GP looks great. While there may not always be a huge amount of detail if I focus, I rarely noticed. The coursed are varied, make great use of color to pop and the art direction is consistent.
Being a Final Fantasy spin-off, it’s no surprise that the music stands out too. Starting with a cheerful vocal track about racing and calling out many of the characters, it only gets better from there. There are plenty of remixes of well-known songs from various Final Fantasy titles – they even managed to fit in Man with the Machine Gun and somehow made it work for a moogle’s theme tune.
Is Chocobo GP going to knock Mario Kart 8 Deluxe off its pedestal as the best Nintendo Switch kart racer? Certainly not. But it’s certainly a well-made title and plenty of fun, despite some questionable decisions and a lack of anything truly innovative. It’s a pity that many people will overlook it.
CHOCOBO GP IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Nintendo for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
Support High-Quality And Detailed Coverage
Want to support the cost of us bringing you these articles or just buy us a coffee for a job well done? Click the Ko-fi button below. You can even find some digital goodies in our shop~!
A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.