Whilst there’s no doubting that Mario has the karting crown on the Nintendo Switch, the Final Fantasy-inspired racing of Chocobo GP certainly manages to secure the second-place spot on the podium with its entertaining escapades. Whilst there’s no doubting that fans of Square Enix’s long-running RPG series will probably appreciate it the most, the fact that it’s a lot of fun to play and even introduces some unique ideas of its own means that newbies to the franchise will have a good time too.
Just be warned: there are a few icky Prize Pass features implemented that might ruffle a few feathers (and not Chocobo ones), but it doesn’t stop the core gameplay experience from being really enjoyable.
Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:
Chocobo GP’s racing will feel familiar to anyone who has played a kart game before, with it implementing many of the tried-and-tested ideas of the genre. Players can drift by holding down the right shoulder button, for example, which when held for long enough will charge three different types of boosts to allow players to speed ahead of rival racers. Efficient drifting can be imperative to your success in the game, especially when racing in multiplayer, so players need to take ANY opportunity they can to get those sparks going.
Players will also get to use an array of weapons on opponents, though instead of being made up of shells and bananas, they’re the magic abilities from the Final Fantasy series and come in the form of Magicite. The abilities they offer are the sort of thing you’d expect from a kart racer really, with Fire letting players unleash a ball of flames, Doom giving players a countdown before it deals out some damage, Quake hitting a shockwave that affects nearby racers, Haste giving players a speedy boost, and Bahamut acting as the game’s equivalent of Bullet Bill and sending racers who’ve fallen behind the pack surging forward, just to name a few.
All of the Magicite are fun to use and can be real game changers in the midst of a race. However, Chocobo GP also allows players to upgrade their Magicite, with two upgrades offered that give each form a more powerful or longer-lasting effect. The Magicite boxes that you collect come in varying forms on the racetrack: Bronze will give you a random Magicite, Silver will give you the same Magicite you previously had (essentially allowing you to upgrade it), whilst Gold will give you two of the same Magicite at once. Knowing when to use a Magicite immediately and when to try and upgrade it brings a lot of strategic finesse to the racing action, especially when you’re only a few seconds behind first place and battling for that top spot, so carefully waiting to get a more powerful form can make a difference in a tighter race. On the flipside, waiting too long to upgrade can also see you falling behind, so there is a risk-and-reward element to it. It’s a clever idea though and one that can prove really beneficial if you’re clever (and sometimes a little patient) when unleashing your Magicite.
“Players will also get to use an array of weapons on opponents, though instead of being made up of shells and bananas, they’re the magic abilities from the Final Fantasy series and come in the form of Magicite.”
Of course, characters also bring their own unique abilities to the racetrack too, with a power meter built up by collecting crystals whilst racing. Much like the Magicite, these can make a big difference to the outcome of a race, whilst the fact that there are plenty of crystals to collect on each course means that it’s easy to activate your ability more than once. There are some pretty cool abilities to use too, with a few examples including Ifrit’s ‘Hellfire’ that sends a wall of flames ahead of him, Gilgamesh’s ‘Sword Saint’ that launches a myriad of swords onto the track that damage anyone that hits them, Ramuh’s ‘Judgement Bolt’ that hits a nearby racer with a blast of lightning, Chocobo’s ‘Chocobo Dash’ that sends him surging forward with a sparkling burst of speed, and Steiner’s ‘Moonlight Slash’ that sees him striking his sword continuously at any nearby racers. Each ability felt befitting of the character and I loved discovering what each one was capable of.
With a variety of attacks and buffs offered, it’s easy to find a favourite character to use based upon their special ability alone. I know I’ve found myself sticking with one particular character (who I won’t name here because of spoilers), though the diversity offered across the cast of twenty-six racers means there’s plenty to play around with to find something that suits you. Of course, you could just simply pick one of your favourite Final Fantasy characters instead, with the mixture of original stars and familiar faces sure to appeal to long-time fans of the series.
Between all of the different aspects of the gameplay, the racing of Chocobo GP is a whole lot of fun. It can be guilty of being a little too manic in places, especially during the early races where you might not be fully sure what each Magicite offers and you find yourself getting pummelled by attacks, but there’s an easy-going learning curve that ensures the difficulty balance is spot on and won’t leave players frustratingly left behind. There are multiple difficulties to play across that bring with them varying speeds too, whilst the twenty-one tracks on offer are varied enough to keep races exciting and unpredictable.
“Story Mode is exactly what you expect, with it offering a single player experience that sees narrative sequences play out between races.”
Chocobo GP offers multiple modes to play across, with the more traditional options being the Series Races that are split across multiple cups à la Mario Kart, Time Attack that challenges racers to achieve the best times or race against ghost data of other players, Custom Races that let players set up their own race with customised options, and Multiplayer for both local and online showdowns.
The more unique offerings are the Story and Chocobo GP modes. Story Mode is exactly what you expect, with it offering a single player experience that sees narrative sequences play out between races. It’s kooky but fun, with plenty of nods to the Final Fantasy series found throughout; it can be a bit all over the place and some of the jokes don’t hit, but it’s neat to play through and teaches players the ins-and-outs of every aspect of the game. It brings with it plenty of unlockables too, so it’s definitely worth getting stuck into if you want to play as all of the different characters in the game.
Chocobo GP Mode is a multiplayer-focused sixty-four player showdown, with players taking part in eight-players races with the top-four progressing through to the next round. This keeps going until a winner is crowned, with Prize Pass points earned along the way to reward your efforts. It’s my favourite mode in the game, with the manic action of the racing complementing the competitive aspects of each showdown; anyone can potentially win, whilst the fact that four racers go through per round means that you’ve only got to be better than half of the other players. Admittedly, I haven’t had a win yet, but I’ve got through to the final a few times and NEARLY got it. Either way, it’s a super addictive mode and one I can see myself coming back to for some time.
“Chocobo GP is my favourite mode in the game, with the manic action of the racing complementing the competitive aspects of each showdown; anyone can potentially win, whilst the fact that four racers go through per round means that you’ve only got to be better than half of the other players.”
It ties in with the Prize Pass, which is probably the most divisive element of Chocobo GP. Whilst plenty of titles utilise Battle Pass-style elements these days, the Prize Pass feels a bit greedy here – especially since it demands so much effort to get the best rewards (unlocking Cloud Strife as a playable character along with extra vehicles and colour variations) and Chocobo GP is full price to begin with. It has been so controversial that Square Enix have actually had to make it easier to earn rewards, which is something I’ve benefitted from in my time playing.
To their defence, you’re awarded enough Mythril (the premium in-game currency) to pay for the first Prize Pass, so it’s not quite as offensive as it would seem. There’s the promise of better and more varied rewards in future Prize Passes too, so that’s SOMETHING. It definitely needs addressing though, and whilst I’m not completely against the system existing, it needs to be more player-friendly if the game hopes to sustain a strong player base.
Presentation-wise, Chocobo GP looks great, with some charming character designs and whimsical environments on show that are packed to the brim with vibrant colours. It would have been nice to see more than nine environments across the game (especially since the Final Fantasy series isn’t exactly short of spectacular locales), but what’s on offer does look snazzy. It runs really well on the Nintendo Switch too, with a consistent 60fps frame rate ensuring it plays as good as it looks – it’s the same when playing handheld, where the visuals remain sharp and the frame rate smooth. It’s just a really pretty game to look at no matter how you play it.
Chocobo GP Review
Chocobo GP is a super fun racer that brings with it enjoyable racing action, plenty of familiar characters to race as, and a wonderful looking world. The addictive competitive Chocobo GP mode is one that I can see myself coming back to for a long time, whilst the colourful visuals and consistent 60fps frame rate ensure the action looks pretty and feels smooth throughout.
The Prize Pass does leave a bit of a sour taste, especially since it’s a full price release to begin with, but here’s hoping Square Enix will fix the main issues by the time the next season comes around. Other than that, though? Chocobo GP is a great alternative if you’re a little bored of racing with Mario.
Developer: Square Enix
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed)