Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Chocobo Racing

Chocobo Racing, to be blunt, is Mario Kart with cute Final Fantasy characters instead of Mario characters. Everyone gets their own cute little mode of transportation instead of just riding in a go-kart, though. Chocobo himself has rocket roller skates. White Mage rides a flying carpet. The goblin thing is in a mine cart, Mog is riding a powered scooter that Cid made for him. You do 3 laps of a track picking up question blocks to use to attack the other racers. It is very much a poorly implemented Mario Kart with a Final Fantasy theme pasted on.

Ok, calling it poorly implemented might not be completely fair, but it's not far off the mark. The controls are definitely worse than the controls in any Mario Kart game I've played. The attack items are certainly badly balanced in terms of making a fun game. One of the best things about Mario Kart is how the person in last place would get stronger power ups. It added a catch up mechanism to the game without being super blunt about it by having the guys in last just go faster or something. Chocobo Racing has no such concept. Each of the question spheres (they aren't really blocks) gives a random spell, or some of them just have the spell icon from the start so you know what you're about to drive over. You can hold up to 3 items at a time, and there's an added twist. Pick up the same thing you just picked up and instead of giving you a second copy of it they power up your first copy instead. One fire spell gives you a hard to aim green turtle shell. Two fire spells gives you a red turtle shell. Three fire spells gives you a red turtle shell for each of your opponents.

The problems here are three fold. First, everyone gets the same power ups so the person in first is apt to get a strangle hold on their lead. Next, they take some time to respawn, so while the person in first is guaranteed to get a power up from each section it's entirely possible other people won't get one and therefore the person in first actually gets more powerful stuff than the losers. The last problem is that the powered up attacks hit all players equally so the person in last place will get spun out just as often as the person in first. More often, even, since the guy in first is throwing out more attacks than the others!

One small mistake at the start of a race was the only difference between winning by a mile or getting stuck at the back. Front running is the only way to play this game, and that's unfortunate. Especially since the goal of every race is to win. If you don't come first you have to play it again. And again. And again. I actually gave up last night on an annoying castle that had a layout that punished the losers even more. (There was a cage that would go up and down blocking the road from time to time, but it seemed to get triggered when the first person got close to it. The timing was such that the first person would get under it, and maybe anyone really close to them, but everyone else would get stuck.) I played a little this morning to get a screenshot and beat that race in two tries because I managed to get into the lead heading into that section on the first lap and never looked back.

The other interesting thing about the game is each character can assign a super power. Mog can fly over attacks on the ground. Chocobo can dash fast. Goblin can mug items from other people. So on top of getting special abilities out of the question spheres you also get our own special ability that recharges with time. It adds more variety to the characters than just looks, which is nice.

The game has tons of modes. Story mode, which I was playing, was introducing the characters and tracks one at a time and had a cute little narration by Cid (who built the rocket skates and powered scooter). Mog sure is a jerk! Mog kept breaking kafabe by talking about other video games and once even talked about Squaresoft directly. (He was talking about how if he beat Chocobo in a race they'd have to name their next game Mog's Mysterious Dungeon 2. Apparently the games came out in a different order than I thought, or this release got delayed and there wasn't a chance to edit the text.) There are also grand prix and time trial modes as well.

I donno... This was an interesting enough game, but I feel like being set up to punish the losers and reward the winners actually makes for a terrible kart game. The whole point of variable powers is to let the losers think they can catch up. If only I get lucky and get that lightning bolt, I can win! That star man will give me a shot at 3rd place! It also makes multi player with people of different skill levels plausible. This game, not so much. I can't imagine playing this as a kid with a friend who was better than me, or worse than me. The better player would simply never lose. And maybe that's realistic, but it isn't what a kart game should be I don't think.

I'm not going to complete story mode, because learning the tracks enough to be able to jump out to an early unassailable lead without then ever making a mistake just doesn't appeal to me. Sorry Chocobo Racing. You are not good. In fact... You get to go right to the bottom of the pile thus far. Ehrgeiz was a poorly implemented fighting game, but at least it made decent fighting game design decisions. You did not make decent kart racer decisions.

Next up... Final Fantasy IX!

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