Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon passed the “cutest Final Fantasy game” crown to World of Final Fantasy and its hordes of adorable critters in 2016, but that’s okay. The 2007 Wii game, remastered today for the Switch and PlayStation 4 and renamed Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon Every Buddy, is still one of the sweetest and purest roguelike games around.
Chocobo and his adventuring partner Cid, after being sucked into a vortex during a treasure hunt, find themselves transported to the small town of Lostime on the island of Memoria. When the town’s clock tower chimes, its inhabitants lose all of their memories. A mysterious green-haired baby drops from the sky, granting Chocobo the ability to warp into the heads of the island’s inhabitants. Conquering the dungeons found in their minds brings back their lost memories, so it falls upon Chocobo in his various adventuring classes to unravel the secret to the clock tower and save Memoria.
While many modern games include roguelike elements, like procedurally-generated levels or permadeath, Chunsoft’s long-running Mystery Dungeon series adheres closely to the original roguelike formula laid down by the role-playing sub-genre’s namesake, 1980 PC game Rogue. Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon sees the titular Final Fantasy game fowl traversing grid-based, procedurally-generated dungeons. Enemies populating these dungeons move when Chocobo moves. Every action the feathered hero makes—taking a step, attacking, using a spell or special ability or drinking a potion—is followed by enemy actions. If Chocobo kicks a slime in the face, a dragon on the other side of the dungeon moves a square.
These strict rules on how actions and turns are taken give players the opportunity to employ strategy as they delve through the game’s dungeons. Since every step heals a point of damage and restores ability points for Chocobo, sometimes running away is a good call, avoiding enemy attacks until health is refilled or another special ability can be used. Enemies are restricted to moving along a grid, so finding a tight corridor to battle in is better than fighting out in the open. And since dying ejects Chocobo from a dungeon with none of the loot he’s collected along the way, discretion is often the better part of valour.
It’s the same basic formula Chunsoft has used for nearly all entries in the Mystery Dungeon series, from Pokemon and Dragon Quest Mystery Dungeons to its original creation, Shiren the Wanderer. It’s just Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon Every Buddy does it cuter, and lets us do it with friends.
For one, it stars the most endearing rendition of Final Fantasy’s bird mascot ever committed to polygons. The artist responsible for bringing the chibi style to the series in Final Fantasy IX, Toshiyuki Itahana, created a flock of Chocobo designs for the game, dressing the yellow bird up as many of the series’ iconic character classes.
Chocobo also gets a buddy, as befits a game titled Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon Every Buddy. New to the Switch and PlayStation 4 remasters, Chocobo can now assign a computer-controlled character or monster to aid him in dungeons. Defeating creatures in dungeons enhances Chocobo’s affinity with them, eventually allowing them to join with him on his adventures. They attack when he attacks and level up when he levels up. Should Chocobo have to run from an encounter, buddies take up the rear, like shields, Sort of.
Best of all, a second player can take control of dungeon buddies, giving the game some cooperative appeal. Between the already present charm, the enhanced visuals and these new gameplay features, a once-overlooked Wii game has gotten a new lease on life. It truly is a hero of the new generation, and super cute to boot.