Chocobo GP (Switch) Review | Nintendo’s life
Square Enix first appeared on the kart racing scene in 1999 with the Final Fantasy theme. chocobo race on the original PlayStation. A pretty average effort all told, the game featured a few unique ideas – like a selection of special moves to choose from before the run and a nice pop-up book-style story mode to introduce its cast of characters – but, as far as the most important racing action, he was let down by a disappointing track combination and a lack of precision in his controls.
Fast forward 23 years and you could perhaps forgive us, then, for being slightly underwhelmed by the prospect of returning to the Final Fantasy-inspired world of karting in Chocobo GP, a direct sequel to the forgettable original that experienced a difficult road to development. After being announced in 2010 for the 3DS before being fully canned in 2013 and then resurrected – if only in name and spirit – over the past two years.
However, Square Enix has only proven us wrong in our cynicism; unexpectedly, Chocobo GP is actually a bit better. It’s a bright and colorful kart racer that’s packed with modes, unlockable characters and cosmetics and, most importantly, it offers satisfying on-track action with nifty controls and a massive design upgrade. levels, which makes racing chaotic and addictive.
Let’s start with the modes. There’s the usual selection of single-player and multiplayer offerings to explore, including cup and custom races, time attack, two-player split-screen local co-op, and online lobbies – the latter of which we Couldn’t get in in time for this review. All of this is then bolstered by the game’s Story Mode and the titular Chocobo GP itself, a 64-player online knockout competition that sees racers go head-to-head in eight-man heats, with the top four advancing to the final. next stage until those left face off in a grand finale. We were invited to try this mode for review purposes but unfortunately we weren’t able to find a game during the short access window so we’ll have to wait and see if it delivers on the promise which is absolutely the. Keep an eye out for an update.
What we did managed to skip, however, was all single-player content here and there’s certainly plenty to do in that regard. We started our time with Story Mode and, let’s get that out of the way early, it’s the only weak element in an otherwise strong game, a completely nonsensical affair that is very obviously aimed at young children. The attempts at tongue-in-cheek humor here fall flat and you can feel free to follow the tutorials he offers and then go through the rest of his tedious cutscenes in order to get through his runs and catch the selection of characters and tracks to unlock it rewards you for your patience. Yes, diehard Final Fantasy fans may get a little more enjoyment out of it than we do because it features a bunch of nods to events in the franchise’s history, but the writing is so bad and the cutscenes so unnecessarily long, we think even the most excited FF fans will tire of them in no time.
Rising from that tricky spot, though, and it’s all in the pot, with the game’s stock races offering 12 generous cups to blast your way through – solo or with a friend in split-screen mode – each of these cups mixes up the nine of the game tracks available, giving you hyper-fast, long, short, and technical variations to tame. The selection of tracks on offer is a huge improvement over what was served up in Chocobo GP’s predecessor as well, with the likes of Alexandria, Chocobo Farm, Zozo, Monster Village and Cid’s Test Track all fantastic and offering plenty of shortcuts and obstacles to navigate. as you familiarize yourself with the slick kart racing mechanics at the heart of the proceedings.
These racing mechanics, as you’d expect by now, closely resemble the feel of all-conquering Mario Kart 8, with your racer able to drift around corners to activate two levels of boost, perform jump tricks and ramps for even more speed. opportunities and snatch offensive items from item boxes, here replaced by “Magic Eggs” which contain various elemental “Magicites”. Magicites give you access to Fire, Wind, Water, and Lightning attacks, as well as more imaginative fare like trick portals you can use to get ahead of the pack as you run.
Chocobo GP then adds to all that by giving each of its 23 (!) Final Fantasy characters a dedicated special ability that can be deployed multiple times during a run as a gauge in the bottom left of the screen fills up. Shiva can unleash a freezing blast that freezes other players in place, for example, Maduin annihilates other runners as he ferociously explodes forward, Irma gets sustained boosts to play with, and Ifrit sends a powerful wall of flames down the track to take out any karts dumb enough to position themselves directly in front of him.
Indeed, the special abilities here are a great addition to the basic racing action that makes choosing a character a little more interesting than just scanning their speed, acceleration, and handling stats and, as and as we got to grips with the game and unlocked a few more racers from it, we quickly found a few favourites, with Mecha Chocobo’s army boost attack our current benchmark for clearing the track of our competitors. By combining all of these special abilities with in-game Magicite items, as well as crystals strewn around tracks that can be collected to boost speed (and in order to earn tickets to spend in the in-game store) and you have yourself races that feel delightfully busy and chaotic at all times.
There’s always a weapon or ability available to deploy here, always a boost to activate or a shortcut to cross over and, when played on the harder of the two difficulty levels available to start with, it’s also a surprisingly challenging and competitive runner with AI opponents who knows exactly where and when to remove an ability to knock you down. It also eliminates annoying rubber bands, meaning you can really pull yourself away from the pack if you use your skills correctly, rather than finding yourself overwhelmed the second you make a slight mistake.
It also helps that it all looks and sounds surprisingly impressive whether you’re playing in docked or handheld mode. Kart racers, outside of Mario Kart of course, can tend to struggle a bit with frame rates and load times on Switch, but here there are no such issues, the game serving up smooth racing action with no obvious signs of dynamic resolution in effect in order to do so, resulting in crystal clear visuals no matter how you choose to play.
It’s a shame we haven’t been able to get our hands on the multiplayer aspects of this yet, but, if the netcode works, we reckon the 64-player Chocobo GP mode could be the icing on the cake here and a perfect accompaniment to an already decent selection of single-player and co-op modes. Square Enix is also releasing a free “Lite” version at launch that allows players to try out a limited sample of what the game has to offer with all of your progress if you then choose to jump into the full version.
It’s a move that signals some confidence in the game, and it’s a confidence that isn’t misplaced – we think Chocobo GP is up there with the best kart racers currently available on Switch. No, we can’t really believe we’re saying that either. It’s a stylish and addictive effort filled with modes and with a great cast of characters and excellent tracks to master. With more characters, including Cloud Strife himself, set to arrive with the game’s paid season pass and, we’re sure, more tracks and other online events to come, it’s a racer with which we will remain for the foreseeable future.
Chocobo GP is a delightful surprise from Square Enix, a nifty and addictive effort that features chaotic kart racing action with a bountiful roster of Final Fantasy characters battling it out on well-designed tracks inspired by locations from history. of the franchise. Yes, the story mode can be a bit off, but with plenty of other single-player content to dig into and the promise of 64-player carnage via the online Chocobo GP mode, this is one of the ultimate kart racers. finest and most entertaining. currently available on Switch and, with a free Lite version at launch, you have nothing to lose by checking it out for yourself before committing to a purchase.