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Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon

Score: 88%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: h.a.n.d. Inc.
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: RPG/ Action/ Card Games

Graphics & Sound:

Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon is pure Final Fantasy goodness, with all the trappings we've come to know and love over the years. Familiar characters make appearances in a new setting, the town of Lostime and its dungeons. The cinematics are high quality and the gameplay graphics are some of the best you'll see on the Wii right now. There is a simplicity to everything that speaks to the younger audience demo that Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon is aiming to please, but that doesn't change the fact that this looks every inch the classic RPG that we fell in love with way back in the day.

The music and dialogue is also a standout. Spoken dialogue is everywhere and the characters' voices are cast very well. Chocobo, as the main character, doesn't have much to say but has his characteristic squawks and cheeps. The others you'll find in the town have triggered sequences that provide them with lots to say. The colorful setting really comes to life with the addition of good voice acting. The music is good enough that you'll turn up the sound to catch familiar tunes. Typical of earlier titles in the franchise, the style of music here is a mix of grand pieces that wouldn't sound out of place in an orchestra pit with jaunty, sweet tunes that seem well fitted to a small folk ensemble. Classic themes from previous games make an appearance here, much like sightings of familiar characters.


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.


Leveling up has a major influence on how easy or hard the game feels, like most RPGs. To make Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon more accessible, there are some hard stops on progress that force you to increase your character's level and improve your job skills before moving into new areas. If a character holds the key to one of the game's puzzles, you'll need to help them regain their memory before you can progress. Not all dungeons are created equal; so-called "Rule Dungeons" will put special conditions on Chocobo, such as limited HP or a restriction on items. These dungeons can feel tedious or frustrating, but their purpose seems to be to mix things up and push you to explore the more traditional dungeons further and level up. Access to the dungeons you've completed is a nice touch, especially once you realize that they hold powerful items you'll need later in your quest. There are some constraints on how long you can linger in a dungeon that prevent it from becoming mundane, which is smart because the decor and monster population of each dungeon is relatively simple.

Game Mechanics:

The Wii controls are not used much at all beyond using a flicking motion to pop up cards in the Pop-Up Duel segments. The majority of the time you'll use the Wii-mote with its NES-style control scheme, holding it sideways. This is nice since the style of play in Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon is pure Action/RPG. Moving around and attacking monsters all happens in real time. You can use objects during or outside of battle, and some magic. The collection of items in the game is managed through a bag that can be upgraded to hold more items. There is also a bank that will hold money and items, a must if you like to play at the edge of your game. Losing in a dungeon will strip you of your non-equipped items and money, so it doesn't pay to play with abandon unless you visit the bank often. Kicking the bucket means returning to your last save-point, but you can save at any time outside a dungeon, so there's no need to worry much as long as you're careful. The flow of battle is based on turns and speed of attack. Multiple enemies can surround you and get in a volley of quick hits in succession, so it pays to position yourself strategically. Magic helps to keep a distance from powerful enemies and wear them down before things get physical.

Setting up wireless multiplayer for Pop-Up Duel is easy-peasy. You can add friends if you've registered them in your system and can also strike up a wireless game with a player at your level, or first available. Increasing your ranking is key and you'll have to keep playing and winning to see that score rise. Mastering Pop-Up Duel will take some time, and it is largely a game of chance and probability. It is a great diversion, and drives several quests for rare cards that you can be involved in while you play. Many players may not see the benefit in Pop-Up Duel, since it doesn't directly change your fighting ability or have impact on the result of the game. It's a really fun diversion, as are side-games you'll find alongside Pop-Up Duel that are positioned more as Arcade classics. They both make use of the Wii-mote to spur action on-screen, which just makes it more obvious how little motion control is contained in Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon. At the end of the day, I'm okay with someone not maxing out the motion controls as long as they managed to make a great game. Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon may not qualify as great since it lacks much of the depth that we want to see in a RPG for the Wii. Until something epic comes along, this will satisfy the needs of RPG fans waiting for something high quality to play on the Wii. If you are the person that came to the party loving Final Fantasy, this is a great sidebar to stories told previously in the "big" FF adventures.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Windows American McGee\'s Grimm: Little Red Riding Hood Microsoft Xbox 360 Schizoid

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