As a verified Final Fantasy obsessive, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Chocobo Racing, the PS1 kart racer that’s basically a light-hearted series mash-up. I was sad when an announced Chocobo Racing revival never surfaced for Nintendo 3DS despite being announced – so I was naturally thrilled when Square Enix revealed Chocobo GP, a new FF racing title for the Switch. But, after only days of play, I’m done. I’m out.
Chocobo GP is a great kart racer. Genuinely. It’s not Mario Kart, obviously, but I’d definitely pop its core mechanics and feel into that top tier of kart racer alongside things like Sega & Sonic All-Stars Racing and Crash Nitro Kart. But… for some reason, this game is, like, a mobile game?
I need to be clear here. Chocobo GP is a more or less full-priced game. It’s on the ‘budget’ end of modern pricing at $50/£40, but I consider that a full game. So why on earth is it immediately giving me opportunities to buy Mythril, an in-game currency, for real cash? As soon as you boot it, it feels like one of Square Enix’s gacha-driven mobile titles like FF Brave Exvius or Record Keeper, right down to time limits on how long you can hold currency, login bonuses, and all that stuff.
In some cases, things fans will really want are locked behind this stuff. FF7’s Cloud Strife and FF8’s Squall Leonhart – beloved protagonists – are only available in their lovingly-rendered chibi forms as playable characters if you pony up for the game’s first Season Pass, which costs 800 Mythril – a little shy of $10.
You can earn Mythril, and launch promotions mean that basically everybody will be able to sign up for Season 1 for free – but you can see where this is going longer-term. Nickel, dime. Players are treated as an ATM.
Obviously a lot of these elements are just part of modern gaming. We live in a post-Fortnite world now, where season passes and constant, rolling updates with regular costs associated are par for the course. But I’ve just been incredibly taken aback by the sheer amount of this stuff Chocobo GP levels at you from the very moment you first boot the game - which as far as I’m concerned is proof positive that Square Enix has plans to aggressively push this stuff in future seasons. The intention is to get you used to it, desensitize you, from early. It’s gross.
Square Enix has already begun to walk some of this back. There’s talk about relaxing and adjusting how much grind is required to unlock things. Stuff like that. But the core system feels broken enough that just minor tweaks to the earning model will only go so far.
And so here I am; I’m out. I refuse to do it. I’ve had my share of gacha addition; I pumped hundreds of pounds into Final Fantasy: Record Keeper over the course of my couple of years playing it, and I had fun with it. But something about this format feels wrong – and more than anything, misguided.
Chocobo GP isn’t something you’re likely to boot every day. It’s not something you kill time with on your phone in bed or on the toilet. It’s a console game. Sure, that console is portable – but if I boot a kart racer, it’s probably because I want to play a bit of multiplayer or what have you.
I’d happily have purchased a DLC season pass for additional characters and stages down the line, but for this game to be hitting me with this free-to-play BS from the word go… it doesn't sit right. It’s a misfire, and it’s a crushing shame - the core game is great.