Do you consider yourself a gamer? It doesn’t matter whether you consider yourself casual or hardcore, just that you consider yourself a gamer. No matter which of the two categories you fall into, Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales is a game for you. Chocobo Tales is one of the most underrated DS games out there, and I’d like to change that. It was released in 2007 to positive reviews, but somehow got lost in the shuffle with the insane amount of great DS games being released. Maybe it was the fact that a happy looking chocobo and a picture book graced the front of the cover. Maybe it was because this wasn’t a typical Final Fantasy adventure. Maybe people thought the game was too childish. At any rate, it seems as though Square Enix saw this coming, as on the back of the case, it says, “Don’t judge a book by its cover!” Perhaps more so than any other game I’ve played, that phrase rang true here.What looks like a childish and easy adventure on the outside is in reality one of the toughest adventures you could ever embark on; if you choose for it to be.
Well, what kind of game is it? It’s a story based minigame/microgame collection, and card battler all in one. You take control of a yellow chocobo in a village, who lives a normal chocobo-ish life, until your friend Croma the Black Mage decides to bring an evil book into the village. No, it’s not the Dark Prognosticus, that’s Super Paper Mario. Here in Chocobo Tales, this evil book is home to the evil spirit of Darkmaster Bebuzzu, who is able to roam free once again thanks to your kindness. Before he goes, he swallows up a bunch of your friends, and so your adventure begins.
The game is played entirely with the touch screen, so there are no buttons involved in saving your friends, which isn’t a bad thing. As you move yourself throughout the world, you will come across picture books which hold the key to saving your friends and advancing in the world. Once you open a picture book, it will unfold like a children’s pop-up book, with stylish crayon graphics that give the picture books the illusion of being hand colored. In short, they look amazing, and will impress you every time you see them. Not only are the graphics amazing but so is the music. The game features multiple catchy remixes of not only the chocobo theme, but also various Final Fantasy tracks.
Also, each picture book features a classic fairy tale with a Final Fantasy twist. For example, the first picture book you’ll come across is called “The Adamantoise and the Cactuar,” which is a twist of the classic story “The Tortoise and the Hare.” Your character will be on top of an Adamantoise trying to be the first to reach the top of a mountain, while evil chocobos called “jail birds” will try to slow your progress.
Beating these picture books will not only advance the story, but also give you special cards which you use to battle the bosses of Chocobo Tales. Each minigame and microgame has a variety of medals and prizes awarded with each medal, and only the most hardcore of the hardcore gamers will earn every card. There were many times when I spent multiple hours just trying to beat a single minigame with the best score, and many times I felt like throwing my DS because of how insane some of the challenges are.
But the good news is that you don’t need to get the highest score to advance the story. Once you beat a picture book, you are free to move on, and can come back to it whenever you want. When you finally make it to a boss, the score is settled in a Pop-Up Duel. Before you fight a boss, you will take the cards that you have earned, and create a Pop-Up deck with them. The card system is surprisingly deep, and has plenty of room for strategy and powerful attacks. When a battle starts, there will be three cards from your deck shown on the bottom screen. You and your opponent will take turns choosing cards to attack and defend with. Every card has a circle representing an element on each side of the card. Those circles will either be blank, have a sword, or have a shield. If you play a card that has a sword in the water circle, and your opponent’s water circle is empty, your attack will hit and so forth.
Each time you use a card, it will fill up your crystal gauge. This is what is used to attack with powerful cards like Bahamut, whose Tera Flare+ crystal ability will do tons of damage depending on the elements of each card in your crystal gauge. It is easy to develop strategies around certain cards, and try to hit your opponent for massive damage as often as possible. There were also new cards added to the game from the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection, and DS Download Stations. If you felt up to it, you could even take your deck online and battle people from around the world. In addition, each mini and microgame is playable from the menu once you unlock it.
I have a great collection of DS games, and out of all of them, this one may actually be my favorite. If you love stories and cute characters, this game is for you. If you loved the insane difficulty of Trauma Center: Under the Knife, this game is for you. If you are a gamer, this is for you. If only I hadn’t somehow lost my copy…