We know that this game looks like another run of the mill Final Fantasy spin-off but appearances can be deceiving. In fact, Chocobo's Mystery Dungeon Every Buddy! is one of the most entertaining and charming JRPG roguelike dungeon crawlers we've experienced and that's saying a lot.
Originally released as a Nintendo Wii exclusive back in 2008 and called Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Mystery Dungeon, the game didn't gain much traction. Mostly because at the time, games falling into the category of JRPG roguelike dungeon-crawler weren't exactly welcome on the platform. However, jump forward eleven years, and launch it on the Switch and PS4 to a community that's much more familiar with roguelike mechanics, and you get to see what could've been.
You play as Chocobo, the faithful companion of a renowned treasure-hunter called Cid, where on an expedition, you come across an item of power throwing you into the ironically named world of Memoria. In this lost world, you're playing as a Chocobo tasked with finding a way to get back to your world whilst freeing the residents of Lostime from the tragic amnesia plaguing them, courtesy of the all-powerful Bell of Oblivion. Along the journey, Chocobo will have to clear various dungeons in order to restore memories and obtain the key items necessary to escape the world of Memoria. Sure, this might seem a little confusing at the moment but when exactly was a Final Fantasy game's story easy to follow?
As for the dungeons, they carry most of the gameplay experience and they are incredibly well designed. Not only are they challenging, sometimes maybe too much, but they also encourage exploration and force the player to be brave and bold throughout their journey. If not, it's almost guaranteed the tough and merciless enemies will annihilate Chocobo, causing you to lose progress and, annoyingly, any items not currently equipped (or all items if you were feeling dangerous enough to tackle the hard difficulty). This results in a game of immense strategy, where each opponent wants nothing more than to bring the adventure to an abrupt halt whilst you, the player, fight against the increasingly common finishing moves being thrown your way.
So, how exactly does one progress through these crushing dungeons? Well, it isn't simple and requires some thought. As with all roguelike dungeons crawlers, aimlessly walking in and hoping for the best will definitely result in death, that's why some precautions and preparations must be taken. For example, all dungeons are playable once they are unlocked i.e. there is no level requirement in order to get in. However, if the player is at level 14 and the dungeon is set for level 20, making it past the halfway point will be a challenge, to say the least. That's why preparing for the next dungeon is of the utmost importance because losing gear is one of the most frustrating mechanics in all of gaming, never mind just this genre.
Levelling also empowers Chocobo, and as you become stronger you gain more health and your attacks grow stronger too. The job role, which operates similarly to a class system with around seven options, means you gain new abilities that can be used to protect Chocobo and crush the enemies in your path. This generally means, once a job has been picked, switching may be a detriment to your ability to clear dungeons throughout the story, so choosing the right one is important.
The combat has also been well-designed. The game operates with a turn-based combat system, meaning enemies will not act until Chocobo has, and this allows players to plan their moves accordingly. However, Chocobo can only attack one target per turn, unless using an ability which consumes SP (special points), and these correspond to the relevant job roles the player chooses to associate their Chocobo with. It might be worth mentioning a little tip we picked up through our playthrough; don't push too hard for an item if it means monsters will surround you as they will decimate you in the matter of a few turns.
As mentioned earlier, Chocobo's Mystery Dungeon Every Buddy! is a JRPG at its core, meaning dungeon crawling is only part of the game. During the playthrough, you will be able to grow plants to help clear dungeons and our personal favourite activity was going fishing. This provides an opportunity to expand the inventory of the vault, sell fish for gold, and potentially score some helpful items such as potions. Also, a little breather from spending so much time in the dungeon is always helpful.
This leads us to the final point we want to talk about. The very thing separating this from both the Final Fantasy series and other dungeon crawlers: the art style. Chocobo's Mystery Dungeon Every Buddy! is ridiculously captivating and delightful. The art, which uses the chibi effect to make everything seem much more friendly, gives the game an undeniably cute core, something few dungeon crawlers have yet to accomplish. This to us is what makes this game so unique - it takes a frightening concept and overlays it with an adorable art style, and it works so flawlessly it's actually admirable.
Still, even though this adventure has come to a close for us, we didn't want it too. That's why we stand by our assertion that Chocobo's Mystery Dungeon Every Buddy! is a fun and accessible roguelike JRPG for both new and experienced players alike. Now, is it too early to start a new playthrough?
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