Whether it’s something realistic or something whacky, I have no qualms admitting this: I’m terrible at racing games. For some reason, I’ve never been able to get the mechanics down to zoom past other racers whether they’re controlled by humans or the computer. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from playing them. It just means that I rarely come out on top. This is the case for Chocobo GP, a surprisingly solid follow up to the PlayStation’s fantastic Chocobo Racing. I still prefer the original, but GP’s plentiful variety and polish make for a fun game to enjoy by yourself or with a group of friends.
Like the first game, Chocobo GP has a Story Mode. A moogle racer named Racer X has challenged Chocobo and his friends to a series of races. Whoever wins will get one of their wishes granted. That’s about it, but the characters you meet along the way are a fun lot. There’s plenty of silly dialogue that pays homage to the Final Fantasy series; oftentimes breaking the fourth wall. You’ll encounter new and old Final Fantasy faces throughout the story. Doing so unlocks them as racers in the other game modes. By the story, you’ll have over 20 racers to select.
If you played the original Chocobo Racing, then understanding the ins and outs of GP won’t take long. Once you select a mode to play, you select one of the many available racers. Each racer comes equipped with their own unique ability. Chocobo can dash for an extended period, whereas Shiva is able to temporarily slow down all the other racers on the track. There’s a racer for everyone whether you want something offensive, something speedy, or something technical. My personal favorite is Ifrit: he can send a massive wall of flame careening down the track in front of him. It covers most of any racetrack’s perimeter, so it usually connects with anyone ahead of me. After you select the racer, it’s time for the race to begin. You and the rest of the contestants will zoom around the course attempting place first. GP features a fun quirk where you can break, drift, and build up speed to unleash boosts of momentum. Mastering this takes a bit of practice but the payoff is worth it. Of course, no kart racer would be complete without hidden pathways and item pickups. Once again, there are classic magic spells from the Final Fantasy series littered throughout the courses. You can store up to three at a time or you can combine like spells to form more powerful ones. Favorites such as Fire, Blizzard, and Thunder have returned. New spells included Ultima, Warp, Teleport, the Quake family, and more.
As mentioned in the introduction, I’m horrible at racing games. However, playing GP is quite enjoyable. Winning first place always feels rewarding. No matter how you place, you’re rewarded with tickets to buy new characters, stickers, color schemes, and a slew of other extras. Customization is not lacking in GP. The downside to all this customization? It could cost you. If you wanted to unlock everything, you either must race, race, and race some more…or pay actual money. The number of in-game purchases is through the roof. As of this writing, I still haven’t unlocked two of the characters and some of the bonus racing vehicles because I simply refuse to pay for it on top of having to pay Nintendo for their online services. The good news is that staying offline will net you a ton of unlockable content. Most of it is obtained by completing the story.
GP looks fantastic. There’s something satisfying about seeing your racer unleash a devastating spell on surrounding competitors; watching them spin and crash out of control. Seeing the cast of classic Final Fantasy characters in this new, cartoony setting is a treat. Similarly, the courses are set in classic Final Fantasy settings. The soundtrack is full of remixed Final Fantasy tunes to compliment the game’s look. The story is fully voiced.
Chocobo GP lasts as long or as short as you want. Unlocking everything will take some time, but the fun doesn’t have to end there. With online play (boo) and couch play (yay), as well as a variety of racers, vehicles, modes, and course the replay ability is sizeable. It’s easy to pop the game in, play a few tracks, and put it away for another day. Honestly, if not for all the components that were reliant on paywalls and in-game purchases, then GP would have overtaken Chocobo Racing. But this is the modern gaming world we live in: you have to spend extra cash to earn extra content. Despite this, I do recommend Chocobo GP to fans of the original, fans of the Final Fantasy series, and fans of racing games. Just be ready to buckle up for a long drive if you plan on seeing everything the game has to offer.
Overall, 7.5/10: Floor it or get out of the way! Again! Chocobo GP revamps the PlayStation classic’s formula with tons of extra content. It’s too bad that a chunk of it is locked behind a paywall.