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I really couldn't wait until a Kart style racing game came out for the Playstation and much to my delight this year we are getting three of them. Surprisingly the first one out of the gate is from a company much better known for their RPG's, Square! Well, it's common knowledge that Square has been branching out as of late and trying all kinds of new genre's such as fighting, RPG racing, action/adventure and now action Kart racing. What better way to introduce this type of game then to slap a familiar character in the drivers seat and surround him (it?) with a bunch of second fiddle Final Fantasy players.
Sound and Vision:
Chocobo Racing features some familiar sound bytes and music from the Final Fantasy game series such as the Chocobo "Kweling" sounds and various musical snippets during various interludes of the game. The soundtrack features a nice upbeat tempo that is appropriate for a "cutesy" racer of this sort.
The sound effects are varied and fit right in with the action. You get sound effects for the various weapons, squealing tires, engine roars, etc. There is also that all too familiar "bonk" that occurs whenever you scrape or smack into a wall errrr.
The graphics are rather average throughout the game with the occasionally excellent special effects that occur when you use an ability weapon.
The characters are rather small but are easily distinguishable from each other. The track and background colors are lush and vibrant and project a cartoon quality to them.
The track designs are very imaginative and can certainly only occur in "videogame land". I liked the reflective surfaces that are present when the racer motors over ice (or is it glass?) and the molten lava effects are very convincing on the Vulcan-O Valley track.
The most apparent flaw that I could find with the graphics are the seaming and clipping that occur whenever your racer gets close to a wall. You can easily see the other side of the walls, which is often just a blank area on the screen.
Starting the game off you immediately notice the "cute factor" that has been built into the game. The CG intro, while very well done just didn't appeal much to me. Upon entering the main menu you will find a wealth of game options for you to choose from.
The first up is the Story Mode. This is a single player game that takes your little yellow Chocobo on a journey where he will meet and race all sorts of characters from the Final Fantasy series. The story starts out at Cid's workshop where Choco has just received a pair of turbo charged roller blades from the master engineer himself. Mog is next to make his appearance and it becomes apparent that Cid is working on a transport vehicle for him as well. Mog learns that Chocobo possesses a blue crystal that gives him the special power of DASH during a race. Mog challenges the bird to a race for possession of the crystal. Once you win the race, Mog figures there must be others out there with special crystals as well and decides to journey out with Choco to find them. As you progress through the game you will meet the other characters and race them for their crystals. Each time you beat someone you essentailly unlock that character and they are added to your team. You can then choose to use them in your next race or stick with the Chocobo. Some of the crystals that you will pick up from these characters allow you to fly, mug Materia from others, get extra grip on tracks and create Barriers to protect you.
The story is presented in a really neat "pop-up" book manner where pages are turned as the story progresses and the next page in the book pops up to show that particular scene. I found this process to be quite mesmerizing and helped me to get through the childish dialogue that goes along with the story mode. Another BIG reason to complete this mode is the fact that when done you are allowed to customize your own racer! Once customized this driver can be saved to the memory card and used in the other race modes!
The next game you can select from is the Grand Prix. This can be either a one or two player game, with the nod going to the two-player mode for the most enjoyment. Here you can select from a grid of 8 racers including a Black Magician, a White Mage, Golem, Mog, Chubby Chocobo, Behemoth and of course Chocobo. Each character has their own default ability that can be used or you can select a different ability from the menu. Next you get to select from the initial 8 tracks that are offered (there are more hidden in the game!) that vary in difficulty from 1 to 5 stars with 1 being the easiest. You can also have the game randomly select the 4 courses if you like, but I found that it worked out better to select the courses myself and place them in the order that I wanted to race them in (hey anything for a win!). You are given a set number of points for each position that you place in each race. The character with the most points at the end of all four races wins first place. If that character happens to be yours you get treated to a nice little CG movie of that character showing its delight with the victory.
Vs. Mode consists of just you against another player (or the computer) in a one on one death match with the winner taking it all. Once again you can select from a grid of characters and select the track you wish to race on. Being that each character has their own unique abilities, to give yourself a little heads-up try to select a course that your character will excel in.
Up next is the Relay Race! This is a cool one player vs. the computer or vs. another race. You and the other player each select 3 drivers from the grid, configure them with a unique Ability and you're off. You can set the number of laps per each driver from one to three. After each driver completes the designated number of laps they tab the next racer and so on until the first driver from the last relay team crosses the line!
Finally there is the Time Attack mode where you race against the tracks best time. Once you beat the time you can choose to race against yourself, as a Phantom Racer will be created. This is pretty tough because now you are racing against your own best time.
While driving you can pick up various types of power-ups and magic stones (Materia) that can be used to assist you in burning up the course or to attack the other drivers. Some of the magic stones can be "powered up". For example, if you get one Fireball you need to aim it at the driver in front of you. If you get two Fireballs it will auto-aim at the driver in front of you. Collect three and you can burn everyone on the course (hehehe).
Strategies that can be deployed during a race are many. You can "bump" into another driver and obtain their magic stones, you can equip your character with the "Mug" attribute and steal stones from other players or you can use "Dash" and just go pedal to the metal throughout the race. It's also a good idea to memorize the tracks as best as possible and learn how to drift.
Drifting is accomplished by holding the gas while pressing the brake. While this is a little weird compared to other racers, it works just fine once you get the hang of it. It's essential to get this little trick down or you will end up bouncing into and off of the walls, especially on the harder tracks.
Another little tip is to time the start of the race just right. If you press the gas just as countdown finishes you will get a 2-second speed burst that will shoot you out in front of the pack.
I found Chocobo Racing to be an extremely enjoyable racing title that is best played with two people. Once you get past the "cuteness" factor there is a decent arcade racer buried in there that contains a good deal of strategy and depth. The Story Mode story is kind of childish but it's the only way to get the create a character option unlocked and the pop-up style presentation will really appeal to the younger crowd hell, I liked it myself!
With the hidden characters and tracks and all of the racing options just waiting to be played, this game should hold your interest and challenge your racing skills for a reasonable amount of time.
This is a single disk game for 1or 2 Players. It is compatable with the standard (digital) joypad and the dual shock (analog) joypad. Games can be saved via memory card.
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