A quick read through this blog, and you'll know that I hold Sega and Chun Soft's masterpiece Shiren the Wanderer in the highest regard. I'm currently having a lot of fun with the wandering samurai's second DS outing - I was killed by a giant gerbil late last night - and the title retains everything that made the original so appealing, while adding a few neat touches.
I've never been one to sit and play one game at a time, though, partly because part of my job involves reviewing the latest game releases, and partly because I'm an impatient bugger, too eager to play the latest thing.
So when not playing Shiren 2, I've sunk around 10 hours or so into Square Enix's latest title Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon on Wii. And although it shares many similarities to Shiren and other Roguelikes, this Final Fantasy spin-off is much more forgiving.
It's not an new series either. Our yellow feathered chum made two Mystery Dungeon appearances on the PS1 and has also headlined many other games, including the recent DS game Chocobo Tales.
The biggest difference between Chocobo's Dungeon and more established Roguelikes is that when you die, you keep your level and any items you had equipped. The only thing you’ll lose is unequipped items and money you’ve picked up on your travels.
Although some might scoff at such a change to the core Roguelike mechanic, the game is all the better for it, making it more accessible to those who were put off by Shiren's crippling difficulty. And although Chocobo's Dungeon is presented in a colourful fantasy wrapping, it still packs quite a punch.
The game centres around Chocobo and his treasure hunting friend Cid, who are magically transported to the town of Lostime, a place where the residents are losing their memories every time the town’s bell tolls. So it’s up to Chocobo to enter the dungeons of the residents’ minds and recover their lost memories.
All the staples of a good old-fashioned Roguelike are intact, including monster houses, devious traps, and cursed items. And just like in Shiren, you will die in many amusing ways. You'll also have to keep an eye on your hunger level, but luckily you can buy Gysahl Greens to fill you up.
Another nice addition is Chocobo's ability to change jobs. As you progress through the story, new job classes become available. I've just unlocked the Dragoon class, and I also have access to White Mage, Black Mage and Knight. Upon entering a dungeon, you have the chance to choose which job to use to tackle the dungeon. Each job can be levelled up, granting you access to bigger and better abilities and magic.
Square-Enix have also included a smattering of special dungeons to keep players on their toes and these are a definite highlight. Some take all your items away and reduce you back to lvl 1, while others give Chocobo one hit point to get through the dungeon. These are a nice diversion from the regular dungeon crawls.
While not plundering the depths of people’s minds and exploring locations such as the Mines, Chocobo is free to run around the town of Lostime. The town is the hub of the whole game, and from here there is plenty to keep you occupied.
You can upgrade your equipment and fuse items together to create powerful objects at the blacksmiths. For example, a copper item could rust, especially when fighting enemies with salt water attacks. However, if you fuse your Copper Talons with a set of Gold Talons, you end up with Copper Talons that will never rust. Each item can also be levelled up by paying the blacksmith money.
There is a storage facility in town, where you can keep your items and there is also a bank, where you can save all your hard-earned cash. The fun doesn't stop there either. You can go fishing, plant flowers, play a decent card battle game online and get your hands on other items, all from wandering about the town.
If you feel a bit under powered to tackle new dungeons, you can replay any dungeon you've cleared by visiting the local church. You can also get any items that have been cursed on your travels blessed here.
It's a cracking game and hats off to Square Enix for releasing this in the UK. With no word on Shiren 2 on DS or Shiren 3 on Wii getting western releases, this will certainly keep Roguelike fans happy.
For RPG lovers looking for a new challenge, or dungeon crawling novices, Chocobo’s Dungeon is well worth checking out.