Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales draws on the nostalgia from two important areas. The first is the obvious: Final Fantasy. While the game revolves around Chocobo, fans will immediately recognize all of the classic characters and lore from the previous entries in this long-running RPG series. The second area? This may surprise you: children’s fairytales. The Tortoise and the Hare, Little Red Riding Hood, and other stories from our youths are at the center of Chocobo Tales. Is this a game geared towards children? Is it a game for Final Fantasy fans that want to relive their childhood with a Squaresoft inspired twist? Is it just a poor collection of mini-games? It’s a little bit of all three, and then some.
The game begins with a Chocobo (named by you) and his feathery friends gathering around for story time. Shirma, a white mage, is about to begin the story when they get interrupted but their friend, Croma. A black mage by trade, Croma loves traveling the world and discovering new treasures. His latest discovery is a storybook. However, this isn’t your average storybook. Instead, it’s a fiendish monster named Bebuzzu. Awakened and angry, Bebuzzu has trapped most of Chocobo’s friends in the pages of various books throughout the land. Your Chocobo needs to dive beak first into these books and rescue his friends, as well as prevent Bebuzzu from causing more harm. The story is a cleverly written one that has plenty of cute but predictable moments. Chocobo and his friends encounter some funny, comic relief villains that try to empower Bebuzzu. Watching everyone interact is fun; there’s a narrative that makes Chocobo Tales more than just a collection of mini-games.
However, in order to stop Bebuzzu, you’ll be participating in mini-games. Lots of them. As you move your darling Chocobo through the world, you will discover picture books that, as mentioned, are inspired by classic children’s fairytales. Chocobo will hop into the book and have to complete a mini-game multiple times. Doing this will free trapped Chocobos, open up new areas, or reward you with a Pop-Up Card. The mini-games range from enjoyable to tedious to mind numbing to infuriating. There’s always a tinge of excitement when you enter a picture book the first time, but whether or not that excitement lasts will depend on the mini-game. You’ll be using the stylus and touch screen for all of these.
As you open more of the world, you’ll begin to unlock microgames. While these don’t have any relevance to the story, these are much quicker to finish and offer more Pop-Up Cards as rewards. These are fun because not only do they offer a nice distraction to the mini-games, they do more to showcase Final Fantasy’s long history. One microgame in particular has you identifying the various jobs from Final Fantasy III on the Famicom. They’re fun and easy to play for a few minutes at a time.
Unfortunately, on the opposite end of the fun spectrum, there are the long, tedious and unskippable Pop-Up Duels. These card battles utilize a deck constructed from the cards earned as rewards from , mini-games, microgames, and the story. Describing the details of the card battles is beyond the scope of this review, but I will say this: they’re easy to learn, but terrible to play. They’re slow slogs that take too long to finish. If you lose the duel, then you have to perform the entire thing over again. With a collection of mini-games, microgames and card battles, it’s clear that Square wanted to try to include something for everyone. In doing so, they created a game that personifies jack-of-all trades, master of none. There are some fun moments, but they tend to get overshadowed by the repetition.
Like most 3D titles on the Nintendo DS, Chocobo Tales looks awkward and chunky. Despite Chocobo’s adorable face and the appearance of Final Fantasy favorites such as goblins, sahagins, and tonberries, graphics are not the game’s strength. Luckily, the music makes up for it. The multiple remixes of the Chocobo song, as well as a bunch of favorites from Final Fantasy through Final Fantasy VII, provide a perfectly pleasant listening experience that will bring back all of those good memories from the first time you heard them. Chocobo’s “warks” and “kwehs” are as adorable as his face.
The time it takes to finish Chocobo Tales will depend entirely on your skill and patience. For me, it took about seven hours. This included messing around with the microgames and rebuilding decks for the card battles. It’s not a long game, but it does offer incentive to replay it in hopes of mastering each mini-game and microgame. From afar, it looks like this is a game that will be appeal to all fans of Final Fantasy. A more deep dive will show you that there’s more to it than nostalgia. It’s an interesting idea, but overall, it’s hard to recommend unless you are a fan of something that nearly every RPG fan on the planet dreads: mini-games.
Overall, 5/10 – Do you like mini-games? If so, then you’ll like Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales. If not, then even the most devoted Final Fantasy fanatic should proceed with caution.