It’s really rather difficult to be a kart-racing game in 2022. It’s especially hard to be a kart-racing game on a Nintendo platform, where the greatest of these can already be found. How do you compete with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe if you’re a kart racer from anyone else? A number of different IPs have tried, anywhere from Garfield to random YouTube stars. The problem has always been the same; they simply aren’t good enough. Yet Chocobo GP might be one of the first outliers in this category. It certainly has its issues, especially its aggressive microtransaction desire found in every single moment of the game. Yet when you peel back this awful ploy to get you to spend more money, Chocobo GP is actually a well-designed and fun kart-racing game.

Chocobo GP has you racing across a number of locations found in the Final Fantasy universe, while also driving as random characters from said franchise. As you might guess, one of the first few characters you can choose is a Chocobo. However the characters range from the normal stars of Final Fantasy to random animals found within the universe. That said, when you start the game you’re only allowed to play as four specific characters. All other characters must be either unlocked through the campaign or purchased.

Ultimately, the look and feel of Chocobo GP is really good. The controls are tight and responsive, a common issue that other kart-racing games usually fail to get right. There’s your standard items that can be used in a match, boosts to help you gain speed during a race, and your normal zaniness found in any Mario Kart game. Even the design of the courses is quite nice. While some locations shine more than others, the game has a very nice sharp look and courses really stand out. Besides giving you a limited amount of characters to use at first, the only real issue I had is its “simple” and “advanced” courses. Each course is designed with 2 versions of the track, a simple, easy-to-learn version of the course and another version that is more complex. The advanced versions are always more interesting and way more fun to play. They’re typically longer in length, have more to see and do, and ultimately provide surprises in how the courses play out. The simple courses were literally a circle. Yes, it gives you an easy version to learn on but very quickly these easier tracks became quite boring. 

The biggest issue with Chocobo GP has to be its desperate ploy to get you to spend money via microtransactions. There’s really no other way to describe it. The game is constantly trying to get you to spend more money. Want that new character? Spend money. What about getting to enjoy those other tracks? You could unlock them via normal racing or spend more money. The worst part isn’t even the fact that they offer microtransactions. It’s that the game so desperately wants you to spend money to progress.  In-game progression, which unlocks new characters, courses and so much more, is literally locked behind a progression system that never rewards you for playing. 

I played for hours and didn’t progress very far at all. Yet the game constantly kept asking me if I wanted to spend money to unlock the new content or keep playing. I could sort of understand this aggressive microtransaction system if I was playing the free version of Chocobo GP. However I was provided with the full retail copy for this review and even that version constantly wanted me to spend more money to unlock content.

Does this aggressive microtransaction system ruin Chocobo GP? Sort of. The game itself is actually a really good, well-designed kart racer. It might not be to the level of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but Chocobo GP would definitely earn its spot as a must-play on the platform IF the microtransaction system was removed. Square Enix has come out and said they are listening to fan feedback and will try to tone the system down. However at the time of this review, Square Enix has not pushed through that update. This makes it tricky to recommend Chocobo GP at this exact moment. There’s a lot of fun to be had and I genuinely would continue playing this game. Yet I would strongly caution those interested in the title to hold out until the microtransaction system is fixed. By then progression will be as it should be and actually reward you for playing. Until then, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe just got new content…