Friday, September 12, 2008

Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon (Wii) Review

Here we are. Took a little longer since I actually imported the pictures through Blogger itself (so you can click on any picture to expand it). Sorry about that. Yesterday I posted the DS Final Fantasy Fables game to lead into this review for the Wii Fables game.

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Elephants and Chocobos never forget.

The Chocobo Dungeon series originated on the Sony Playstation in 1997. Now more than a decade later and after a bit of a hiatus, everyone's favorite cuddly and cute yellow bird is back to explore dungeons big and small with Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon-- not to confused with Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales for the Nintendo DS which features the same characters but in a different genre. Chocobo's Dungeon is a "roguelike" drenched and dripping with Final Fantasy fan-service, but is fan-service enough to help the game see the light of success or will it stay trapped in the dungeon of mediocrity?

Treasure Hunter Cid and his pal, Chocobo, in search of Timeless Power

On a treasure hunt inside a desert tower, Chocobo and partner Cid search for one of the grandest treasures of all-- Timeless Power. However, when they approach the prized possession, a group of brigands led by a sultry red-headed girl named Irma steal the jewel. Suddenly, all parties involved are mysterious swirled into a magical tornado sending them up into the sky eventually transporting Cid and Chocobo to the curious city of Lostime where each moment the fabled Bell of Oblivion rings from the town's clock tower, everyone in the city loses their memory and what they were doing before the tower bell tolled. Not long after Chocobo and Cid settle in a little bit and meet a young white mage named Shirma, a meteor falls from the sky. However, it's not just some ordinary meteor. It's actually an egg which houses a strange baby boy named Rafaello possessing the wondrous ability to enter the minds of the forgetful townsfolk. Now armed with a mission, Chocobo and friends set out to regain the lost and fragmented memories buried deep within the confines of each Lostime citizen (serving as the actual dungeons of the game). What follows are various retrievals of forgotten memories split up through five chapters all leading up to a more sinister and dangerous underlying cause.

This is the gloomy-looking city of Lostime.

Lostime as well Stella Ranch serve as the hub of the game. Chocobo can freely explore these areas, enter homes without a phone call or search warrant, gain clues from the various townspeople, and purchase new equipment (talons, saddles, and collars) and items (potions, ether, and status healers) all at its very leisure. New dungeons open up during conversations with a given citizen. All of a sudden they'll be talking about something, the bell conveniently rings, they lose their train of thought, and Chocobo sees it as its duty to enter their mind, vanquish the boss guarding their memories, and retrieve them. You'll allow shopkeepers to remember that they have goods to sell, help two different middle-aged folks recall that they're married, and other helpful thoughts.

A map in the lower-right corner helps Chocobo find its bearings.

When entering a dungeon, the gameplay shifts from total freedom to a more free-roaming turn-based affair. I'm certain that last sentence confused the majority of those who've never touched a "rogue-like", so let me explain. Every action that Chocobo takes is considered a turn by dungeon-standards. Take a step? That's a turn. Use an item? That's also a turn. Attack? You see where I'm going with this. Enemies are also regulated by these rules meaning that every action from you results in an action from them. Careful planning is sometimes the difference between living to fight another day and collapsing in battle, losing all of your gil and items in your inventory save for equipped goods.

You don't want to get surrounded, so take the fight into the hall.

Chocobo needs to worry about a lot while its shuffling around inside the many memories of Lostime's denizens. It'll not only have health points and magic points to worry about, but also it'll have to keep an eye out on its status and hunger level. Now Chocobo can run in place or move about the dungeon which will slowly heal its HP, SP, and eventually whatever status ailment its currently inflicted with such as confusion, slow, and poison to name a few, but moving about will gradually make it work up quite an appetite. If its hunger level goes below 10%, it'll start walking in a famished daze, and if its hunger level reaches zero, Chocobo's HP will start diminishing steadily after each turn. Hunger isn't too much of an enemy early on, but as the dungeons become more lengthy, you'll want to bring with you some form of greens to feed Chocobo to keep its hunger in check.

Each dungeon is made up of a number of floors both small and large. The majority of these are randomly-generated which makes it sound like you'll get a totally new experience every time. However, each dungeon has a finite amount of floor parts to it meaning that each dungeon is constructed of generic grand square room, wide rectangle room, etc. all connected by narrow hallways. This may be repetitive to some people, but it really isn't too bad-- especially since the important elemental dungeons (fire, water, light, and dark) all have different backgrounds and ambiance to spice things up a bit. Starting dungeons are basic and reach anywhere from in-between 3-10 floors. As the game progresses, Chocobo will be faced with the daunting task of conquering dungeons from anywhere between 10-100 floors! Thankfully, you're able to escape from a dungeon with all of your items intact at any stairway to the next floor as well as temporarily save your progress until the next time you load your data.

Watch out for those bats. Those things suck. No, literally. No, not in a dirty way.

Dungeons are full of familiar monsters from the Final Fantasy universe including Bombs, Cactuars, Coerls, Goblins, Lamias, Marlboros, Sahagins, Tonberries, and much more. They're not the only dangers inside the many labyrinths of Chocobo's Dungeon. Traps hidden and not-so hidden rest on the countless floors of dungeons. These can range from inflicting Chocobo with a temporary status ailment to sapping Chocobo's energy so its hunger is increased. There's also duel traps which are shining gold circles placed on certain floors. You have a 50/50 chance of either heading to Merchant Hero X's shop or facing off against a powerful boss-- either a larger version of a current enemy or an entirely new baddie altogether. Though for experience, gil, and item whores, you'll usually want to take that bad boy on-- the boss-- not the moogle... though you can take on either actually.

For instance, this duel room has Chocobo feeling the heat of Ifrit.

There's the mandatory dungeons to sift through, but there's also special, optional dungeons-- two of which won't be able until the game's intriguing story is completed. The majority of these dungeons have unique rules to them, and they all have level caps so grinding to level 99 isn't going to save Chocobo here. One dungeon has Chocobo as well as every enemy in the dungeon with only 1 HP to work with. One hit and you're finished. Did I mention that Chocobo's also blind during this? That bird has to be far from ordinary.

Well, Chocobo isn't your ordinary bird, so why must it be relegated to the ordinary "I'm going to be naked" fashion statement? Well, it won't as this bird's got style! Chocobo can equip three different items at a time-- talons for attacking, saddles for armor, and collars for various benefits such as extra strength, ailment prevention, and so on. Once Freya's memories have been restored, you can swing by her blacksmith shop to hone and fuse talons or saddles for more powerful equipment. All talons and saddles can only have their abilities increased to such a level before they can no longer be empowered any further. Some equipment boasts bonuses such as a chance to inflict an enemy with poison or boosting your chance to unleash a critical hit. The best thing to do is to combine talons or saddles that have two different bonuses into one equip-able talon or saddle of maximum kick-assery. Yep. I'm sure Chocobo would call it that, too.

To further add depth to the formula are jobs. Now why is it that Chocobo can have up to ten of these things, yet myself and my older brother can't even get one right now? Go figure! Regardless, Chocobo can unlock new jobs from doing various tasks. Most of the jobs are available by simply playing the better half of the main story, but others will have you delve into the aforementioned "special" dungeons. All of the classes are ripped straight out from Final Fantasy canon including the knight and dark knight, the black and white mage (no, not like Michael Jackson black and white mage-- the black mage and the white mage-- two different mages), the dragoon, the ninja, the thief, the scholar, the dancer, and Chocobo's natural job class. Each can be leveled up separately from Chocobo's experience level by picking up job points which are occasionally dropped from fallen foes. Each job can be crafted to up to level 8, and each gives Chocobo a new ability when using a said class. These abilities are specific to each class and cost a certain number of SP crystals to use which regenerate over time. For instance, a black mage will use black magic like Fire, Blizzard, Thunder, and Meteor whereas a dragoon will use skills that allow Chocobo to jump on an enemy two squares in front of it for massive damage.

This **** is too violent for me, man.

Square-Enix has put some effort into Chocobo's Dungeon's presentation package. However, it could use some work. The graphics, character and enemy models, buildings, and environments are pleasing to look at, but they're nothing a late-gen Playstation 2 game couldn't accomplish. The voice acting is tolerable at best, but some characters just come off as grating. It doesn't help with the lip-syncing is totally off as well. I felt I was watching one of those old Kung-Fu movie dubs with Bruce Lee or something. With that being said, the story is told rather well, and the voices do not wholly detract from the experience. One point of the package that I absolutely love is the fantastic soundtrack which features wonderfully remixed songs from Final Fantasies 1-11. I'd say it's like a best of Final Fantasy music, but that would be a disparagement to the entire series' soundtracks. There's so many great tunes throughout Final Fantasy's history that Chocobo's Dungeon's collection is but the tip of Shiva's iceberg. Overall, I very much like the look and feel of the game even though it could be improved starting with a bigger budget.

Thank goodness I can't see her mouth as she talks.

Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon is a very interesting and entertaining take from a gaming relic-- the "roguelike". It explodes with charm, comedic moments, fast-paced battles, lovable characters, countless hours to invest into (I finished off the game at around 35 hours), and many optional events and challenges to partake in. For those with a Wi-Fi connection, you can take on faraway friends and strangers via the multiplayer card-battle game with cards that 133 cards that can be collected throughout the game (though however shallow the card game might actually be. Give me Triple Triad, or give me death!). For everyone else, there's enough content to justify a purchase as the game launched at $39.99, and if you're a Final Fantasy fan of any kind, you should already be playing or have played this game. Chocobo's Dungeon is the type of dungeon that you'll want to get lost in.

[SuperPhillip Says]

Story: Chocobo and friends decide to restore the city of Lostime's memories. Ultimately, almost everything is full of intrigue, charm, and interesting characters.

Graphics: Great CG work, somewhat dated presentation, but overall it's rather nice.

Gameplay: Fast-paced, turn-based battles whereas exploring dungeons may get tedious to some people.

Sound: Just an incredible compilation of music from past Final Fantasy games remixed and sounding fantastic. The voice acting is passable for most characters, but some just come off as grating.

Replay Value: 20-30 hours to complete the main story, and then there's jobs to master, cards to collect, and extra dungeons to explore. There's a lot to do.

Overall: 8.75/10 - Kweh-kweh!


2 comments:

Chief said...

This game looks cool. It has a unique story line that I find to be very interesting. But it seems to be a rather long game. With having the ability to go through everyone's mind, then having that turn-based part to complete their mind, or "dungeon", it seems monotonous. Well I suppose what really matters is how many townsfolk are in Lostime.. Good review. You said how the story line goes in general step by step, so I won't have any unwanted surprises when I get the game. :)

SuperPhillip said...

There's 20 fragmented memories to restore in all, and 6-8 (IIRC) are optional to do. Again, the game will take anywhere between 20-30 hours to do. I was over-leveled by the end of the game and it took me 27 hours approximately to beat. There's a counter as you load your game to see how long you've been playing.

The turn-based dungeon gameplay isn't slow like a traditional Final Fantasy game. An attack takes a split second from Chocobo, and then the enemy acts. It's very quick and streamlined.

Give it a rent at the very least to see if it's good for you. :)