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Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales

Platform(s): Nintendo DS
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: Square Enix


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NDS Review - 'Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales'

by Rusty Bailey on April 17, 2007 @ 1:42 a.m. PDT

Chocobo Tales takes place in a fun and enchanting world filled with trademark characters from the Final Fantasy franchise. Featuring innovative stylus and Touch Screen functionality, players will challenge dozens of minigames and microgames as they embark on a journey to rescue their lost friends and restore peace to the land.

Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: h.a.n.d.
Release Date: April 4, 2007

There will always exist spin-off titles that gamers must endure, including the countless Pokémon games, which have surely degenerated to spin-offs of spin-offs. However, Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales actually has some substance, which is quite surprising for an offshoot project.

The story begins with you and a few other fellow chocobos sitting around Shirma the White Mage while she reads a picture book. The Black Mage, Croma, comes running in with a new book he found and anxiously opens it. Unknown to everyone, the book had sealed an evil being named Darkmaster Bebuzzu, and he uses his powers to suck up all of your friends into different picture books around the world. Now you must travel into these books to save your friends and return the power to four crystals.

Each book spins a tale similar to one of the classic Aesop's Fables, except usually with Final Fantasy characters. The very first book you encounter is like the "Tortoise and the Hare," but it is called "The Adamantoise and the Cactuar." Each book has a different mini-game relating to the fable, and each is essential to progress through the story.

The entire game is controlled with the stylus, and different mini-games will find you manipulating the touch-screen in various ways. Some mini-games will have you drawing leaves for the chocobo to bounce from, collecting coins for the highest score, or racing to the end of a river or maze. While most of the title is composed of all of these storybook mini-games, it is always a different and fun experience, and each supplements the overall story.

With every mini-game, there are objectives which will open up new paths, free one of your chocobo friends, or earn you a Pop-Up Duel card. If you want to do well in Chocobo Tales, playing through the mini-game multiple times and getting high scores is definitely to your advantage. You will always have the obligatory battle to open an essential path, but then you can open other paths that may lead to cards or micro-games.

While there are mini-games that advance the story, micro-games are also scattered throughout the world that can help you earn some better Pop-Up Duel cards once you attain the high score. These have nothing to do with the story and have varying degrees of difficulty. Thankfully, there is an area in the central town square that will transport you to any game you want so you don't have to walk all the way there.

So what are these Pop-Up Duel cards I keep mentioning? You will find these cards throughout the game, and you can use them to build your own deck, which can be used against foes during duels. Throughout Chocobo Tales, there will be some oaf blocking a path, or you may have to face a boss, and these disputes will be settled through Pop-Up Duels. Basically, you pick a card at the beginning of each round, and the creatures on the cards are summoned to deal damage to the player, depending on whether or not the opponent's card blocks your move. It is a pretty simple game, but also extremely fun.

While it's good to use a strategy with your deck, a lot of the outcomes are based on luck. It's also unfortunate that there are only a handful of Pop-Up Duels in the single-player game. You can play the mini-games to try and complete the collection that consists of over 100 cards, but to get any more fun out of it, you'll need to take your decks online.

Square Enix did a great job of packing Chocobo Tales full of multiplayer options. If you have a friend with the game, you can compete in the mini-games or engage in a Pop-Up Duel. You can't play single-cartridge multiplayer, but if a friend wants to demo the game, you can send over a mini-game. Of course, the best part is the online play. Unfortunately, you can't play any of the mini-games online, but you'll be able to show off your card-battling skills against anyone — no friend codes required.

The multiplayer aspect really extends the game's lifespan, especially if you enjoy the excitement of the Pop-Up Duels. Once you complete the game, you can also replay the mini-games and micro-games to try and unlock all of the different goals. However, it is a fairly short game when you play straight through — count on less than 10 hours — so the high scores and online play should keep you busy afterwards.

I have to say that I really like the artistic style of Chocobo Tales. When you are sucked into a picture book, all of the characters look like they were colored with crayons and cut out of paper. The whole style is reminiscent of Kirby: Canvas Curse, which is understandable since they have related stories. Even when you're not in a picture book, the game's graphics look very crisp and vibrant, especially for a DS.

Almost every song in the game's music library is from a Final Fantasy game, so hardcore Final Fantasy fans will probably be able to name every track. Aside from the nostalgia factor, the cheery songs really fit the title, just like the happy-go-lucky characters.

For many people, it's easy to brush aside Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales because it does not have a Roman numeral in the title, but it is truly an enjoyable game. Yes, it is mostly mini-games and simple card battling, and a lot of the game may seem childish, but it proves to be a fun time, especially for Final Fantasy fanatics who will appreciate all the of character references and song throwbacks.

Score: 8.4/10

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