Final Fantasy racer is left in the dust by Mario Kart
Everyone in CU of chocobos pretends to forget Gilgamesh.
It’s a great example of the game’s undeniable and sometimes meta charm, even if its lackluster gameplay systems miss the mark. CU of chocobos adapts the Final Fantasy franchise into the colorful go-kart racer formula, and it’s essentially a spiritual successor to chocobo race on the PS1.
There’s plenty of content to browse with a story mode, time attacks, serial races, online tournaments, and more. CU of chocobos practically weaponizes Final Fantasy nostalgia. Diehard fans will eat it. However, like countless other kart racers before him, CU of chocobos just can’t keep up Mario Kart.
Hit the track
If you’ve played a kart racer before you know the basic formula of CU of chocobos: Eight characters race on tracks filled with environmental hazards and bonuses. Drift is absolutely essential in CU of chocobosbecause the game uses a similar system to Mario Kart where you increase your boost as you drift, as well as crystals that increase your overall speed. Boring track design and flaws in the overall feel of the controls make CU of chocobos a bit tiring.
It doesn’t help that you have to unlock most tracks and playable characters as part of the story mode. games like Super Smash Bros Ultimate can get away with that kind of frustrating gameplay design, but at least Nintendo offers several ways to unlock the game’s core roster.
Lots of early game CU of chocobos the tracks are short and bland, with only a few turns and no single obstacles. You feel like you’re going in circles. This is obviously true in any racing game, but you need enough gadgets to make the driver forget about it. There are different variations of certain tracks that help add variety, such as a “hyperspeed” version with additional boost pads and more corners.
Some of the later tracks do a much better job of feeling unique, offering plenty of unique twists, turns, and areas. A special highlight is the golden saucer, which gives the impression Chocobo GP’s answer to Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road. It’s huge, colorful, challenging to navigate, and really, really fun.
The other big issue is that the karts just aren’t as responsive as you’d like. There is a certain “float” that makes your entries imprecise. Control instability coupled with certain flaws in track design can sometimes lead to extremely frustrating crashes. You can do a trick when coming out of a jump, it will then give you a boost when you land. However, there are times when a jump can go straight into a turn, making that turn nearly impossible if you’re trying to get a boost.
The power-ups in CU of chocobos are all inspired by Final Fantasy, like Haste which gives you a speed boost, Fire which lets you fire a homing projectile, and Bahamut which turns you into a summon to zoom in. But there are far too many power-ups to keep track of, and being hit by a power-up requires a long recovery animation that can last nearly seven seconds. Getting hit by a single attack can knock you down from first to last, not to mention all the times you get pinned down by a second right after. Mario Kart works so well because you always feel like you can win if you land a big jump or get the right power-up at the perfect time.
CU of chocobos sometimes it feels like a last-place disaster lurks around every corner.
All of these criticisms are mostly minor annoyances common to the genre, but stacked together they make CU of chocobosThe gameplay does not seem exceptional.
CU of chocobosthe greatest strength is its story mode, which is a fun, surprisingly self-aware little tale that’s performed entirely by voice (yet another surprise!). Chocobo and his pals enter a racing tournament with the promise that the winner will get just one wish granted. However, things aren’t quite what they seem, and there’s a big evil that appears at the last second, which the game even calls out as a Final Fantasy trope. Along the way, the dialogue constantly breaks the fourth wall, acknowledging the show’s little jokes and poking fun at everyone forgetting about Gilgamesh.
Throughout the ten chapters of the game, you will meet some iconic characters Final Fantasy characters, like Vivi and Steiner from FF9and Terra and her father Maduin from FF6. Each set depicted brings a unique flair to track and kart designs. Pop remakes of iconic Final Fantasy tunes also help keep the overall experience engaging for fans. However, that god-forsaken main theme song will be stuck in your head for days. My favorite is Vivi’s car, the Fabool IX, which is the Oglop version of Cid.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to do a lot to earn enough in-game currency to unlock everything. Every time you complete a race or story chapter, you earn tickets which are then used in the shop to get new characters, kart designs, cosmetics, and more. You accumulate tickets at a quite slow pace, so the finalists will have a grueling time ahead of them.
CU of chocobos feels like a game that wants to be Mario Kart with Final Fantasy, but he just doesn’t have the creativity or the mechanical chops to back it up. There are definitely worse runners out there, but unless you’re the kind of Final Fantasy fan who really enjoys games like The theatrical rhythm Where Dissidia that celebrate the franchise at the expense of quality gaming, you won’t get much out of it CU of chocobos.
Chocobo GP will be released on March 10. Inverse played the Nintendo Switch version for this review.
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