I loathe mini-game titles, especially all the shovel-ware that is making its way to the Wii, though the DS really isn’t a stranger to the myriad of mini-game soaked titles. Chocobo Tales is the latest title from Square Enix to make its way to Nintendo’s reining champion of the handhelds, and despite having more mini-games shoved down my throat with this title; I don’t mind it so much. I actually enjoyed a lot of the mini-games and the story that came along with it. Just one more attempt to get the gold record for this mini game and I’ll finish this review…
Well now that that is done, where to start? First of all this title actually does have a story and it focuses on you, well, you if you were in the form of a chocobo and named it after yourself. Things go haywire one day after your black mage friend shows up with a book that is actually Darkmaster Bebuzzu, an evil fiend who seals up all your little chocobo buddies and is attempting to take over the world. For something so serious this game takes it really light-hearted. This really feels like a story meant for children, with its mini-games that have stories focused on old fairy tales like The Three Little Pigs, or Jack and the Beanstalk, just with Final Fantasy characters and monsters swapped in where necessary. This actually hurts the game because the learning curve is way too high for a child to pick up and play this game, and the story is very much geared towards a child. I guess if you were to play this and then read the stories to your kids then it would work out well, though there really isn’t a large amount of story within these mini-games.
Each mini-game has a couple of set objectives and achieving them is the key towards completing the story. Once a mini-game objective has been reached you are rewarded with a plot device or cards that are used in card duels throughout the game. These mini-games range between arranging puzzle pieces to make the shapes of houses to attempting to escape the jaws of Leviathan. There are about six to seven objectives to each mini-game and it is very much possible to get by on just the base requirements, but then a lot of fun is missed out on, along with some of the extras. There are also side micro-games that are quick little one-shot type games that are just an extra side distraction. These mostly serve as a way to find excess cards to use in duels.
Card duels happen periodically through the game and are probably the hardest things in the game to get past. When it comes time to duel each character is given twenty life points, and battle is fairly cut and dry. Each card has four sections, each with a different color, if a sword is in a section that is where the attack will be directed. An opponent can block if they have a card with a shield in the same place. There is a little bit of guessing involved as you and your opponent never have more than three cards in their hand at a time. A lot of the time it feels like luck that you’re able to get by early on. Once your deck becomes a little more stacked in your favor it becomes much easier to get through.
This game does a good job of sticking to the stylus only control scheme. You just point to where you want your little chocobo avatar to go and he’ll be on his way. All of the mini-games use only the stylus as well which causes a lot of them to feel similar every now and again but for the most part they all feel unique and you don’t really feel like you’re doing the same thing. At least if I have been doing the same thing they mask it well because all of the games have different types of objectives and it doesn’t feel that similar to me.
Graphically this game is on par with the recent Final Fantasy 3 remake. The character models look good and the world is vibrant and lively. This certainly looks better than a lot of the PS1 titles that Square had released back in the day. What is really impressive about this game though is the art style within the mini-games and card battles. Aside from the main characters which are composed of polygons, all of the support characters look like 2-D cut-outs from a coloring book, and they are animated by using layers, it’s an amazing technique that is used quite proficiently in the Japanese only fighter The Rumble Fish, and to see it on the DS screen is nothing short of a technical marvel. Audio is a whole lot of Final Fantasy remixing and after a while it starts to get a bit stale. Mainly because I have heard these tracks in so many different games I wish something different were done. Granted I love the Chocobo theme, but enough is enough.
For those with friends with the game or even those without there is a fairly robust amount of game play in the multiplayer modes as well. I had a lot more fun playing some of these games as opposed to something like Mario Party 8 which I absolutely abhor. That’s hate for those out there who haven’t been to college yet.
For a title that contains one of the things I absolutely loathe thanks to the flooding of the market, I have to say I’ve come away from this title enjoying a lot more than I thought. It contains a lot of good ideas and fun game play that I wouldn’t normally enjoy. The story helps drive the mini-games and looking past the childish theme, this game feels like it was made for the fans of the series and those who are looking for a cute game for their children. Don’t be fooled though, this game is fairly challenging, especially if you want to get the most out of it.
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