Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon is a game that flew under a lot of radars, including my own. If the name sounds familiar, it's because this is the third installment in the Chocobo's Dungeon line. The first game, Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon, was made for the Playstation and WonderSwan and never saw a North American release. However, Chocobo's Dungeon 2 was released in the States in 1999, again for the PS1. Fast forward to 2008 and Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon is released for the Wii.

I played Chocobo's Dungeon 2, or at least attempted to, when I was a kid. This was around the time that Chocobo Racing was released and that game was my Mario Kart. The dungeon installment was a lot different from the happy racing game. Don't get me wrong, it was still happy and cute, but therein lies deception. Chocobo's Dungeon 2 is a difficult game.

Now that I was older, wiser, and more aware of inventory management, perhaps the newest Chocobo's Dungeon would be more of a delightful romp rather than Dark Souls with a fluffy yellow bird.

The story follows Cid and Chocobo, treasure hunters that search for the fabled gem Timeless Power. During their search, they get transported to the village of Lostime on the island of Memoria. No big deal, right? Except the island disappeared from the world fifty years ago.

To make matters even worse, every time the clock tower in the center of town chimes, people lose their memories. Luckily, a mysterious boy named Raffaello can let Chocobo access people's memories, which have been twisted into monster-patrolled labyrinths. Only by conquering the dungeons and recovering precious memories will Chocobo unravel the mystery behind Memoria's disappearance and find a way back home.

And maybe score a sweet airship in the process. It's Final Fantasy, would you expect anything less?


The dungeons are randomized levels filled with traps, treasure, and, of course, monsters. The action is best described as turn-based strategy. The result is quick game play with the nuances associated with the Final Fantasy series.

Chocobo has one action per turn, but haste and slow will affect how many actions a character can take per turn. Haste causes two actions per tern while slow only allows an action every other turn.

During Chocobo's turn, the adorable bird can use abilities, magic, kick, use items, or kick items at foes. After the player inputs a command, the enemies take their turn, which you will not be able to see unless you're in the same room or have an ability that reveals enemy locations. As a result, the action is constantly going at the player's own pace. There were times when I had to take a moment to think of all possible options, such as when I was surrounded by enemies. Usually the best course was to lay waste with an AOE, an option usually available to me as I favored the Black Mage and the ability to set everything on fire.

Besides HP and SP (this game's version of MP), Chocobo also has a Food Level. This percentage in the top right of the screen will deplete over time as you explore and fight. If it gets too low, Chocobo will get hungry and start to take damage. The only way to combat this is to eat gysahl greens or step on a food ring that the dungeon may have generated. This mechanic may seem like no big deal at first, but later dungeons have nefarious traps that will sap this statistic and the sheer number of floors will quickly make you realize the importance of having greens on you at all times.

Job classes, such as Black Mage and Dragoon, add a new wrinkle to Chocobo's Dungeon. The player decides what job class to equip when they first enter the dungeon. The jobs have unique abilities and will also impact stats differently. It's also possible to level up jobs by collecting Job Points, which monsters will sometimes drop.

Since the dungeons are randomly generated, there's a lot of replay value in exploring a dungeon multiple times. You may happen to run across a rare item or stumble upon a duel room, where you can fight a tough enemy for greater rewards. That isn't to say everything you find will be safe to use. Unknown items may carry curses and you won't be able to remove them without casing dispel or visiting the priest and receiving a blessing.

An important thing to note is that dying in a dungeon will cause the player to lose all items and gil currently in their inventory, even equipped items. Nothing like a little pressure. Luckily, there are items that will allow Chocobo to escape and locating the stairs to the next floor offers the option to return to the hub.

While the game systems seem complicated, it's always fun. Moreover, it's rare for the game to feel unfair, especially during the main dungeons. They can be tricky at times, but usually that's a result of having to level up. I found myself pushed by the urge to explore and claim the dungeon's treasures. If Chocobo leveled up as a result, even better.

The hub has plenty to offer. Fishing can reward players with items as well as fish that can be sold or given to Fat Chocobo to increase the number of items the obese bird can store for you. Gardening also yields helpful items that can triple your Job Points and cast protect and shell, just to name a few. The cafe has a jukebox with the game's music. The game has several unique tracks, but the majority is arranged FF classics like Man with the Machine Gun and Prelude. There's even an entire house dedicated to mini-games that use cards you'll pick up in your travels.

Visiting the town's forge will let you fuse weapons and armor together to create more powerful equipment. You can also hone your equipment to provide better attack and defense, a must for conquering the later dungeons.

Chocobo can also interact with some objects in the environment. You haven't experienced a cute overload until you've seen the mascot play in the playground or sit at a table and sip tea like a high-class gentleman. I found myself triggering these interactions after a particularly punishing dungeon to bring a bit of joy back into my life.

The most challenging dungeons are the extra dungeons. They usually have special rules and conditions as well as level caps. No two extra dungeons are the same. One could be a long hallway with enemies coming at you one at a time while another forces Chocobo to undertake a multiple level dungeon with 1 HP. Luckily, before you enter one the game transports all of your items and gil to storage. Chances are you will die, multiple times usually.

No, I'm not joking.

The 1 HP dungeon? I died at least two dozen times. Unlike the story dungeons, the extra ones are meant to break you. But luckily, the game is so fun and the desire to conquer all of it is so strong, that I kept going back.

Despite its cute exterior, Chocobo's Dungeon is a complex game, one that can be absolutely punishing to the unwary. Final Fantasy fans will like nods to the main series and enjoy the different take on game play. To the uninitiated, it's a solid, well-executed game that absolutely deserves a chance.

 

Final Score: 8/10

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#1 Minishdriveby 2014-08-30 17:32
I've been meaning to check out Chocobo's Dungeon. Final Fantasy Fables is a good spin-off series. If you ever get the chance, checkout the DS game as well.

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