Final Fantasy has been around for a long time. Like, a long time. The first game was released in Japan back in 1987 (1990 in North America) and we’re slated to get the next game in the series, Final Fantasy XVI, sometime later this year. 16 mainline games in a little over 25 years is impressive on its own. But if you’re reading this you know there’s more than just 16 Final Fantasy’s, though the name would have you suspect otherwise.
The series has been popular for quite some time, but one could argue it saw it’s peak on the Playstation. Moving to 3D graphics and a more edgy story made Final Fantasy VII one of the best games on the system. FF7 was followed up by Final Fantasy VIII and IX, as well as ports of past FF games, all released on Sony’s PS1. A few spinoff games were also released on the PS1, including the well-regarded Final Fantasy Tactics. Aside from the Japanese exclusive FF games on the PS1, North America only saw two other games, both featuring the yellow bird mascot Chocobo: Chocobo Racing and Chocobo’s Dungeon 2.
Chocobo Racing is cool for sure: it has some interesting mechanics that made it stand out from other kart racers at the time. But today we’re talking about the latter.
Chocobo’s Dungeon 2 is part of the Mystery Dungeon series that has seen significant fandom in Japan. The title should clue you in on that: this is the second game in the Chocobo-inspired spinoff/crossover game: the first title was only released in Japan, a common trend with a lot of games during this time. Chocobo’s Dungeon 2 follows the same formula as the other Mystery Dungeon games: procedurally generated dungeons, real time combat, emphasis placed on exploration, and slow progress toward a large goal. With Chocobo’s game being much more forgiving than, say, Shiren the Wanderer, this is a nice entry point for players new to the franchise.
The game starts with Chocobo and Mog entering a dungeon, Mog gets greedy and seeks out treasure only to get lost, and Chocobo seeks out to rescue his friend. Before long, Chocobo runs into some allies, way more enemies, and eventually a nice town to act as a hub for progression and rest. It’s a simple formula: dive into the dungeon, see how far you get, jump out, rinse and repeat. Back in 1998 this was something very novel and unique, but in 2023’s landscape of roguelikes/roguelites being everywhere it’s not as impressive. But don’t get me wrong: there’s actually a lot Chocobo’s Dungeon 2 has going for it.
I want to call particular attention to the magic system. Instead of casting spells with MP as you’d normally do in Final Fantasy proper, here you’re finding spellbooks to cast spells. Said books are consumed upon use, meaning strategic planning on when to use magic and when to conserve comes into play early on. These spells are big damage dealers and I liked the risk/reward system of using or not. Being a roguelike, games could very much go not in your favor and item drops might not happen. When it happens an early wipe and reset doesn’t feel all that bad here, which could be a game killer in other titles.
Chocobo’s Dungeon 2 has more in common with Mystery Dungeon games than it does with Final Fantasy. Aside from characters and names, the game really isn’t like any other Final Fantasy. Despite this, the game still serves as a wonderful experience for Final Fantasy fans. Much like Final Fantasy Tactics, getting something like this, something totally different from Cloud, Squall, and Zidane’s adventures, gives you some variety to play and enjoy. Admittedly roguelikes are not for everyone. If you do like that sort of challenge though, Chocobo’s Dungeon 2 is a good one.
With this “A to Z” project I’ve been doing for the year, moving on from one game to the next is kind of the point. I’m playing games from the collection I’ve never played before in an effort to enjoy what I’ve got. However, here we are at the third game and I’m already thinking I’ve found a game I’d want to keep playing. Looking back at the first two games though, that kind of makes sense: Chocobo’s Dungeon 2 is a full fledged video game, where the others were kind of takes on sports or board games and not fleshed out video games. We shouldn’t rule out the face I’m a role playing game fan either. That’s probably got something to do with it.
Having played the first several hours of this one, I’m already thinking of continuing. However, I do wonder if the Switch remake might be the better option. If not for the enhancements to the visuals, then for the portability alone. This game lends itself well to short bursts. Each dungeon run can be 10-30 minutes long, much like newer games such as Hades. A quick run to maybe level up and get some good items to later use when you can dedicate more time seems like a good idea. Time will tell if I end up continuing this one, but I have to say good job to Chocobo. You hooked me!