The premise for Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales is strikingly similar to Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, a mascot character saving its village. Instead of playing as a slime, you’re a chocobo happily living in with the white mage Shirma (who looks the same as the white mage in Chocobo Racing), Croma a black mage bookworm and Cid who makes machines for the island. Everything is fine until Croma opens up a magical book that engulfs all of the other chocobos except you. As the sole surviving chocobo you’re going to enter fables and fairy tales remade for in the Final Fantasy universe. Instead of the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” you have the “Boy Who Cried Leviathan” and the “the Tortoise and the Hare” becomes “the Adamantoise and the Cactuar." Chocobo Tales isn’t a dark RPG with teenage heroes, it isn’t even an RPG. Instead Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales is a light hearted mini game collection set in the Final Fantasy universe.
Chocobo Tales is played entirely with the touch screen. You move around your chocobo hero by pointing to an area on the bottom screen. The top screen has a map, split into nine panels, and markers with book icons to show you where the fairy tales are. Once you find a book you can enter it and play a mini game. The first mini game has Boco race on the back of an Adamantoise and you steer the Adamantoise by spinning it around on the touch screen. While you’re racing up the mountain boulders fall. If one hits you your Adamantoise spins out of control and you lose a couple of seconds off your time. The trick is to lift the stylus off the touch screen go into “defense” mode, you can’t move while defending, but boulders won’t spin you out of control. In one of the “ugly chocobo” mini game you drag a magnifying glass on the touch screen and search for a chocobo with a trail of flames. In the Titan and Beanstalk mini game you draw leaves by making a straight line for your chocobo to bounce on. Most mini games have two modes, a trial mode where you aim to get the best score or time and a battle mode where you fight against Irma’s (the “villain”) three chocobo warriors. When you complete objectives like beating the fourth level of battle mode you unlock epilogues that open up new areas to explore, free chocobo residents or give you new pop up cards. On top of mini games there is a collection of twenty-plus twitch action micro games. In Job Juggler job sprites from the Famicom version of Final Fantasy III float on the top screen and you have to poke the correct job on the bottom screen. Malboro Masher has players tap approaching Malboros on screen before they spray you with their purple breath and Blowgun Blitz has players blow into the microphone to shoot a dart into a field of balloons. Each microgame lasts about a minute and if you get a high enough score you can earn extra pop up cards.
The glue that holds Chocobo Tales together is pop up card battles. In between mini games you are going to run into guardians like an eloquently speaking Behemoth and an Iron Giant who challenge you to Final Fantasy summon monster themed card battles. Pop up card battles aren’t overly convoluted, you only have to watch four zones where you can attack or defend. If you attack on a zone that is empty you have a successful strike, attack in a zone where there is a shield and your opponent successfully blocks and if both of you attack in the same zone each card deals half damage. After the attacks play out you gain a colored crystal of energy, which lets you use more powerful attacks like Ifrit’s Hellfire (to use it you require two red crystals and two yellow crystals) or the Mist Dragon’s Aqua Breath (two blue crystals). There are some more complex strategies like countering attacks with defensive cards such as Carbunkle’s Ruby Light that reflects damage of your enemy’s card and utilizing skills like silence to prevent your opponent from using crystal abilities to master later on.
The real replay value in Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales comes from Nintendo Wi-Fi enabled pop up battles. You can challenge other Chocobo Tales players with your deck anywhere there is a wireless hotspot. When you start a Wi-Fi battle both players start with 20 life points and duel for up to 30 rounds. Battles tend to last around fifteen rounds and they are about ten minutes long, perfect for a quick distraction. Online play also sort of extends the replay value of the story mode. After getting trumped by powerful non elemental Bahamut cards you are going to want to replay minigames and complete more objectives to unlock more cards. One problem with the online pop up battles is players quit before “losing” a battle. After nearly winning six battles in a row all six of the players quit right before the final blow. When other players disconnect on purpose you get a communication “error” and no extra points for your win/loss record. It’s annoying at times, but it doesn’t affect the fun factor of online play (which more card games should include!) too much.
Some of the mini games also have local Wi-Fi play, which makes Chocobo Tales a decent portable party game. However, the single player mode is less than ten hours and the mini games are far from revolutionary. The light hearted Final Fantasy theme carries the game if you’re a fan of the series, but the real reason to play or not play Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales is the online pop up card battles.