Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales DS Review - 13/02/2008

Well, as we all know, Square Enix make some of the best games you can get on almost every console live and dead. So a new Final Fantasy series designed from the ground up for the DS sounds like a complete and utter gamer's dream...well, yes and no!

Of course, this is Final Fantasy so there is always going to be an amazing storyline to follow, which is very true in this case, perhaps more than most. The story follows a Chocobo, and you have his quest to save his friends and his world from the evil clutches of Bebuzzu. Bebuzzu is a Darkmaster, who was sealed in a magical book long ago, but one day, your friend, Croma, who is a Black Mage, accidentally started a reaction that began to release the Darkmaster from this literary prison. As the book is a portal between the world that our hero lives in and the dimension that Bebuzzu was sent to, all of your Chocobo friends are sucked into the book and thus trapped in Bebuzzu's dimension. This is where your quest starts: your mission is to save all your friends and return Bebuzzu to the book before the evil Irma and her gang of black Chocobos called the Jail Birds succeed in freeing him.

The gameplay is extremely simple in design: the game is basically made up of short mini-games that are put together to make the entire adventure. Each mini-game is hidden in a storybook and these storybooks contain fairy tales that are based on real-world lore just adapted for the Final Fantasy universe. In between each mini-game there are two other gameplay elements. These are RPG exploration and card battles, which are well rolled into the story of the game and never seem to feel out of place.

You've got to love those cute Chocobos.

The mini-games are designed for the DS and for use with its particular features, for example there is a game where you need to help a mouse who is tied to a balloon to reach some cheese that is floating above it, to do this you need to blow into the microphone. This sends the mouse to in to the air and it is able to get the cheese by floating into it. All the mini-games are amazing fun to play and never seem to make you feel frustrated or overworked, which is a brilliant balance.

The exploration is conducted via the touch screen where you guide your Chocobo around a 3D world by touching and holding the stylus to that point. Unfortunately this is pretty much the end of the RPG element in the game except for within the card game components. In the card games you have to collect cards from around the game world to create a more powerful deck. These cards have summoning monsters from the Final Fantasy universe sealed inside them. So what the player has to do is compete in timed bouts against an array of opponents to proceed in the game. Basically the cards are from one of four elements: Earth, Fire, Water and Thunder. These elements each have a weakness to one of the other elements so Fire is defeated by Water etc. So the idea is to defeat your opponent by defeating their cards, thus damaging their HP.

The mini-games are great for pick-up-and-play action.

As you can imagine Square has produced some of the most awesome graphics that the DS has been capable of so far. Although it is more of a cartoony-style than that of some of the DS games, things are really excellent. The world is completely rendered in 3D, which makes every section of the game world stand out. The same care has been taken over the characters who even though all are Chocobo in design, each one has slight changes that make them unique, making the game even more special. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the sound in the game, it is really a shame. Sure there are the trademark FF themes at the end of battles and the like, but there is no spoken dialogue at all, which really would have helped with the engrossment into the story. Still there are some very nice tunes to hum along to during the mini-games.

Well, what can I say that I have not already said? Chocobo Tales is a magical tour of the Final Fantasy universe from a completely different perspective. The unique gameplay and wonderful charms of this game will win over even the hardest of hearts; it is just plain, good fun and nothing more. Well... maybe a moral or two for the kids!

- Alec Hilton