Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales Review / Preview for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Final Fantasy without the brooding males

Think of it as Final Fantasy Lite. I’ll admit that I had my doubts about this game. I didn’t think that a game based on the chicken-esque Chocobo creatures from the Final Fantasy series could really captivate me. But Square-Enix knows how to make a game, and within minutes, I was fully engrossed in this wonderfully adorable and surprisingly complex game.

Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales screenshot

The game begins by placing you in a cute little yellow chocobo’s shoes. It’s storytime, and you hustle to listen to the daily story delivered by the lovely Shirma. However, storytime is interrupted when Croma brings a book that suddenly comes to life and sucks in everything around it, including all of your chocobo friends. The only people left after the surprise attack are you and Shirma. Then a chain of events occurs involving the villaness Irma, and you find out there’s a dastardly plot afoot in your otherwise peaceful chocobo colony. The story seems a little hokey at first, but if you go with it, trust me you’ll enjoy yourself

Eventually, you learn that your friends have been transformed into cards and you’ll have to find all of these cards and free them. But the cards have been scattered around your little chocobo world, and many of them have ended up in magical storybooks. These magical storybooks contain adaptations of classic stories with a chocobo twist like “The Ugly Chocoling.” As you play through these stories you’ll also receive “pop-up” cards. You then learn from “Dueler X” (who looks suspiciously like Mog in a Batsuit) that these Pop-up cards can be used to summon beasts to fight bad guys. He’ll give you two ten-minute tutorials and a starter deck to add to any other cards you may have earned so far.

Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales screenshot

And all this happened in about the first hour of gameplay. There’s honestly so much to this game that it’s difficult to put into one review. Suffice to say that if you don’t find yourself addicted immediately, you may want to get something checked. The minigames played in the “storybook” modes seem simple at first, but you’ll have several objectives to complete and you may find these games to be more challenging then they seem. There are also several miscellaneous minigames hidden around the landscape that are not necessary to finishing the game, but upon completion will give you a rare pop-up card that will serve you well in battle.

Another really great thing about this game is that it gives you a lot of freedom. You can go from storybook to storybook in virtually any order you want, picking and choosing which missions you want to complete and which missions you want to save for later. Of course, if you get too off-track, the game will give you an unobtrusive nudge in the right direction, but other than that, you have an unrestricted freedom in this game that seems rare in a game that’s so child-friendly. And although I say “child-friendly,” don’t think that this game is made exclusively for children. This is another one of those rarities that can really appeal and is accessible to all ages.

Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales screenshot

In addition to the story mode, there are several multiplayer modes where you can play pop-up duels and mini-games with your friends. However all of these games are multi-cart play, so you’ll have to make a friend with a copy of the game to use this feature. There’s also a “give” function where your friends who don’t have the game can download some of the minigames. Of course you can’t really interact with this function, but it’s cool for people who might want to check the game out.

There’s also an online function where you can play pop-up duels with players around the world. This is also pretty cool and really tests your deck-making and card playing strategies. You can also see the country from where your opponent is playing from, which is pretty neat as well.

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