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Chocobo GP

Chocobo GP

This adorable kart racer is attempting to rise the top of the arcade racing scene, but is struggling when it comes to dethroning Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

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When it comes to the Nintendo Switch and kart racers, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is essentially running a monopoly. The arcade racing title is the best-selling Switch game ever, despite really being a WiiU port, and this is something that likely won't be changing anytime soon with the Booster Course Pass set to bring a bunch of new tracks over the next couple of years. With this in mind, new kart racers coming to the Nintendo Switch have a mighty task of standing on their own two feet and surviving, and quite frankly need to be either outright exceptional or feature a very unique design to have a chance at existing in the same space as Mario Kart.

Square Enix has decided to take on this challenge with their cutesy kart racer, Chocobo GP, a title that brings a bunch of characters and locales from Final Fantasy together for a blast of arcade racing. While the premise and the adorable visuals hold potential, this is shaping up to be a game that time will ultimately forget as it does very little to warrant putting down Mario Kart and shelling out £40 for this new experience.

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To be clear, this is a kart racer through and through. The core game design revolves around beating your opponents and setting the best possible time across a short, arcade racing track, using vehicles with an accelerator and a brake, and the capability of drifting and grabbing items for special effects and bonuses. In this vein, it's no different to pretty much every kart racer on the market, but it does have a few surprising areas where it sets itself apart from the pack.

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The primary difference is the story mode. This basically tells the tale of a magical racing tournament that will grant the victor their wildest dreams, and truth be told the storyline is barely engaging and is portrayed by dull lengthy dialogue sequences mashed up with the occasional race. It's hardly an exciting tale and one that will struggle to have you on the edge of your seat, something that isn't helped by the fact that it operates like a three-hour long tutorial. Seriously. Each chapter of the story introduces a new track and range of characters, as well as some new abilities to use in a race, and the races that are present in the storyline are used to give you a very brief taste of how to operate and overcome said ability. If this was a complex sim-racing title with a million intricacies to have to understand, the gradual learning curve might work well, but Chocobo GP isn't that at all, and really doesn't need this kind of design.

Chocobo GP

But the storyline really isn't where kart racers are expected to shine, this is rather the gameplay itself, and unfortunately Chocobo GP misses the mark in quite a few places here as well. This is one of those games with a really peculiar handling system, one that fights you when you attempt to abuse every method to go a little faster. The actual control scheme revolves around putting the pedal to the metal to go forward, and then using the brake/handbrake to (mainly) drift and also slow down here and there, alongside picking up coloured Magicite crates to acquire power-ups to affect opposing racers (such as being able to launch a fireball or putting on a shield to block an incoming hit).

While in a lot of kart racers the control system is handled in a balanced manner, in Chocobo GP we're instead provided a system where the brake becomes more of an theoretical system when you're going too quickly, as it will fail to slow you down in pretty much any manner. What this means is that you have to learn the layout of tracks and avoid going too quickly, else you will crash into walls or fall off the map simply because the racing physics lack the control the tracks and gameplay demand.

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Talking about the tracks, this is another area that just feels lacking. There are a few different tracks to race on, but not all that many in general. For the most part, you'll just be racing around the same nine tracks that have been partially altered to offer a slightly unique experience, for example having a section blocked off in favour of a new path being formed, or instead playing on a mirrored version of a track. After a couple of hours, the lack of variety becomes very apparent.

So where else does the variety in gameplay come from you ask? Well, that basically revolves around the playable characters, who each have a unique speed, grip, acceleration, and drift statistic, as well as a special ability, all of which determines how they perform in a race. The statistics, while present, are quite inconsequential, as smart ability usage and a semi-decent strategy will eliminate any bonuses they have, meaning the only real difference each character brings is in its ability. This becomes available after you collect enough crystals in a race and can, in Chocobo's case put the character in an invulnerable boosted state (sort of like a Mario Kart Star), or rather for Racing Hero X, will allow the player to shoot a beam forward that acts as a shield and stuns any racers it hits. They're interesting moves that are incredibly powerful, but not at all enough to offset the clunky feeling handling.

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With all of this being said, there's one part of this game that I just can't wrap my head around still, and that's its monetisation. To be clear, there are specific in-game currencies to earn and use in a shop, where you can unlock new characters met during the story mode, as well as variants of each vehicle, new colour schemes, and a few other cosmetic bonuses. This concept is fine. But for some reason, the shop also mentions two other kinds of currency: Gil and Mythril. I can't speak for the exact use of each yet, as the respective stores hold no content for the time being, as it's pre-launch at the time of writing, but the fact that one (Mythril) instantly attempts to send me to the eShop pretty much affirms that microtransactions and premium currency is available in Chocobo GP, which just feels absolutely criminal for a title that has such a minimal amount of content in the first place.

And this brings me to my overall, final opinion on Chocobo GP, which is that it's really difficult to suggest grabbing this kart racer over Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. I say this as the hugely popular title still feels superior in every aspect, be it the controls, track design, character variety, visuals, and more. Chocobo GP is a mediocre kart racer at best, and that's really not helped by the fact that it seems to have been monetised for some absolutely pointless reason. For the time being, Mario Kart still reigns supreme, and Chocobo GP's best strength is proving that.

Chocobo GP
05 Gamereactor UK
5 / 10
+
It looks pretty good and the performance is solid. Easy to play.
-
Handling is pretty grim. Track variety is very lacking. Story Mode is dull and not at all engaging. It's monetised for some reason.
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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Chocobo GP

REVIEW. Written by Ben Lyons

This adorable kart racer is attempting to rise the top of the arcade racing scene, but is struggling when it comes to dethroning Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.



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