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Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales June 15, 2007

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Reviews, Video Games.
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I bought my brother an Onyx Nintendo DS Lite as a graduation present. Yet to keep him grounded — that is to say, partly in jest — I also bought him a copy of Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales so the incoming college freshman would have something moderately embarrasing with which to put the machine through its paces. What else can one expect from a game revolving around the Final Fantasy series’ most harmless of creatures, obviously targeted towards younger gamers and designed to be so painfully cute? A whole lot more, it turns out, than meets the eye.

Chocobo Tales is really a collection of minigames strung together by a storyline somewhere between unremarkable and amusing. It is unremarkable because, without going into detail, there really isn’t much that can be done with a Chocobo as protagonist no matter how die-hard a fan of Final Fantasy one happens to be. On the other hand, there is amusement in the storyline with its retelling of some notable children’s fairy tales using creatures that hail from the worlds of Final Fantasy (particularly the summon spells). Hence, there can be no denying that the game is intended for younger audiences, who ironically may miss the point if they aren’t that familiar with any one of the now twelve installments of the acclaimed role-playing franchise.

Having said that, what prevents me from writing Chocobo Tales off as yet another shameful attempt by a video game company to cash in with a spinoff are the minigames that push the story along. Truth be told, a good many of them are actually a lot of fun, owing mostly to the variety of challenges that the creative minds over at Square-Enix have concocted: anything from variations on rhythm, puzzle and more action-oriented games, up to and including the card battle system that is used during boss battles (simple enough for children to comprehend, but engaging enough for more experienced gamers to try their hand at). These take full advantage of the DS stylus-based controls, which makes for very involved gameplay.

Interestingly, the game does have some built-in replay value given the difficulty of some minigames. There are unlockables based on points achieved through these challenges, meaning that players can spend time on end just working a task to perfection. Apart from this, while I haven’t seen what the Wi-Fi functionality of Chocobo Tales has to offer, based on personal experience there’s already plenty of gaming to go around just by passing on the DS from person to person to see who can do better at which minigame (or, more to the point, who can actually complete that one that has everyone stumped). In this manner, getting through the game can be as much a group as an individual experience, and is perhaps a great way for parents to take an interest in what their kids are playing.

From a technical standpoint, the game lives up to the quality that has come to be expected of Square-Enix. The graphics in particular are quite stunning for the handheld, and resemble the charming style used in Nintendo’s Paper Mario series. If there is any giveaway that this is a game meant for children, the graphics alone should be it. But buyer beware: beneath its bright and colorful exterior lies a deviously crafted video game that even an eager college freshman and jaded graduate student may find too irresistible to pass up.

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