The Final Fantasy franchise is largely known for its high-fantasy action and wild plot twists, but that is all about to change thanks in part to a new Nintendo Switch. If you did not already know, Square Enix is ready to release a sequel of sorts to 1999's Chocobo Racing called Chocobo GP. The colorful kart racer is a winding game that is plenty polished despite its complete lack of substance.
Chocobo GP might look like a simple Mario Kart clone from the outside, but that is not the full story. It shares similarities, of course, as you pick various character and ride combos to suit your type of driving. A slew of levels are made available as you play through the story mode, and each offers unique obstacles while playing homage to Final Fantasy games from the past. For instance, you can race through the Gold Saucer from Final Fantasy VII, and familiar faces like Vivi will vie for your attention as a chosen racer.
However, there are some major differences between Mario Kart and Chocobo GP. While both give players power-ups, Chocobo GP uses magicite to boost racers or simply hinder others. For instance, you can use elemental magicite like fire to attack others, and each driver comes with their own innate powers you must wind up. For instance, our favorite Chocobo gets a speed boost after collecting enough mana, and these bonuses differ across the board.
The best part of Chocobo GP comes down to its actual racing, and as an avid Mario Kart player, I can attest this game is difficult. There are two modes available to players depending on how familiar they are with kart racers. Even the beginner mode is difficult for seasoned gamers, and I found drifting to be the reason why. Much like in Mario Kart, Chocobo GP gives speed boosts to racers who drift for extended periods, but the sensitivity varies wildly even after you've drifted for a while.
It was also disappointing to see how limited the multiplayer options are for Chocobo GP. Gamers will be able to race online with up to 64 players in an elimination tournament which sounds pretty intense. However, when it comes to local co-op, the game says up to eight can race. However, Chocobo GP would only allow two controllers to connect while playing local co-op on a single device, so it isn't as friendly to group play. And while this might be fixed with patches, it was a major deterrent for me.
Sadly, the thing I was most excited about with Chocobo GP is what I hated the most. Final Fantasy has some truly wild stories, and I didn't expect anything particularly deep from a spinoff title like this kart racer. However, the story mode was a total slog. While the races were challenging enough, the cutscenes between them were impressively dull. As a longtime Final Fantasy follower, the game's caricatures of my favorite heroes were way more cringe-worthy than creative. Even younger players will be left confused by the story mode despite its colorful palette. From its pacing to its weirdly meta jokes, Chocobo GP missed the mark with its story mode, but gamers will have to grin through it if they ever want to unlock the game's full roster.
While Chocobo GP feels very much like a Mario Kart clone, it would do the Nintendo game a major disservice to call these titles equal. Square Enix has a polished game here that races rather well, and its surprising difficulty will challenge racing veterans. However, it is just too cluttered with junk to enjoy. Its lacking story mode can be overlooked easily enough by most, but its limited local co-op will make it a no-go for plenty. But if you're strictly in this for moogles and magic, well – Chocobo GP might not be so bad.
Score: 2.5 out of 5
Chocobo GP is scheduled to release on March 10th for the Nintendo Switch. A review copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review, and it was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch Lite.