Final Fantasy: The History Of The Chocobo

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  • What Is A Chocobo?
  • Chocobos Through The Ages
  • Chocobos In Spinoffs

Chocobos are one of the first things most people think of when Final Fantasy is brought up, right alongside crystals and ridiculous hairstyles. They're one of the franchise's oldest institutions, and at this point, it's all but unthinkable that there would ever be a Final Fantasy title without an appearance from the big yellow birds.

Chances are you've already got the chocobo theme running through your head just from opening this article. Let's look at how the chocobo has changed over the years, from pixelated partners to starring in their own minigames and even spinoffs.

What Is A Chocobo?

Chocobos are large, usually flightless birds that come in a variety of colors, though yellow chocobos are by far the most common. They are ridden as mounts and used as pack animals in nearly every Final Fantasy setting, as horses have only ever appeared as parts of enemy sprites in the early game and mounts for powerful beings such as Odin.

Like their quadrupedal real-world counterparts, chocobos can be domesticated and are generally friendly to humanoids. A wild or angry chocobo is dangerous, possessing sharp talons and a large beak. As such, chocobos have appeared as both helpers and enemies throughout the series. Chocobos make a sound usually written in English as "kweh" or "wark" depending on the setting and the translation of the game in question.

Rarely, chocobos develop magical powers. Notable examples are the Fat Chocobo, a mythical being that can be summoned with the correct spells or rituals, and Chocolina, a shapeshifting time-traveler who takes the form of a human woman.

In some settings, chocobos are bred for racing and other competitions. Skilled chocobo breeders know how to manage a chocobo's diet and pair it with an ideal mate to create strong, fast, healthy offspring. Chocobos are extremely food-motivated and will exert themselves in short, tiring bursts at the prospect of receiving Gysahl greens or other vegetables.

Chocobos have had a musical theme of their very own since their first appearance. Traditionally, each game arranges the chocobo theme in a different style of music, naming the new track after the genre (e.g. "Swing de Chocobo," "Mambo de Chocobo," etc.).

Chocobos Through The Ages

The Early Years

The chocobo was first introduced in Final Fantasy 2, the same game that brought series mainstay Cid to the franchise. Finding a chocobo in the wild allowed Firion and his team to travel quickly overland without encountering monsters, but the chocobo would depart as soon as they dismounted. Riding a chocobo changed the music played on the world map – the original chocobo theme was only four measures played on loop, with the rest of the famous melody debuting in Final Fantasy 3.

Final Fantasy 3 also introduced the village of Gysahl, where the chocobo's favorite food is grown, as well as the ability of low-level Summoners to conjure a chocobo in battle. Additionally, the Light Warriors could call the Fat Chocobo, who would store their excess items by swallowing and regurgitating them at will.

Final Fantasy 7 made chocobos central to key plot points and an in-depth minigame. Winning a chocobo race at the Gold Saucer was necessary for Cloud and his team to escape Corel Prison, and wild chocobos could be tamed by distracting them with Gysahl greens during battle. Additionally, a long process of breeding and training chocobos paid off by giving the party access to several breeds capable of reaching spots on the map even the Highwind couldn't go – notably a small island where you could obtain the powerful Knights Of The Round materia.

In Final Fantasy 8, Japanese players and import-savvy Westerners could play a chocobo-themed minigame on the PS1 PocketStation accessory. Final Fantasy 9 kept the minigame tradition going by including treasure hunts that you could only complete by riding a chocobo to the correct coordinates on the world map.

Final Fantasy 10 did away with the world map, changing the main function of chocobos. While they remained in the game and were often ridden by NPCs, the birds were largely used to navigate specific outdoor areas without fear of enemy attacks.

In Final Fantasy 11, chocobos were among the many mounts players could obtain for their character. Final Fantasy 12 included dangerous wild chocobos as well as the ridable domestic variety, and mounted chocobo cavalry were a part of the various armies of Ivalice.

Chocobos became a prominent gameplay feature again in Final Fantasy 13, being necessary to reach areas of the Archylte Steppe on Gran Pulse. Sazh, one of the game's protagonists, kept a baby chocobo that nested in his hair. As Sazh's story progressed through Final Fantasy 13-2 and Lightning Returns, the tiny chocobo gained human intelligence and strange powers. Near the end of Lightning Returns, Chocolina reveals to Lightning that she is the baby chocobo protected by Sazh.

Final Fantasy 14 once again includes chocobos as player mounts and even as battle companions, and PvP chocobo races are a popular minigame. Final Fantasy 15, despite relying on Noctis' car for most overland travel, nevertheless saw the Kingsguard use chocobos for off-road adventuring every now and then.

Chocobos In Spinoffs

In 1997, Square released a spinoff called Chocobo's Dungeon featuring cutesy character designs of classic Final Fantasy beasts and archetypes. As its name suggests, it's a dungeon crawler starring a chocobo as the playable character. The sequel, Chocobo's Dungeon 2, was released in both Japan and North America in 1999. The chocobo would be accompanied by friends such as a moogle and a human White Mage named Shiroma.

1999 also saw the release of Chocobo Racing, a kart racer meant to compete with Mario Kart and Crash Team Racing. It featured the same aesthetic as Chocobo's Dungeon and a sequel, Chocobo Racing GP, was released in 2022.

Chocobos are often seen as Easter eggs in non-Final Fantasy Square Enix titles, such as Legend of Mana, as well as in crossovers between Square Enix and other developers. For example, in a crossover promotion between Final Fantasy 14 and Assassin's Creed: Origins, Assassin's Creed players could earn a bird-like "chocobo camel" mount for Bayek.

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