Calling Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon
a "mini-RPG" doesn't really do it justice. There's plenty of character development possible, along with elements that have created huge fan bases for the franchise across a variety of platforms. Don't be fooled by the cute quotient running very high; this is a full-blown RPG experience that will greatly please Wii owners who haven't had much in the role-playing department yet on their console. Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon
kicks off with a great opening, showing Cid and Chocobo on their way to a treasure that has captured Cid's imagination. References to an airship are dropped by Cid to show his relationship to the Cid we knew from previous Final Fantasy
games. Before the treasure can be secured, Cid and Chocobo are waylaid and whisked off in a magical storm to the town of Lostime. It seems that in this place, everyone is in a cycle of forgetting precious memories, triggered by the tolling of the town's bell. Cid and Chocobo are pulled into this mystery, but Chocobo (with you in the driver's seat) will do the majority of the work to pull the town out of its misery.
Features like randomly-generated dungeons make it okay that the adventure is relatively contained. Instead of a world to explore, we have a small town. The characters in the town are more than they appear; after helping them recover their memories, you will be able to learn more from them and open up new game elements. The character development for your "party" is different than games with large groups containing a variety of characters. Much like the various "X-Heroes" you'll meet that are obviously the same Moogle dressed up in various disguises, Chocobo can assume different roles, or jobs, that change your dungeon-crawling experience. The earliest jobs include those heavy on combat and magic, with the opportunity to level-up one job or spread points throughout a few that match your playing style. Other nuances beyond combat include item collection and the ability to refine or combine two objects. There's some depth to this that isn't necessary to enjoy Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon but it makes things rewarding for more seasoned RPG players. It's possible to do some fishing and gardening to further improve your chances of success; again, these are optional but fun elements within the game.
A major perk within Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon is the addition of an addictive card game. Much as the card game in FFVIII was probably my favorite part of the whole experience, Pop-Up Duel is arguably what will make the difference between trading in Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon and keeping it on your shelf for years to come. Maybe not years, but certainly months... The basics of Pop-Up Duel are a rock-paper-scissors style of gameplay combined with something close to War. You form the best combination of 15 cards and select one at a time to play against your opponent. Depending on how your card matches theirs, you'll successfully attack and defend. Cards can cause effects similar to the typical dungeon battle, like slowing or speeding up attack rounds and causing vulnerabilities. Over 100 cards can be collected throughout the game, either dropped by enemies or gained from interaction with NPCs.