Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Chocobo's Magic Picture Book game review

Chocobo's Magic Picture Book came out in 2006, (2007 in the U.S. as Chocobo's Tales), from Square Enix. It's probably in the $1 bin at Game Stop now. I finally found a copy at Book Off for 500 yen ($5 USD), which is about as cheap as it gets here.

Some years back, I got a copy of Chocobo's Adventures in Japanese for the PlayStation 2. It was campy fun, and I liked Chocobo (I hated the rogue-like game that opened up after beating the storyline dungeon, though). So, I've been looking at getting another Chocobo game just to have the character again. Unfortunately, the one gripe I have with RPG's is that they often have poorly-designed mini-games that detract from the main point of the game, which is hacking monsters to pieces. And Chocobo's Picture Book is NOTHING BUT mini-games.

(Chocobo tries to read in peace, but there are distractions. The concept of picture books runs throughout the game, including prologues and epilogues for each of the mini-games.)

You have several choices for game play - to follow the story, to play the mini-games stand-alone, or to have wireless card duels with other players. In the story, a young girl named Shiruma is telling stories to a gaggle of chocobos when her friend comes up with a magical book he's found. When the book is opened, it's revealed to be a monster that kidnaps the other chocobos and seals them away in trading cards. It's up to you and Chocobo to save them and defeat the book's minion, Iruma. The game then takes on 3 parts - solving puzzles to collect cards, playing mini- and micro-games to get more cards, and using the cards in "pop-up duels" against boss monsters.

(World map, interacting with other chocobos.)

There's something like 122 cards total. You put together a deck of 15 cards (you can make 3 decks in advance, and pick the one you want to use for a specific battle) and you get 3 cards in your hand at random, playing one at a time to defeat your opponent. Generally, you don't receive anything for winning, you just get to advance the game to the next chapter. The real point to the game are the mini-and micro-games. Mini-games have 5 stages, and usually solo and battle modes. Clearing certain goals (beating battle stage 2, or getting 80 points in a solo game) unlocks a card or an event. Micro-games have Silver and Gold levels, and usually just have minimum high scores you have to hit. For the most part, the card battles are irrelevant. Even the final battle against the book boss is a mini-game (air hockey). Mini-games include blowing into the microphone to push balloons around, or using the stylus for tapping, scratching or roping areas of the screen (blow dart game, jumping game, catching falling acorns, river boat racing, etc.) In some ways, Magic Book is similar to the Zelda series in how it takes full advantage of the Gameboy's hardware within the game.

(Mini-game. You use the stylus to loop errant birds with Iruma's whip. The more birds at one time, without including the wrong kind of birds, gets you higher scores. The gold level is 600 points, and you only get 60 seconds to work with. My personal best was 424, which is where I decided to give up.)

After beating the final boss, you return to the end game phase, with the option of playing new mini-games, collecting more cards, and re-playing card battles with past bosses. If you want, there's even a mini-game during the end credits (tapping on all the "o" letters in people's names. 300 points gives you a silver prize - a unicorn card). Like I say, I don't like mini-games. I did succeed at beating silver level on all the micro-games I played, and even gold level on a couple of them. I cleared all of the events (usually 6 events) on most of the mini-games, rescuing 18 of the 20 chocobo prisoners. Some of the mini-game events unlock other micro-games, so I don't know how many micro-games I'm still missing. And I have 88 of the 122 cards. From my point of view, the main reason for collecting the cards is to play duel battles against your friends; I don't feel like playing against the old bosses just for the pleasure of beating them again with new cards I've picked up. The mini-games that I haven't beaten are the kinds I'm not good with anyway, such as "musical Simon Says", boat racing, and reaction games where you have to respond in less than a 10th of a second.

(Pop-up duel. Lamia's red attack puts 3 points of damage on the titan. Titan's green attack is blocked by Lamia's green shield. Lamia's successful attack also causes Chocobo to be healed by 4 points. Titan doesn't have a play requirement, while Lamia needs one red and one blue card to have been successfully played first.)

Overall, the artwork is great, and the idea of using paper cut-out figures for the games, to get more of a picture book feel, is really well-done. The human characters are attractive, and the music and sound effects are also good. If you like RPG mini-games, then Chocobo's Magic Picture Book is worth getting if it's under $5. You can play the mini-games directly from the start-up menu if you want to kill a few minutes, and the story game is short - I finished it twice within 3 days, with a total of 15 hours of game play. There are a couple of FAQs on GameFaqs that discuss putting together the "perfect" duel decks, and I may try seeing if I have enough cards to make one, then test it against a past boss. But otherwise, it's time to put Chocobo back to bed and return to real work (studying Vocaloid).

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