Developed By: Arika Published By: Square Enix Categories: Racing Release Date: 03.10.22
After nearly a quarter of a century and a cancelled sequel, we finally have a new Chocobo Racing game with Chocobo GP! Is it worth the wait though?
As the name implies, this is a racing game starring characters from the Final Fantasy series, specifically the Chocobo sub-series. Things you’d recognize in the genre all become retrofitted to be closer to Final Fantasy. Coins become crystals, item boxes because Magic Eggs, and those items are Magicite. Lots of characters, a handful of tracks, and lots of modes to play mean that this is a decent bag…but there seems to be some rotten produce in there.
Lets start with the good. The controls in races feels fantastic. This is a smooth racing game. Getting the right drift, using Magicite at the right time, boosting far ahead of the pack. It’s all super satisfying. Well, if you’re doing well at least. Magicite has standards like Fire shooting out, Blizzard freezing enemies, Haste as a speed boost, and even MBarrier…for a barrier. On top of those, you get the fun Magicite like Swap or Doom.
Swap is a double edged sword. When you cast it, it puts a blue portal infront of you, it’ll teleport you further ahead in the track outside of a red portal. Anyone behind you can also go into these portals, and if someone else casted Swap, you can do this too. Be careful not to go into the red portals however, as those will send you back, which can be devastating. I once had a blue portal that ended up leading to someone else’s red portal…not fun.
Doom has Death hover over you. Jump as many times as you can before he makes you wipe out! My first thought before it actually happened is that Doom would be the Boo-adjacent Magicite and it’d steal something, but it’s worse. To get all of these Magicite you need to grab those Magic Eggs on the field. Bronze for a random, Silver to get you another of a Magicite you have, leveling it up, and Gold to get you two Magicite, even giving you a level 2 Magicite sometimes. Leveling up the Magicite can make something that could just be an inconvenience to something that will totally change the race, truly devastating.
There are two dozen characters in the base game. If you love the Chocobo series characters, they’re hear and as wacky as ever. There’s a small handful of mainline characters too and I won’t spoil those, but some do have the same character design as the Chocobo games. Each character has their own unique stats and special abilities. Some like Chocobo and Camilla are boosts, while Shirma has a longer barrier, while (redacted) has a nice missile barrage. Using these abilities also smooth out handling and the like, so corners can be went by more easily, though you are restricted from using tricks on ramps.
Tracks are nice, but I’d be lying if I said they were perfect. You have over twenty tracks all with their own layouts, but only 9 actual courses. What I mean by this is that you’re only getting 9 unique locations. Despite the varieties of each course that you get as tracks, this can make tracks all feel…samey. This is even more of an issue when you’re in a game mode that has random course placement. Adding to that, some stages have *super* sharp turns, which makes you question if you should actually be drifting or not, but that’s something you get used to. At the very least, the music in the tracks is absolutely top notch.
Chocobo GP has a lot of modes to play. Standard Time Trails, online, and offline multiplayer, as well as Cup races. However, the two more important are Store and the titular Chocobo GP Mode. Starting with Story Mode, this is where you will unlock most of what is in the base game. You start with a paltry number of characters, but unlock them as you progress though. Same with stages. It’s better to consider Story Mode a elongated tutorial with funny, fully voiced cutscenes, almost all about bullying Gilgamesh. Beating Story Mode can even unlock new vehicles for everyone.
Chocobo GP might be the one mode you’ll play the most. It’s the big online showcase. 64 racers, eight at a time, try to get to the number one spot. Playing this mode gets you experience and is how you complete daily and weekly challenges for some currencies. It feels great to play against real people too. But this mode also highlights the very strong negatives this game has…
Square Enix lately has a had a service game problem. Chocobo GP unfortunately is not safe from this. This is a $50 game and has a season pass for content. Not only that, but the game has three currencies. Tickets, which are unlock in story mode, by collecting crystals, or by doing challenges. Gil, acquired only by doing challenges and leveling up. Mythril only provided by gifts, weekly logins, and by paying. Tickets are not too hard to get and you should definitely have enough to buy characters, carts, colors, and so on. But Gil and Mytrhil are another story. So far in Season 1, Gil can be used to buy Squall, his two alternate vehicles, as well as some premium colors. But in order to afford really any of this, you’re going to have to grind out that Chocobo GP. Thankfully, this stuff is available all season, which is a 2 month period.
Mythril and it’s unlocks are scummy. Do you like FOMO? Square does, so buy all $15 worth of Chocobo outfits within a two week period before they’re more expensive. Without putting Mythril into getting that season pass (which Square thankfully gave all players for free this season), you’re never going to get Cloud, his vehicles, or near enough Gil to get more stuff. You have these stickers you can use in Chocobo GP mode, right, to boost experience. Without these the grind is miserable. But you could always use Mythril to buy more stickers~.
Square has since the game’s launch attempted to rectify issues. Lowering the grind a smidge, gifting more free Mythril, with plans to do more. But the question lies…why do this all in a game that’s a sequel to a game from the 90’s? Why do this for a game that is otherwise very child and family friendly? It’s disgusting and Square should very much be ashamed of them. I understand the need to keep wanting players play your game, but to milk them of every cent they have? Crash Team Racing had seasons and it had microtransactions, but you can very much get stuff from those seasons FOR FREE, with payment only being for getting more premium currency. It wasn’t a purchase, then a season pass, then possibly needing more premium currency.
I like Chocobo GP. I’d go as far to say I really like it. It’s going to be a game I play the hell out of and get to the top ranks in the Season Pass. However, I cannot look past the scummy monetization practices. It makes me think that anyone who gave this game a glowing score did not pay for it. And that’s fine, but it does add a perspective that someone who potentially already dropped money down would not have.
And yes, I am aware of Lite Version. But in Lite version, you cannot access the season rewards, not even put that free Mythril into it. You can restricted to a very short prologue to the story and Chocobo GP Mode. It’s nothing more than a demo that lets you hold onto premium currencies you can’t use. Take a hint from what Konami is doing with Super Bomberman R Online or hell any other game with seasons on the Switch that are free.