oostarmanoo's Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales (Nintendo DS) review

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Lots of style, but lacks substance.

If you're looking for the kind of game that you can play a little bit at a time, then this is one to look into.  However, if you plan to sit down and play for a longer stretch, you may find the experience gets old quick.

Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales, centres around that almost too common Final Fantasy creature known simply as Chocobo.  The plot is fairly typical: a demon sealed in a book is trying to break free, and it is your task to stop him, while saving your chocobo friends in the process.

The story is advanced through familiar fairy tale stories, each featuring character's from Final Fantasy mythology: Shiva, Ramuh and Cactaur all make appearances, along with many others.  Story books are scattered across the world and it's your job to enter the tale and give it a happy ending by completing mini-games.  Every time you complete a game you are rewarded either with a piece of the story, which opens up new areas or a card, which you add to your deck to use in the game's many Card Duels.

The actual mini-games vary in nature, some of them are quite fun, while others can be frustrating, especially if you want to complete them at their highest difficulty (thereby earning a rarer and stronger card).  Some, like the games involving Shiva and Ifrit are fun enough to want to play again and again, while others will probably test your patience. 

There are also other, optional mini-games which you will open up along the way as you free your trapped Chocobo friends.  Each offers an opportunity to pick up more cards to add to your deck. 

There are four main areas, with a mini-boss halfway through and an elemental boss at the end of each, all of which need to be defeated in a card duel.  This is probably the most rewarding part of the game.  When you enter into a duel, you choose one of your decks, made up of cards selected from all the one's you've collected.  How you decide what cards to put into the deck is entirely up to you, but a poorly made deck will lead to a hasty defeat. 

Each turn, each opponent selects a card from their deck.  The cards have four spaces one for each element (Fire, Ice, Wind and Earth) and within each space there will be a symbol (Sword, Shield or Blank).  The cards face each other and the symbols determine whether or not your attack will be effective.  If the sword symbol on your cards Ice space matches up with an empty Ice space on your opponents card, then your attack is effective.  If it matches up against a shield, then it is defended, and if it matches up against another sword then the effect is halved.  Whoever selects their card first gets first strike, but both opponents get to use play their card every turn.  While the card matches against Chocobo Tales' bosses can be challenging at times, if you have a properly made up set of cards, and good strategy, these bosses shouldn't pose much of a challenge, though.

And that may be the game's true weakness.  While Chocobo Tales is obviously designed to be for a younger crowd, there is little here that will appeal to anyone for a very long time.  Once you've completed all the mini-games and gathered most of the cards, there's not a lot to keep you going.  You can challenge any of the bosses to a rematch, but they don't get that much harder, and the mini-games, while fun at first, can grow a little tedious after a while. 

The game does offer an online card duel game, which can be a lot of fun, but it suffers from two main problems as well... mainly the fact that few people play it, so finding a match can be difficult if not impossible, and a lot of the time you'll be about to play a card that lands a finishing blow, and your opponent will disconnect, negating your victory.  While neither of these problems are technically a fault with the game, they don't help make the experience any better.

Overall, I would recommend this game, but only if you can find it for under $20.  It's good fun while it lasts, but I don't think you'll keep on coming back to it.

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