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Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon
Platform: Wii
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: h.a.n.d. Inc.
Genre: Action RPG
Format: Wii Optical Disc
Released: US 07/08/08
Japan 12/13/07
Official Site: English Site



Scorecard
Graphics: 68%
Sound: 90%
Gameplay: 90%
Control: 85%
Story: 78%
Overall: 89%
Reviews Grading Scale
 
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Cuteness is this game's stock in trade...
 
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...but that doesn't mean you're not going to have to fight.
 
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You will, however, have to babysit at times.
 
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Animals have important things to say!
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Damian Thomas
Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon
07/21/08
Damian Thomas

Some years back, in the days of the PSOne, Square tried a very bold move; it released a game in the US that had lots of kiddie appeal, but also some decent play mechanics. That game was Chocobo's Dungeon 2, which continued Square's tradition of confusing US gamers with odd numbering (we had never received Chocobo's Dungeon 1).

Almost 10 years later, Square decided to resurrect the franchise on the seemingly family-friendly Wii. Following on the heels of releases such as Izuna and Shiren the Wanderer, Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon attempts to ride the "Rogue-like" gameplay train that has been growing in popularity. Fortunately, the game balances out well enough and is accessible to younger and older audiences very well. Read on.

Story

Chocobo and his pal Cid are hunting for a gem called Timeless Power in a dungeon called Tower in the Sands. When they get to the chamber, though, they find their nemeses Irma and Volg have reached it first, and they all get sucked into a column of light, landing them in the town of Lostime. Upon meeting the mayor, they discover that every time the clock tower's bell (the Bell of Oblivion) rings, people lose memories, and that the villagers actually find forgetting a virtue! Fortunately, a young white mage named Shirma comes to rescue Cid and Chocobo from the bell, but not before some of Cid's memories are taken. Even more mysteriously, that night a shooting star lands in the piazza, and reveals a baby born from an egg. The baby, named Raffaello, gives Chocobo the power to enter into people's memories, and from there, it's up to Chocobo to unravel the puzzle of Lostime and the Bell of Oblivion.

While the story is by no means novel, it is nonetheless adequate to keep the player moving along. There are plot twists that are very obvious, mysteries whose answers are foreshadowed well in advance, and nothing particularly taxing in terms of character development. However, what this game's story lacks in depth, it makes up for in charm. Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon (FFF:CD) is geared towards a younger audience in everything from tone to the bright, pastel graphics. Most of the non-dungeon parts of the game are saccharinely sweet, family friendly, and sanitized for the kids. Yet, even with a story aimed at elementary school students, that doesn't mean that the older generation can't appreciate it. Sometimes it's good to leave behind the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and take up arms against a sea of moogles. It's refreshing to play a Square Enix game where I don't have to play a brooding hero/anti-hero or a whining, scantily clad main character. Chocobo is sweet, brave, and fun-loving, and it gives the game charm. The characters are also likeable, and there is a good deal of humor to boot. However, if you can't abide by that, there's still more to this title than meets the eye.

Gameplay

For anyone familiar with the game Rogue or other titles that share its engine (Shiren the Wanderer, any of the mystery dungeon games) gameplay involves entering dungeons with randomly-generated floors, picking up items and equipment, and fighting enemies. If the gameplay sounds a lot like Diablo, that's because it is, with one major difference: all the action is turn-based. Each action the player takes as Chocobo gives the enemies an action. For example, when Chocobo takes a step, uses an ability, uses an item, etc. the monsters take a step, or attack or use an ability. None of the enemies act until you do, allowing plenty of time for strategy.

Most of the main story dungeons in the game are straightforward: you take in items, equipment, etc., descend through the floors fighting enemies, gaining levels and picking up loot, and eventually reach the bottom of the dungeon where you fight a boss monster. If you die in the dungeon, you lose any items that you do not have equipped, but the challenge in the main dungeons is very easy, and shouldn't tax most players. However, the optional dungeons can be downright nasty, in that they impose penalties on Chocobo. For example, a couple of dungeons set your max HP at 1, meaning anything that hits you kills you. Another dungeon sets your food meter at zero, meaning you constantly lose health and don't gain any back via walking. And in none of the optional dungeons can you bring in anything, which is a curse and a blessing; while you can't get the benefits, you also won't lose any of your really good stuff when you die.

One last note about the gameplay system: Jobs! There is a basic job system in FFF:CD akin to those in Final Fantasy 5 and the Tactics series. As you progress through the story, you pick up memories of jobs that you can equip at the beginning of a dungeon to become that class. Each class has access to special abilities such as the white mage's cure and the dragoon's jump, which can be used if the player has enough SP. From time to time, defeated enemies drop job points which, when enough have been accumulated, advance your job level, bringing with it new abilities to use. It's simple, but I do love a good job system, and so FFF:CD gets extra points in that regard.

Graphics

Y'know that comment about the Wii being two Gamecubes duct taped together? Apparently the developer of FFF:CD, h.a.n.d., bought into that theory, and so spent very little effort on graphics. The result is a game that shouldn't be as poor in the visual department as it is. Everything about the game screams early last-generation graphics, from the awkward movement of the characters and their blocky models, to the PSOne-era textures on the ground. Honestly, I can't conceive of a good excuse for such poor-quality graphics, and this is where the title suffers the most. Sure, everything is supposed to be cutesy and kiddie, but if PIXAR can accomplish that while making a beautiful visual presentation, I can't see why h.a.n.d. couldn't do that with a system that is while by no means the pinnacle of graphics hardware, is not exactly a slouch either. Fortunately, I don't really play games for their graphics, but boo on you h.a.n.d.

Sound

I can't stress enough how happy I was with this soundtrack. There are, maybe, 3 original tracks in the entire game, not including the ending song, with the rest being remixed or remastered versions of songs from other FF games. Hanging out at the farm to the theme of Chocobo Ranch from FF7, plumbing the depths of the Light Dungeon with the theme of the Lightning Plains from FF10 accompanying and fighting Leviathan to Battle of the Four Fiends from FF4 all gave me the warm fuzzies. Every track was a perfect accompaniment to what Chocobo was doing at the time. In addition, the voice acting was pretty good, despite no effort to lip synch at all. Pick up the soundtrack if you can, and know that this game provides an excellent aural experience.

Control

Like most Wii games, there are lots of ways to play. I chose to use the Classic Controller, as the d-pad worked better for me. Overall, there are good shortcuts for selecting the item menu or abilities menu, and the ability to auto sort by pressing the minus key is a blessing. There are some niggling issues, such as dealing with diagonal movement, but I can't really hold that against the game; I probably just suck.

Overall

If you can deal with the kiddie atmosphere and lackluster graphics, Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon provides an enjoyable gameplay experience. It's just difficult enough for the vets, without turning off less experienced gamers. Add to that fabulous music and decent controls, and you've got a good 20-30 hours of fun in store.



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© 2008 Square Enix. All rights reserved.


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