Everybody in Chocobo GP keeps pretending to forget about Gilgamesh.
It’s a prime example of the game’s undeniable quirky and occasionally meta charm, even if its middling gameplay systems miss the mark. Chocobo GP adapts the Final Fantasy franchise into the colorful kart racer formula, and it’s essentially a spiritual successor to Chocobo Racing on the PS1.
There’s plenty of content to wade through with a story mode, time attacks, series races, online tournaments, and more. Chocobo GP practically weaponizes Final Fantasy nostalgia. Diehard fans will eat it up. However, like countless other kart racers before it, Chocobo GP simply cannot keep up with Mario Kart.
Hitting the Track
If you’ve played a kart racer before you know the basic formula of Chocobo GP: eight characters race on tracks filled with environmental hazards and power-ups. Drifting is absolutely essential in Chocobo GP, as the game uses a similar system to Mario Kart where you build up boost as you drift, as well as crystals that build your overall speed. Boring track design and flaws in the general feel of the controls make Chocobo GP a bit tiresome.
It doesn’t help that you have to unlock most of the tracks and playable characters as part of the story mode. Games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate can get away with that kind of frustrating gameplay design, but at least Nintendo offers up multiple ways to unlock the game’s core roster.
Many early-game Chocobo GP tracks are short and bland, with only a few turns and no kind of unique obstacles. You feel like you’re driving around in circles. That’s obviously true in any racing game, but you need enough gimmicks to make the racer forget that. There are different variations to some tracks that help add some variety, like a “hyperspeed” version with extra boost pads and more turns.
Some of the later tracks do a much better job at feeling unique, providing a lot of twists, turns, and unique areas. A particular highlight is the Golden Saucer, which feels like Chocobo GP’s answer to Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road. It’s huge, colorful, difficult to navigate, and genuinely a lot of fun.
The other big problem is that karts simply don’t feel as responsive as you’d want them to. There’s a certain “floatiness” that makes your inputs feel imprecise. The wonkiness of the controls coupled with some track design flaws can sometimes lead to severely frustrating crashes. You can do a trick when going off a jump, that will then give you a boost when you land. However, there are times that a jump might run right into a turn, making it nearly impossible to make said turn if you try and get a boost.
The power-ups in Chocobo GP are all inspired by Final Fantasy, like Haste which gives you a speed boost, Fire that lets you shoot a homing projectile, and Bahamut that transforms you into the summon to zoom ahead. But there are far too many power-ups to keep track of, and getting hit by a power-up requires a lengthy recovery animation that can last nearly seven seconds. Getting hit by even one attack can drop you from first to last, let alone all the times you get nailed by a second one right after. Mario Kart works so well because you always feel like you can win if you ace a great jump or get the right power-up at the perfect moment.
Chocobo GP sometimes feels like a last-place disaster lurks around every corner.
All of these criticisms are mostly minor annoyances common to the genre, but stacked together they make Chocobo GP’s gameplay feel unexceptional.
Chocobo GP’s greatest strength is its story mode, which is a fun and surprisingly self-aware little tale that’s entirely voice-acted (yet another surprise!). Chocobo and his buddies are taking part in a racing tournament with the promise that the winner gets a single wish granted. Things aren’t quite as they seem, however, and there’s a big bad that pops up at the last second, which the game even calls out as a Final Fantasy trope. Along the way, dialogue constantly breaks the fourth wall, acknowledging little in-jokes from the series and poking fun at the fact that everybody keeps forgetting Gilgamesh.
Across the game’s ten chapters you’ll meet a few iconic Final Fantasy characters, like Vivi and Steiner from FF9, and Terra and her father Maduin from FF6. Each game that’s represented brings some unique stylish flairs to the track and kart designs. The pop remakes of iconic Final Fantasy tunes also help keep the overall experience engaging for fans. Although, that god-forsaken main theme song will be stuck in your head for days on end. My particular favorite is Vivi’s car the Fabool IX, which is the Oglop version of Cid.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to grind a lot to earn enough in-game currency to unlock everything. Each time you do a race or a story chapter you gain tickets which are then used in the shop to get new characters, kart designs, cosmetics, and more. You accrue tickets at an utterly sluggish pace, so completionists will have a grueling time ahead of them.
Chocobo GP feels like a game that wants to be Mario Kart with Final Fantasy, but it simply doesn’t have the creativity or mechanical chops to back it up. There are certainly worse racers out there, but unless you’re the type of Final Fantasy fan who’s really into games like Theatrhythm or Dissidia that celebrate the franchise at the expense of quality gaming, you’re not going to get a whole lot out of Chocobo GP.
Chocobo GP will be released on March 10. Inverse played the Nintendo Switch version for this review.
INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: Every Inverse video game review answers two questions: Is this game worth your time? Are you getting what you pay for? We have no tolerance for endless fetch quests, clunky mechanics, or bugs that dilute the experience. We care deeply about a game’s design, world-building, character arcs, and storytelling come together. Inverse will never punch down, but we aren’t afraid to punch up. We love magic and science-fiction in equal measure, and as much as we love experiencing rich stories and worlds through games, we won’t ignore the real-world context in which those games are made.