Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2007-04-30 Nintendo DS Mini-games E (Everyone) Square Enix / h.a.n.d. Inc.

"Omg, so cuuuute!" were the first words out of my mouth when I launched Chocobo Tales for the first time. In this fairy-tale-like game, Square Enix ditches the conventional RPG gameplay to focus on mini-games and card battles in a setting tailored for children that gamers of all ages will enjoy.

Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales takes place in a Chocobo farm, where a mysterious book is found and opened, only to bring chaos to the peaceful land. An evil creature named Bebuzzu is unleashed, takes away all the inhabitants, and plans to devour all the magic crystals. The fate of the farm and the missing Chocobos rests on the shoulders of one little heroic Chocobo. With the help of two of his friends, Chroma the Black Mage and Shirma the White Mage, the Chocobo starts a stange adventure that transports him into a series of books and traps him inside their tales.

Each of the books has a mini-game and a series of challenges to complete. In each volume there is a Trial stage and a Battle mode with up to 5 levels. Completing the stages rewards you with something: a Chocobo card that saves a villager and places him/her somewhere in the farm, a Pop-Up Duel Card to go in your deck, another level of the mini-game, an epilogue or an event on the world map.

The fables you will find and participate in include The Tortoise and the Hare, The Town Musicians of Bremen, The Ugly Duckling, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, The Ant and the Grasshopper, The Three Little Pigs and also a reference to Pinocchio. Of course, all of them have been adapted to feature Final Fantasy creatures, so instead of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, you will read The Boy Who Cried Leviathan. The added epilogues assure you get three different moral lessons for every story.

There are several types of mini-games in the fable books, granted to appeal a wide range of players. You will find yourself swimming away from Leviathan, dodging boulders and racing down rapids with an Adamantoise, stealing fruit while staying clear of Shiva and Ifrit's fire and ice balls, stepping on instruments to play a rhythm game, racing up or down a beanstalk or finding a Chocobo in flames in a "Where's Waldo" type of game.

The micro-games aren't locked in the books, and you can find them all over the place. Some of the Chocobos you save will have something for you to play, others are randomly placed in the world map.

In the Forest you can play a sort of whack-a-mole with Malboros. At the beach, you can play a little game where you bounce Cactuars to burst bubbles. In the Fire Mountain, Bomber Wall will probably remind you of Mine Sweeper with a twist, and it's been driving me crazy. There are also a couple of Cid's game machines with some wacky and not so easy games, a darts game where you have to blow on the microphone to pop the balls, and a whole bunch of other fun things to play, including Silly Scribbles which you can play here.

Micro-games also reward you with Silver and Gold medals, each of them giving you a card, Silver for the more common, Gold for the rare.

Although it is possible to advance through the game without completing all the stages on every book, it's recommended you try to complete as much as possible to get better and more powerful Duel Cards. There are certain points in the story where you are forced to duel a guardian (Ifrit, to start with) and although you will eventually get a 15-card deck, it's wise to collect the best cards possible to battle the different "evolutions" of Bebuzzu.

I've never been much of a trading card game person, and it took me a while to get the hang of it and pick the best cards and strategies for my Pop-Up Card Duels, but the system in Chocobo Tales is fairly accessible even for newbies like me.

Each card has four attributes related to the elements, represented by red, blue, green and yellow circles on each edge. If there's a shield on a given color, that means the card will defend attacks from a card of that color. If there's a sword that means it can defend half damage of an attack of that color. A colored card's attack will always give you a crystal of its respective color. These crystals are used by Crystal Abilities of certain cards. It may sound complicated on paper, but when you first play with the Moogle and get him to explain everything, it's not that bad.

The key to winning duels is to know your opponent's cards, so if you lose a duel, change strategy and try again, there aren't any consequences for losing. For me, it has worked so far to build up a deck with high defense on the particular element being used (for example, green defense cards in the Forest, blue in the Underwater Temple).

I am actually so happy to finally have learned a card game that I'm debating on playing other games that include them.

As far as the controls go, Chocobo Tales can be controlled entirely with the stylus, including moving across the map areas. All menus, mini-games, micro-games and card duels are made for being tapped and dragged, so everything is very user-friendly.

The sound effects and music will be very familiar to Final Fantasy veterans, while the art style comes in a mix of 3D environments around the farm's grounds, and 2D crayon-colored paper cut-outs in the books and card duels.

In the end, what seemed like a very childish excuse for a Final Fantasy game turned out to be a very enjoyable adventure, trading card game and mini-games collection in one. There is plenty to do, lots of replay value, over 120 cards to collect, more than 40 games to play and several Chocobos to save. The added multiplayer feature allows players from all over the world to come face to face in Pop-Up Card Duels.

Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales is a fantastic adventure that draws the player right in starting with the first storybook. I sure hope to see more Fables based on other characters in the future!

Special thanks to Klee Kuo and Square Enix for providing a copy of this title.