Review #1 by John Doty
If I had to pick a single word that describes this game, it would have to be "Cute."
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Square's library of games, a Chocobo looks kind of like an oversized chicken... big enough for people to ride on. And, so, as you might expect, Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon is a dungeon-quest adventure, starring as it's main (and only playable) character, a Chocobo.
This game plays like Diablo- the majority of game play takes place inside a multi-level dungeon beneath a town, and combat with the monsters therein takes place in real-time. As you journey through down through the dungeon, you can find new and interesting weapons (claws for the chocobo) and armor (saddles), spellbooks, as well as a whole host of traps, special buttons, machines, and special rooms.
The combat engine in this game borrows heavily, no, IS Square's Active Time Battle (ATB) system. What that means is when you enter combat, a little bar starts charging up, and when it's full you can attack with full force. Using most items is free during combat (for example, drinking a potion has no effect other than clearing your ATB charging bar), with the notable exception of spellbooks, special spells, summon crystals, and rocks. Basic magic is cast with spellbooks you find along the way- and they become more powerful the more you use them. Strong spells like Meteo or Ultima are cast with special items you find along the way- and they don't get very much stronger. There are also summon crystals, which, like most other Final Fantasy games, summon espers to do large amounts of damage.
An interesting twist on the game is the ability to combine weapons with each other in order to mix the special abilities. For example, if you have a mithril claw -2 and a wood claw +5, you can mix them together to get a mithril claw +3. Throw special magical nuts into the mix and you can get some very interesting kinds of weapons indeed.
Graphically, the game is a little boring. Everything that moves is a pre-rendered sprite, which I don't have anything against, except that you'd expect them to have a little more animation than they do. When you're inside a building the world is a pseudo-3d tilemap- basically, the walls, counters, and beds stick vertically up off of a tilted plane that you walk on. It's an interesting effect, but fairly basic, and it wears off real quick. The spells make use of lighting and transparency quite a bit, but they're not all that extravagant when compared to what we've come to expect from the likes of Square.
From a gameplay standpoint, the game is entertaining, but not all that great. The levels lack distinction from each other- in fact, all of them are generated randomly when you enter the level. You can't walk up levels- the only way out of the dungeon is via death or a teleport card, which is really annoying when you are low on health. Combat with the creatures gets boring, and somewhat annoying. When you enter a room with an enemy, your ATB starts to charge, and when it's full, you swing at them. When you're fighting the appropriate enemies (enemies that give you a decent amount of experience without killing you immediately) it makes very little sense to swing early, since that drastically reduces the amount of damage you do. So you end up spending most of your time waiting for your ATB bar, swinging, and waiting again. Either that, or you resort to a hit-and-run that resets the enemy's ATB every time. But it quickly becomes repetitive, and there are too many enemies that are either WAY over your head or not worth fighting anymore.
Don't even THINK about playing this game if you don't know Japanese- there is absolutely no english in this game!! If you have a basic understanding of hiragana, katakana, and a little Kanji, you can play, but not understand the story. To truly appreciate this game, you need to have at least an intermediate understanding of Japanese.