I know what you have been thinking. You have been playing Mario Kart on the N64 all this time and you have been wondering when, oh, when are they going to come out with a game like this for the Playstation. Well, the truth is that there have been a few unsuccessful clones of the kiddie racing game on Sony’s system, but none were very popular or very well designed. Now I am not here to say that Chocobo’s Racing is going to change all of that. It is a pretty tough game especially when first starting out, but it does have a level of fun lacking in most racers.
If any of you remember the racing mini-game in Final Fantasy VII then you will see the inspiration behind this cutesy game: Lots of little creatures in motorized vehicles bumping and fighting to inch their way into first place. The game really takes a step away from its roots however. First of all there are a number of different kinds of creatures and each one is in its own type of vehicle. The days of everyone driving carts are over. Everything from Chocobo’s rocket skates to a scooters to tanks are featured. As with any game of this type, each vehicle has its distinct advantages and disadvantages, though a good rule of thumb is, If the game is named after one of the racers, pick him.
The regular racing mode, named Grand Prix, is really not all that exciting. The tracks are not very well laid out and they are very hard. One course in particular has five 90 degree turns in a row. Of course the computer has the tracks memorized and knows exactly how to manuever through each one. After struggling fo a while, I opened up the manual to see if there was something I was doing wrong. It said, Memorize the courses.That is the only way to win.
However, as hard and frustrating and cliché as the Grand Prix mode is, the Story Mode is really fun. In it you start out as Chocobo and every time you beat another player they join your team and you have the option to race as them in the next chapter. The cut scenes detailing the story are detailed in a two- dimensional pop-up book that folds and unfolds scenes and locations right before your eyes. It was really interesting to watch and much more fun to play than the regular mode. It is nice to race with a purpose than just blindly. Plus it lets you learn everything gradually instead of throwing it at you all at once.
The nicest addition to Chocobo’s racing that is absent in all other racing games of this nature is the opportunity to have a special ability and to use it throughout the race. There is a special meter that fills up and when it does you can perform a special move, which can range from a speed up to flying to increased traction control (a much needed bonus on the windy courses). In addition to the personal trait there are many things along the road to pick up and use. The more of a kind of object that you pick up, the greater power it has. Shoot fireballs, ice, and lighting at all of your opponents. These options add a nice touch to an otherwise impossible game, but they are nothing new.
I have to say that I was not that impressed with the FFVII spin-off we have before us. Although the game has a good number of options, decent graphics, and a fun story line, there is nothing really that original about the game. What’s more is that the level design is so unforgiving that you will get tired of racing along the courses before you have fun. It seems like a game aimed at kids, but is so hard I don’t know of any kids that will be able to master it. If you can get past the difficulty or are looking for a true challenge then Chocobo’s Racing is a good break away from the traditional racer. I mean you can’t freeze your opponents in Gran Tourismo.
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