Starting off our Chocobo GP review, from the get-go we saw how a trendy and greedy practice can bring down a decent game. There is a lot to like about this game and the aggressive and offensive implementation of “battlepass” mechanics and microtransactions utterly suck the fun out of the experience.
The original Chocobo Racing from 1999 was a very competent and enjoyable kart racer that was almost as good as Mario Kart 64. When they were still Squaresoft, the company responsible for the Rad Racer games for the NES and made the world’s first “CARPG” with Racing Lagoon on PlayStation.
Racing has been in Square’s blood from the start. They likely have a few gearheads on staff when considering the impressive detail put into Cloud’s Daytona Hardy or Noctis’ Regalia. Chocobo GP should have been a celebration of the racing lineage in their legacy. Just how egregious is the grind in the worst prize pass implementation ever? Find out in our Chocobo GP review!
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: March 10, 2022
Players: 1-64 (online)
Price: $49.99 USD
There is no mistaking that Chocobo GP is aimed for children. The story mode unfolds with chapters being two parts each with more complexity being added to each race. There are juvenile cutscenes that feel what would happen if Final Fantasy crossed with Nick Jr.
Expect a lot of really lame jokes, references and running gags. Not that this is inherently a bad quality; there is a surprising amount of effort put into Chocobo GP‘s cutscenes considering it is a racing game. Do not expect anything cinematic, but characters are expressive and have a wide range of animation.
Most of the humor will get a chuckle out of kids and the adorable visuals will hold their attention. Long time fans or veterans of Square’s history will be amused by fourth-wall breaking references and nods to the legacy of Final Fantasy.
Some antics between characters will muster a chuckle from the most jaded and tired Final Fantasy enthusiasts. Seeing Rumah and Shiva acting like biker thugs and bullying the cast was a character dynamic that was unexpected and enjoyable. Maduin being a worrisome and over protective dad over a wild Terra proved to be a cute formula.
There are a lot of characters in Chocobo GP. Many of them are locked behind a long grind, but there are plenty still unlocked by simply progressing through the story mode. Playing the story mode and successfully completing challenges earns tickets which are used to purchase some racers like Ifrit, Asura or the Mecha Chocobo.
Usually these challenges are very specific, like passing all laps while in first place. This is a reasonable means to earn content. Chocobo GP unlocks other characters by progressing. This is also very reasonable and fair. Where things go wrong is when the game expects players to grind for dozens upon dozens of hours to earn different currencies.
Chocobo GP is a free-to-play game with a ridiculous $49.99 price tag attached. The “Lite” free version is a highly restricted way to play the core game. For what the players are getting when paying for the full game, the bonus content earned from the battlepass should be automatically given.
In the original Chocobo Racing, earning Squall meant beating the game a few times and beating him. In Chocobo GP, players will need 3,000 gil to buy him and the only way to earn gil is through racing in the Grand Prix which is online only and requires a subscription to Nintendo Online Service.
On top of not being able to earn Squall by playing the game offline, acquiring 3,000 gil will take a long time since Grand Prix can take about 30 minutes. On average, expect to net about 30-60 gil at most if you don’t win first place; which is mostly random given the chaotic nature of these races.
Having the battlepass is not enough, players still need to be a certain level to earn whatever scraps Square Enix feels like giving away. This is a terrible concept and denies actual game design from having players earn content by getting good at the game.
Getting Cloud is incredibly taxing since players need to acquire mythril which is bought with real money. When players first log into Chocobo GP, they are given 800 mythril but that is only enough to activate the battlepass. For 2,400 mythril which is about $24 real dollars, players can immediately unlock Cloud and jump straight to level 60.
Chocobo GP is a game aimed for children. It should not be a confusing mess of transactions where players must parse through three different currencies and have to log in hundreds of hours like it is some kind of cubicle job. It is the most soul-crushing experience imaginable and it is made worse by its hallow but cute exterior.
To make matters worse, mythril has a shelf-life of about five months. Gamers who aim to slowly and gradually earn what they can to acquire the various cosmetics, decals or extra characters will have to devote all their play time to the grand prix mode.
The story mode in Chocobo GP is the game’s saving grace. The grand prix is online only and done in a tournament style. Sadly, there is only 2-player split screen and not four. There is no battle modes either which is a missed opportunity to further capitalize on the many ways Chocobo GP copies Mario Mart 8 Deluxe.
Given the RPG roots of the roster, implementing RPG elements in a hypothetical battle mode would’ve been an easy and obvious idea. Having battles during the grand prix would also help mix up the gameplay from becoming repetitive during the grind.
The visuals of Chocobo GP are very appealing and the game runs a very steady 60 frames per second which is impressive considering it is an Unreal Engine 4 product on Switch specs. The slick and polished look of the characters and tracks makes it resemble the prerenders of Squaresoft when they peaked in the mid to late 90s.
Seeing the old Square logo on a blimp at Cid’s test track is enough to make an old fan’s heart flutter. Final Fantasy IX‘s Alexandria being realized in full 3D is a sight to be hold; the cobble stone road and steeple houses were very faithful.
Every character looks like money. Not one of them looks off or had a sloppy artist get lazy while modeling their geometry. Their respective vehicles closely match their personality or tie into their lore from their past game appearances.
Controls are very tight and handling will vary from racer to racer. Drifting is a major aspect to boosting ahead of the competition and watching for those harsh corners always is the key to not ending up in a three-man pile-up.
Every character has their own special ability which helps make characters more distinct, even when they have low stats. Regretfully, the later unlockable characters do ultimately make the starter cast redundant. It is sad seeing Chocobo be the worst racer in his own game.
Picking up crystals is functionally like picking up coins in Mario Kart games. Characters max out at 10 and each one increases their top-speed. Where Chocobo GP differs is how crystals also fill up their ability gauge, which helps turn the tide in a dire race, but usually just makes things more hectic as everyone does it around the same time.
The other best aspect we found during our Chocobo GP review was the excellent music. Most of the best tracks are reimagined Final Fantasy pieces. Classics like The Man with the Machine Gun from Final Fantasy VIII had high octane energy that make perfect sense for a racing game.
The music of Zozo from Final Fantasy VI gets re-interpreted as a frantic and high speed ballad. The only lame track is the Chocobo GP theme song at the main menu which has really grating lyrics. Outside of the one outlier, the soundtrack is as good as one would expect from Square Enix.
Chocobo GP is a game made in a divided house; one one side there were passionate developers who really cared about what they were making. The other side was devised by callous high level executives who mandated terrible, anti-consumer mechanics that were implemented solely for “player retention”, in the sloppiest and most covetous manner possible.
Chocobo GP was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Chocobo GP is now available for Nintendo Switch.