Square Enix first boosted onto the kart racing scene all the way back in 1999 with the Final Fantasy-themed Chocobo Racing on the original PlayStation. A rather average effort all things told, the game featured a few unique ideas of its own — such as a selection of special moves to choose from pre-race and a cute pop-up book style story mode to introduce its cast of characters — but, when it came to the all-important racing action, it was let down by a combination of underwhelming tracks and a lack of precision in its controls.
Fast forward 23 years and you could perhaps forgive us, then, for being slightly underwhelmed by the prospect of returning to the world of Final Fantasy-inspired karting in Chocobo GP, a direct sequel to the forgettable original that's seen a rocky road to development. Having been announced way back in 2010 for the 3DS before being canned entirely in 2013 and then resurrected — if only in name and spirit — in the last couple of years.
However, Square Enix has only gone and proven us entirely wrong in our cynicism; against all expectations, Chocobo GP is actually a bit of a belter. This is a bright and colourful kart racer that's packed full of modes, unlockable characters and cosmetics and, more importantly, it's one that delivers satisfying action on the track with slick controls and a massive improvement in level design making for some addictively chaotic racing.
Let's kick things off with modes. There's the usual selection of single and multiplayer offerings to dig into including cup and custom races, time attack, local splitscreen co-op for two players and online lobbies — the latter of which we were unable to gain access to in time for this review. All of this is then bolstered by the game's Story Mode and the titular Chocobo GP itself, a 64-player online knockout competition that sees racers compete in eight-player heats with the top four progressing to the next stage until those left standing face off in a grand finale. We were invited to try this mode out for review purposes but, unfortunately, didn't manage to find a game during the short access window, so we'll need to wait and see if it delivers on the promise that's absolutely there. Keep an eye out for an update.
Update: Since the game released, there have been reports of a rocky online launch — reports which we can sadly verify. While plenty of players seem to have had no trouble getting online races, we've tried multiple times in GP and lobby modes and have been unable to get a single online game yet.
Square Enix has put out statements detailing the current online issues and fixes it has in the works, so hopefully these will be cleared up sooner rather than later. In the meantime, the score below absolutely stands, but beware that Chocobo GP's online component is, at the time of writing, still very much a work-in-progress.
We'll update this review again once the situation changes.
What we did manage to jump into, though, was all of the single player content here and there's certainly plenty to get stuck into in this regard. We kicked off our time with Story Mode and, let's get this out of the way early doors, this is the one weak element in an otherwise strong game, a completely nonsensical affair that's very obviously aimed at younger kids. The attempts at tongue-in-cheek humour here fall flat and you can feel free to take what tutorials it dishes out and then skip through the rest of its tedious cutscenes in order to get through its races and nab the selection of unlockable characters and tracks it rewards you with for your patience. Yes, diehard Final Fantasy fans may derive a tad more pleasure from it than we did as it features a bunch of nods to events from the franchise's history, but the writing is just so excruciatingly bad, and the cutscenes so unnecessarily long, that we think even the most excitable of FF fans will tire of it in short order.
Moving on from this one rough spot, though, and it's all gravy, with the game's Series Races providing a generous 12 cups to motor your way through — either solo or with a pal in splitscreen mode — each of these cups mixing up the game's nine available tracks, giving you hyperspeed, long, short and technical variations to get to grips with. The selection of tracks on offer are a huge improvement on what was served up in Chocobo GP's predecessor too, with the likes of Alexandria, Chocobo Farm, Zozo, Monster Village and Cid's Test Track all looking fantastic and providing plenty of shortcuts and obstacles to navigate as you get to grips with the slick kart racing mechanics at the heart of proceedings.
Those racing mechanics, as is perhaps expected by now, closely ape the feel of the all-conquering Mario Kart 8, with your racer able to drift through corners to activate two levels of boost, perform tricks off jumps and ramps for further speed-boosting opportunities and snatch offensive items from item boxes, here replaced by "Magic Eggs" that contain various elemental "Magicites". Magicites give you access to fire, wind, water and lightning attacks, as well as more imaginative fare such as nifty portals that you can use to jump ahead of the pack as you race.
Chocobo GP then adds to all of this by giving each of its 23(!) Final Fantasy characters a dedicated special ability that can be deployed several times during a race as a gauge in the bottom left of the screen fills up. Shiva can unleash a frosty blast that freezes other players in place, for example, Maduin wipes out other racers as he blasts forward ferociously, Irma gets herself extended boosts to play around with and Ifrit sends a mighty wall of flames down the track to take out any karts silly enough to position themselves directly in front of him.
Indeed, the special abilities here are a great addition to the core racing action that make choosing a character that little bit more interesting than just scanning their speed, acceleration and handling stats and, as we got to grips with the game and unlocked a few more racers, we quickly found a few favourites, with Mecha Chocobo's weaponized boost attack our current go-to for clearing the track of our competitors. Combining all of these special abilities with the game's Magicite items, as well as crystals dotted around tracks that can be collected for a speed boost (and in order to earn tickets to spend at the in-game shop) and you've got yourself races that feel delightfully busy and chaotic at all times.
There's always some weapon or ability available to deploy here, always a boost to activate or shortcut to blast across and, when played on the harder of the two difficulty settings available at the outset, this is also a surprisingly challenging and competitive racer with AI opponents who know exactly where and when to pull out an ability to take you down. It also does away with annoying rubber-banding, meaning you can really pull away from the pack if you're utilising your skills properly, rather than finding yourself overtaken the second you make a slight mistake.
It helps too that the whole thing also looks and sounds surprisingly impressive whether you're playing in docked or handheld mode. Kart racers, outside of Mario Kart of course, can tend to struggle a little with frame rates and loading times on Switch, but here there's no such problems, the game serving up smooth racing action with no obvious signs of dynamic resolution in effect in order to do so, resulting in crystal clear visuals regardless of how you choose to play.
It's a shame we haven't been able to get a hands-on with the multiplayer aspects of this one just yet but, if the netcode delivers, we reckon that the 64-player Chocobo GP mode could be the cherry on top here and a perfect accompaniment to an already decent selection of solo and co-operative modes. Square Enix is also releasing a free "Lite" version at launch which enables players to try out a limited sample of what the game's got to offer with all of your progress carrying over should you then choose to splash out on the full version.
It's a move that signals a certain confidence in the game, and it's confidence that's not misplaced — we reckon Chocobo GP is up there with the very best kart racers currently available on Switch. No, we can't quite believe we're saying that either. This is a slick and addictive effort packed full of modes and with a great big cast of characters and some excellent tracks to get to grips with. With more characters, including the likes of Cloud Strife himself, due to arrive with the game's paid season pass and, we're sure, more tracks and other online events coming down the line, this is one racer we'll be sticking with for the foreseeable future.
Chocobo GP is a delightful surprise from Square Enix, a slick and addictive effort that serves up chaotic kart racing action featuring a generous roster of Final Fantasy characters battling it out on well-designed tracks inspired by locations from across the franchise's history. Yes, the story mode may be a bit of a misfire, but with plenty of other single player content to dig into and the promise of 64-player carnage via the online Chocobo GP mode, this is one of the most polished and entertaining kart racers currently available on Switch and, with a free Lite version dropping at launch, you've got nothing to lose by checking it out for yourself before committing to a purchase.
with Mario Kart DLC coming in a few weeks I think I will pass on this one. Nice review though
I’ll give the lite version a whirl. Probably not forking over for day 1 pricing tho
I can't hear the words "Chocobo" and "racing" without thinking of the hours of grinding for a walk-on-water Chocobo I put into FF7 so I could one-hit Sephiroth.
It sounds solid, but the season pass aspect just isn't my thing.
That first screenshot being docked is disgusting. Sure I'd rather a kart racer run at 60fps, but MK8 does that AND looks so so good.
I am glad this is reviewing well BUT the season pass in a full price game is a no no. This feels like it should've been a FTP game, in the same style as the Disney racer coming out in the summer. I'll probably pick this up, as I do love me some Square IP, but not until it inevitably goes on sale for at least 50% off.
I had very little interest in this to begin as it looked kinda bad when it was revealed but between the season pass stuff and the Mario Kart DLC announcement, that little interest became zero interest.
The paid season pass is the biggest turn off to me TBH, and its the biggest block for me, because if I want characters, like cloud! I have to get the game now? (Or within the limit)
But other then that, I can't wait to play the lite version, as I heard its pretty good.
Chocobo Racing was a shallow game, so I am glad that the successor turns out to be a better game. But the characters locked in the SP is a a big NO from me.
It's unfortunate that you didn't have any experience with the GP mode and the season passes, the only thing that's really making me debate purchasing the game is whether the season passes will feel like overly scummy cash grabs or not.
Though it sounds like it's a worthwhile buy just for the base game content.
Only 9 Tracks? Imagine that would get boring pretty quickly.
Are the season passes really paid? I was under the impression that they were free but you could use in-game currency (which would likely also be able to be bought with actual money) to get more rewards, is that not the case?
For the record, I think it's bad either way.
I will wait a season to pass before I even think about this 😜
Not a fan, will stick to Mario kart.
But i was able to play Chocobo Racing PS1 back when i was teenager.
The track design was kinda hard for newbie players but i still enjoy the game.
@Polley001 I just read up on it and it appears that there is a season pass, which is for everyone and you get rewards for a 2 month period.
The prize pass is the paid pass and you get additional rewards on top. I've also read that anyone that plays the game shortly after launch will get enough in game currency to buy the first prize pass.
Again these two passes scream "Free to play" game model. The game does seem fun though so it's a tough one.
Shame this is coming out o close to the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe DLC, it looks pretty cool, might get it when the price drops in a month or so.
This game does look like my cuppa tea, it's colourful and it has cute characters. It basically fits all the criteria for a game I would enjoy however there is one thing that casts a cloud over an otherwise pretty good game, the Season Pass. I know I got a LOT of enjoyment out of Chocobo's Mystery Dungeon Every Buddy and I know I would enjoy this but like I said before I'm still undecided at this time.
Me: Ha this looks nice, I'll take it.
Mario Kart DLC: -doing the jedi mind trick- No you won't
Me: No, I won't...
I'll get the game, not the paid season pass. Easy.
So what’s this all about a season pass then? You have to buy the game AND a pass?
Not surprised in the least. It looked like a re-skin of the GOAT MK8D from the outset, so the fact that it plays like one too, and adds a feature I've been hoping the next MK adds since 2014 - individual special moves to make each driver that bit more distinct - means it has to be a great game.
Didn't notice any mention of the soundtrack and sound design in the review, or control options, so some further research to do, but I'm sure to pick it up sooner rather than later.
Everyone talking about having to buy a game and a season pass; forgetting that Mario Kart is actually in that position for the full content. Lots of games are.
However; yes this is more of a “battle” pass than a season pass (relative to what other games offer); which sucks. And looks like they are hiding the best characters behind it?
But otherwise nothing wrong with a game offering more paid content on top of it’s initial cost. Literally you could copy and paste a lot of these comments onto a Mario Kart article.
So I need the clarification.
The game will have physical release but I also heard about Battle Pass.
So the unlockable tracks and characters are paid DLC?
How about the default things from beginning?
Happy it turned out well, tbh. I'm still playing MK8 after a hiatus but this looks fun.
@norwichred Like in free to play games there's a time limited battle pass every few months which if purchased allows you to unlock stuff not obtainable otherwise. You still unlock via normal gameplay after purchase and if you don't unlock everything by the time the season ends you lose the opportunity to unlock that remaining content.
To be fair, story mode is a weak spot in any kart racer. There's a reason Mario Kart doesn't bother with it. And fun fact: in the original Crash Team Racing the story mode antagonist was deliberately made ridiculous as a concept (an alien) because devs were tired of making Crash Bandicoot games and hoped it would kill the franchise (spoiler: it didn't).
Why don’t they make final fantasy gp instead? With all the famous ff character including chocobo.
@K1LLEGAL The core difference for many, myself included, is how DLC is approached.
Nintendo generally approaches (major) DLC as a post launch addition. Finished content isn't withheld to nickel and dime you, they finished the game first and then began to add to it.
Here, and this game isn't an exception, you know full well that this content was done and cut out to be sold separately.
And that's something that seriously irks people.
Buying a game that launches with whateverpasses simply feels incomplete if you don't shell out even more money.
Similar example in my case:
The way the Crash Team Racing handled its DLC (Weekly missables with horrendously overpriced with ingame currency only to then charge real money for it) completely stopped me from ever playing it again.
If i wanted a "complete" game, i either had to shell out lots of money or never play anything besides this game to grind out in game currency.
So i stopped. Entirely.
@Einherjar Yea I understand. Sometimes games can be completed and then the DLC is worked on before it officially launches so it can seem like the game was incomplete when it wasn’t… and sometimes there is a cashgrab. I’m not arguing that this isn’t a cashgrab lol. Just funny seeing the comments; out of context they could be applied to so many different games that people still happily buy.
But yea a Battle Pass is so much different to a Season Pass; in gaming terms; so I feel like the wrong terminology has been used.
I completely agree though regarding the quality of something like Mario Kart’s initial release. And how this differs from that.
Wait, CTR (on PS4) have some DLC?
With story mode being weak and most of the characters being unfamiliar to me, it seems the free Lite version is definitely the way to go. It gives you unlimited access to Chocobo GP online races.
9 tracks? Paid season pass? Yikes! That's a pass. Maybe I'll pick it all up on sale when they finally got all the content out.
@Anti-Matter It has micro-transactions but not DLC. Like you had access to all the tracks and everything, but they locked a lot of cosmetics behind a paywall.
I'm still giving this a miss based on paid season pass alone
I think i will change my mind about Chocobo Racing GP.
Any full priced game with season passes is a direct 0/10 from me.
And then Mario Kart 8 with great new content coming soon? Well.. I won't even bother with this trash.
@Anti-Matter Not DLC per se, but they had seasons with new characters, cart parts etc. Everything only cost in-game currency but it was way overpriced for the rate at which you gained it.
So if you didn't grind your heart out online, you missed out on characters. And i tend to not invest too much time in a game i know i can't fully complete anymore.
Dang. I wasn't going to even try this due to the crappy battle pass thing.... but this is tempting me. Maybe I'll try the free trial.
Any sort of Season Pass/Expansion Pass/Battle Pass-styled DLC bundle that offers content that should be free is an automatic fail to me. Hopefully, this is not the case for this game.
Seeing some german reviews with a 6/10 score I was expecting a 7/10 here. So I'm quite surprised you even give it a 8/10.
Your title: A Surprising Mario Kart 8 Alternative For Final Fantasy Fans
PCgames.de says: Sadly no alternative to Mario Kart at all
Damn, much rather just pay for a decent sized dlc down the road like what mario kart is doing! These season pass things to try make the game a full time job don't appeal to me at all. Great review though!
Barely any points off for micro transactions?? The way the people here have an uproar anytime mobile is mentioned that's surprising. At least it's Fortnite style where you can buy it once and get every season afterwards for 'free' as long as you play enough and don't buy extra stuff. (bolded that since it's not mentioned in the review and every other comment will be about it)
I'll definitely try the free version since I don't like racers enough for the full thing.
@K1LLEGAL oh yeah, in fact is that difference that will make me not buy the pass. If I have to play alot or pay to have more things (being characters, karts tracks or whatever) is ok (I played alot CTR and will pay for Mario Kart) but BOTH for a nearly full priced game is nonsense.
Nine tracks? Battle Passes? Locking the one Final Fantasy character that everyone knows behind a paywall?
I'll say this much for Squeenix, they can always put a smile on my face.
I'm smiling as I walk to the register to buy somebody else's game, but I'm smiling.
Is the online cross platform?
@sanderev Surely Mario Kart 8 is also a full priced game with a season pass now? Given it’s adding content over a period of time which you buy a pass for?
There IS enough there in the review that has me convinced. (This was on my wishlist as it was). Shame about the cons but it may not be as bad as some other similar games with the same cons. We'll see, I'm down....
when is this out? I still don't see any pre orders on Amazon or Best Buy or such
I was so pumped for this, it was going to be a day one purchase...and then season pass. I sort of wonder if it is just better to wait until the inevitable(?) re-release that includes all the extra content like they did with World of Final Fantasy or Theatrrhythm (spelling? lol).
do we know how much the Day One DLC will cost? I don't see anything on the eshop about it. That makes me mighty suspicious now that I see others discussing it
Despite the odious business model, I’m excited to give this a try. Still bummed Tonberry isn’t in the game, but having Terra to play sutures that wound.
Thanks for the review, PJ!
I’m excited for this. The ps1 game was probably my most non-rpg game I played on that system.
@nessisonett DLC Pack != Season Pass. I'm okay with regular DLC as long as it's priced fairly. Which it is in MK8Ds case.
A season pass means you can miss items if you don't pay for the pass. And there will be more that one season.
looks good, it'll be even better when it goes on sale
@sanderev No, you can buy the season pass for example in Assassin’s Creed games which is a bundle of all DLC and typically bought as a promissory before all the DLC has released. What you’re thinking of is a battle pass.
@Patendo agree was going get this but then new mario kart courses its a pass for now
Yeap definitely buying this day one, the season pass may come later anyways. Not sure why people are crying over that like it's required or something.
@Patendo - That's a pretty...petty reason to skip this game, don't you think? :/ Why not play both if you're interested in both?
Love how confusing this is getting..
By all the means the game has what sound like a battle pass system, but by calling it a season pass, noone even know if or what they should complain about.
It's amazing how they made sure to be as clear as possible about the gameplay quality, but are making a mess in clarifying the microtransaction system ahead of the release.
Honestly doesn't make me very optimistic on how fair they will implement this battle..pardon, 'season' pass.
This was one of my favorite announcements from that Direct. Glad to hear it turned out good!
@EmmatheBest not sure it's petty but thats my choice. Mario Kart DLC is the preferred choice for me as I dont need/want/afford owning both. This looks good but sadly the timing of new Mario Kart content means I will pass on this (as I assume many may do as well)
Waiting for the day Square Enix learns how to do a seasonal game.
8/10 That will certainly do for me. Have my copy on pre order. Looking forward to playing this shortly.
I'm getting it, should be fun to play with some friends! And I'm on a final Fantasy marathon right now, so that fits perfectly! 😁
@Rosalinho LOL for me I think of FF10 trying to get Tidus' Utima weapon. Makes me think if there's any reference of that in this game?
Eh, the live service model pretty much devalued every bit of reason for me to get hyped for it, plus I have enough Kart racers on my Switch to keep me occupied (Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Team Sonic Racing, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, and Gensou SkyDrift), so...I'm good.
Besides, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is gettin' Booster Course Pass soon...
I just read that this runs at 60fps just like Mario Kart 8 and I'm so relieved. So nice when devs don't feel like they have to take the same route as CTR and Sonic Team Racing! I'm excited to play Chocobo GP now. If I could only somehow talk Polyphony into adding a lower res 120fps mode to GT 7...
I grabbed the full release. Heard the racing was actually quality, and that's make or break for any cart racer.
It'll be a nice change of pace from Mario Kart. Though with new DLC releasing, we're eating good for cart racers.
How Many Tracks?
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: 96 (DLC included) U$59,90 + U$24,90
Crash Team Racing: 40 Tracks U$19,90 (on sale)
Chocobo GP: 9 Tracks U$49,90 That´s all.
@Joriss Ah so the jedi mind tricks got you too huh?
Yet another kart racer....
wait, NO RUBBER BANDING?!
@Rykdrew Another review I read said there's 21 tracks among 9 environments? 21 sounds better than 9 at least lol.
@acefondu 9 tracks with same little variations.
at least that's what I saw.
But, anyway, the gameplay is inferior to Crash Team Racing... a pity!
FYI, it's not a full priced game with a season pass. It's a free game with a season pass.
So the Lite version is free, but obviously you don't get access to all the content. The "season pass" is the full paid version, for... I wanna say $49.99? I can't remember. Something like that. In any case, I just look at it as being a $50 game, with a limited free version if you're so inclined.
I had hopes for this. It really could have been a Mario Kart killer, but for me there are 3 major nos that make me glad I didn't frop $50 on this. Micro-transactions for items, counter intuitive controls (mapping of drift, item use, etc.), the color scheme/graphics on some tracks made it very hard to see turns and such. Mind you, these are my opinions on this particular game. Yes, I have decided NOT to get the full version after playing the lite version. so we can leave it at that, K? K!
@acefondu from my play time with this I found that there is indeed 9 tracks with varying degrees of difficulty. That is what I saw, I have been wrong before.
I just don’t understand Nintendo have ‘The King of Kart Racers’ in all gaming history Mario kart is just unsurpassed in every way (ok no story but so what) so why bother with a sub par game with all these hidden costs, im really looking forward to the 18th March when the new MK8 dlc arrive my only concern is that most of them don’t even look that spruced up from the Mario kart tours counterparts
Fingers crossed in the meantime bring on the 18th
Was on my Day 1 list until I saw the battle pass. That was my first red flag.
Then MK8DX new tracks appear, solid buy for me and this was sent to the maybe one day list.
I really wanted to give this a chance so I tried the lite version.
Please avoid like the plague, it feels just like a mobile game with annoying micro transactions advertisement, very limited and the cart and character physics are not good.
Drifting sucks and the Tracks feel like a bad copy of Mario Kart down to the colors and feel of them.
Do yourself a favor, pick MK8DX and the new tracks and let a square know with your money how bad this game was.
And I’m a hard core FF fan, I really wanted to love this.
@predatoure there are nine set of tracks with 4 variations, so that 36 tracks in total which is fine, but only nine visual style might be a bit repetitive indeed.
I just tried the lite version and played a few tracks on handheld mode and I'm pretty impressed. It looks to me that the game runs at 60 fps and 720p, I don't work at digital foundry but it sure looked clean and smooth to me. The handling felt really good too, albeit with only two or three races I can't deliver a proper impression. But overall it was really good. It's a shame that SquareEnix seems to go crazy with the season pass and microtransactions because it sure looks like a very fine kart racing game to me.
Another shameful live service disaster from this rubbish company.
this is full price mobile game ripp off total con., what will i do oh wait go play best kart racer.
Well, I'm now extremely curious, as I've been keen on buying a second Switch kart racer. But the existing ones are either poor efforts or old enough that the online is dead.
I'm off to download the lite version!
Okay, I was super wrong, and this review is super incomplete, with zero mention of the egregious micro-transactions for an in-game currency only available via real money purchase.
That's right - this full priced AAA game is essentially a mobile game that requires you to keep paying extra for the opportunity to unlock customisations like other characters. You pay a premium price for the game and then you keep paying to be able to unlock anything worthwhile in the game!
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