for a long time. A very long time. It’s great, of course: the more you play and the more you encounter cross-references, the more you feel “in-the-know” and immersed in the game world. Yet, it wasn’t until I sat down to play Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales
that I muttered to myself, filled with bitterness, “I think I have a problem.” You see, the essential idea is a traditional, crystal-based story held up by various Final Fantasy
themed minigames: a collection which I may dare call “Final Fantasy Lite”. It is as if Final Fantasy
fandom took on a physical manifestation and then promptly defecated on my Nintendo DS. And you know what? I ate it up.
Oh, come on. It totally looks evil.
On a far away island, Chocobos and humans live in harmony, frolicking happily in the fields and reading one another happy little picture books. This profuse bliss is broken, however, when black mage Croma shows up at the farm one day, bearing a mysterious picture book. Once unlocked, it is revealed as the age-old prison of Darkmaster Bebuzzu. Seething with indignation, Bebuzzu turns the islands’ inhabitants into cards and the tale’s heroes must enter magical picture books and compete in minigames to affect the environment and rescue the world from disaster. Terrible book puns follow.
Alas, all is not as easy as it seems; your plans to rescue your Chocobo bretheren are hindered by a rouge gang of Chocobos, the head of which wears an eye patch and, at least in my mind, speaks with a tone suggesting the aftermath of a thousand cigarettes and a head full of bad memories. The story, clearly geared for a younger audience, is nothing particularly compelling, and the humor, at times pointed, is ultimately hit or miss—thankfully, the gameplay has something for everyone.
Each pop-up picture book features an Aesop fable or a Grimm fairy tale with Final Fantasy stand-ins as characters—these include “The Adamantoise and the Cactuar”, “Titan and the Beanstalk”, “The Ugly Chocoling”, and “The Boy Who Cried Leviathan”. Most games come with various modes and different challenges, enabling Chocobo to unlock different endings or receive cards for pop-up card battles. These different difficulties and micro-rewards allow for some surprisingly extensive depth in gameplay. Chocobo Tales
is packed to the brim with nearly 40 different minigames and microgames (more mini than mini), each interesting in its own way and with its own unique challenges. Even the credits receive their own microgame! There is much to do for the completist, and quite a bit to keep an average player occupied.
It’s time to d-d-d-dart right away from that reference.
In an interesting Pokémon inspired twist, competition against enemy characters takes place via pop-up card battles. That is to say, cards “pop-up” into two-dimensional Final Fantasy monsters or summons on a three-dimensional plane, and then attack. The battle mechanism, based in rock-paper-scissors-like attack and defense zones and “Crystal Points” as pre-requisites for certain attacks creates gameplay that is simple yet interesting and effective. However, the difficulty is somewhat questionable since enemy card patterns are fixed and not based in any kind of Artificial Intelligence.
Musically, Chocobo Tales serves up a helping of Final Fantasy
music cameos and re-arrangements, including “Motoya’s Cave” and “Gulug Volcano”. Also featured are rockin’ battle tracks including “Decisive Battle” of Final Fantasy VI
fame and Final Fantasy V
’s “Big Bridge”. The conversion of Final Fantasy VII
tracks to the DS is also very interesting; players may recognize the chocobo racing theme that appears in abundance throughout Chocobo Tales.
The game also features various different modes, including a “quick play” that allows the player to get right to the fun, Wi-Fi and standard Multiplayer (allowing both minigame and pop-up duel competition, though necessitating a second cartridge), and a “Send” option allowing one to send microgames across to a friend without a Chocobo Tales
The result is a title that is very lighthearted and with enough of a cheesy sense of humor to entertain those of any age. The solid and creative use of the stylus makes full use of the DS hardware. Bottom line: if you own a DS and are a fan of Final Fantasy, then Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales is a fantastic buy.
Of course, with lines like, “You’re pretty fly for a white mage,” how can you possibly go wrong?