Chocobo Tales is certainly charming and loaded with nostalgia, but it ultimately fails to be a compelling game.
The object of the game is pretty simple. As a chocobo, you are thrown into a cute adventure to rescue your friends which have been imprisoned in cards by an evil sentient story book. To rescue them, you must find their cards. This is accomplished through completing tasks scattered in books around the world and battling the occasional monster.
The minigames themselves are fun sometimes, and certainly challenging. In any given book, you are presented with a Final Fantasy spin on a popular Fairy Tale, and you must complete a minigame challenge to unlock the secrets therein. Most of the games are rather simple... though it will take some skill to get the best ranks in each challenge, you'll rarely feel compelled to play a particular minigame for more than a half-hour or so. Rewards for the game include rescuing Chocobos, alternate endings to the Fairy Tale in question, and/or a card which can be used in your battle deck.
At the heart of the game is the card battling system. Using cards that you've collected from the world and minigame challenges, you assemble a small deck. These cards contain attacks which you play to defeat your opponents. There are plenty of cards to collect, and soon you will have enough that you can fine-tune your deck strategy in battle. This is the best part of the game, in my opinion... every card includes a popular character from previous FF games, animated in 2D pop-up fashion. The card game itself ends up being rather simple, working more as a battle engine than a true TCG. This game would have been much better had the card system been a little deeper... sadly I rarely found myself needing to play more than the game required.
The graphics and sound are good, and certainly cute. The entire game is sprinkled with lots of classic FF characters and music. My one complaint is that Theme no Chocobo (the chocobo song) is used LIBERALLY throughout the entire game. Some more variety in music would have been nice.
The game lasts for a good 20 hours or so if you give each minigame a few attempts, though you could easily stretch this out if you wanted to unlock everything. In addition to the single player mode, you have access to any particular minigame from the main menu, as well as a few microgames you can share with nearby friends via Wi-fi. It's nothing that will hold your friends' attentions for very long, but it's a nice addition.
This is a decent DS game, something that would definitely appeal to someone who enjoys Final Fantasy games. It really boils down to a simplistic RPG loaded with minigames, which could not hold my attention much past completing the game. If you are looking for something cute and simple to whittle away the time, Chocobo Tales might be up your alley. Sadly, in the sea of minigame collections on popular consoles, and the many other more "meaty", quality titles available for the DS right now, this game falls by the wayside.
+Lots of Final Fantasy references
+Some minigames can be fun for a while
+Excellent graphics, very cute
-Absolutely lacks any compelling content
-Most minigames have little replay value beyond completing challenges
-Familiar FF songs are recycled ad-nauseum
-Card game battling is a little too shallow for my taste
-Cute story and fairy tale adaptations are entirely forgettable