Thursday, May 08, 2008

Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales

You know how sometimes when you get a collection of really lame minigames it's almost as good as having a real game?

No, I don't either.

I picture the offices of Square-Enix as a place filled with candy and mogs, where the Chocobo Theme Music plays all day long and the vending machines accept "gil" as a currency. Into this magical land came a dark force, who schemed to bring misery and mayhem unto the innocent peoples, yea until the skies turned black and the children did weep. And from that ancient evil was born Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales.

The premise of Chocobo Tales is this: that you are a chocobo, one of the two-legged bird things from the Final Fantasy games. It is your sacred task to fight evil, or somesuch, which is convenient when a malevolent demon traps all your chocobo pals inside children's storybooks.

Gameplay consists of jumping into the storybooks, playing the lame minigames, and being rewarded with cards for a collectable card game. You use the cards to challenge bosses to card battles, and thereby progress towards more storybooks.

Now, the card battling bit is actually half decent. But seeing as there's only about eight people in the game who you can play cards against, the whole "gathering cards to fight bosses" thing feels a little pointless. You can take your deck online and play friends or strangers, providing said friends or strangers are unfortunate enough to possess a copy of Chocobo Tales.

The minigames themselves range from "offensively easy" through to "frustratingly stupid". Each storybook takes a traditional children's tale and re-skins it with Final Fantasy monsters. You'll see the race between the lazy Cactuar and the slow-but-steady Adamantoise, along with "The Ugly Chocobo" and "The Boy Who Cried Leviathan". Minigame objectives fall into the categories of "race to point X" or "collect item Y". Most games can be played in a trial mode, where you aim for a high score, or a battle mode, where you compete against computer controlled chocobos. Like the card battles, you can play these wirelessly against other people who own the game.

As this is a game for the DS, you'll be mostly playing with the stylus, and the game runs into more problems here. Two of the most common motions you'll be performing are a "flick" and a "double tap". First up, the software seems to only recognise these motions two out of every three tries, and secondly they're damn inconvenient, as you're also using the stylus to move and you can't do both at once.

At least the game looks reasonably nice. The storybooks and minigames are done in a kind of Paper Mario style, with the environment unfolding from the book like a pop-up. The "real world" has a bland but inoffensive polygonal aesthetic. The music is another matter; every last piece of music in the game - and I'm not exaggerating here - is a remix of the Chocobo Theme Tune. I got sick of that thing back in Final Fantasy VII and the years have only deepened my loathing for it.

Also, you can finish the game within six hours and the end boss is a game of air hockey.

So, in short, this is the reason that you should never, ever, ever buy a Final Fantasy spin off. Ever.


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