The Final Fantasy series has a long and rich history from which the developers can pull many beloved characters and themes. With each new installment, many fans wait anxiously for the quote or screenshot that reveals their favorite icon will appear once again. Some are borrowed from the page of history, and others crafted from the imaginations of creators at Square Enix. All of them, however, have changed and developed over the 20-plus years since the series' inception.
As we look back, we hope to show long-time fans how Eorzea has been shaped by these influences while newcomers may gain some insight as to why these aspects of Final Fantasy are so special.
Today, we look at the Chocobo!
The Chocobo is a mythical yellow bird that exists in the wild of many Final Fantasy titles. It has varied in size to some degree, but in its adult form is large enough to be ridden by a human being. In fact, since the creature's debut in Final Fantasy II, the Chocobo is most commonly found domesticated and used for transportation. Essentially, Chocobo are like horses, and later games have even added racing, training and breeding as minigames.
The concept of the Chocobo was first created by 石井浩一 Kouichi Ishii for Final Fantasy II. Ishii has stated the general shape was based off a baby chick he bought during a festival when he was a child. The name, however, has a somewhat stranger origin.
According to Ishii, while he was mapping out the pixels to create the sprite, he began humming the jingle for 森永チョコボール Morinaga brand Chocolate Balls, or Cho-Co Bo-Ru. At that point something clicked, and the bright yellow bird became known as the Chocobo. If you watch the above commerical, you can also see where the the Chocobo's trademark cry, "Kweh" came from. The parade of freaky heads in the commercial are chanting くえ、くえ、くえ or basically, "Eat 'em, eat 'em, eat 'em! Choco Balls!" In English, however, earlier titles translated the cry as "wark," though in more recent years it has matched the Japanese as "kweh."
Square Enix has done tie-ins with Morinaga in the past and had Chocobo displayed on their packaging. However, this apparently has not happened for a while, and such specialty boxes have become rather rare.
From those humble beginnings, the Chocobo began appearing in title after title, developing as the years went on. While games during the NES era only allowed for simple, 2D sprites, Chocobo in more recent titles have been made more realistic, based off the prehistoric Gastronis.
Originally, the player would find these birds in a small forest and use them to quickly traverse the game world. In Final Fantasy III, the Fat Chocobo was added, which when fed ギサールの野菜 Gysahl Greens would help store items and equipment. The Fat Chocobo returned in Final Fantasy IV along with Black Chocobo that could fly, and White Chocobo that could restore MP.
From Final Fantasy VII onward, the role of the Chocobo expanded greatly. New colors and breeds of Chocobo were added, as well as different minigames. Often times, weary heroes would take time away from saving the world to race their bird or use it to dig up the landscape looking for treasure. Final Fantasy XI included many of these games, such as Chocobo raising, Chocobo racing, Chocobo training, and treasure hunting.
While generally viewed as a gentle, timid creature, the Chocobo has also seen its fair share of combat. Some titles have the Chocobo as a summonable avatar, which usually deals physical damage to the enemy. In Final Fantasy Tactics, Chocobo can join your party and fight enemies. In recent years, Chocobo have also appeared armored and used as war mounts.
The musical theme for the Chocobo, played while riding one or participating in Chocobo-related events, has also become as recognizable as the character itself. Over 30 different official Chocobo theme songs have been composed in the past 20 years. Most take the base melody and set it to a particular music style, naming it accordingly. For example, Waltz de Chocobo or Techno de Chocobo.
Outside the scope of the numbered series, the Chocobo has even spawned its own line of titles (Chocobo Mysterious Dungeon), countless stuffed animals and toys, and could be considered the most recognized creature from the Final Fantasy lineup.
As the de facto representative of the Final Fantasy series, there was no question the Chocobo would be in Final Fantasy XIV. In fact, when Square Enix first presented their new MMO at E3 2009, it was the presence of this iconic bird that signaled to fans they were about to see another Final Fantasy online.
So, Chocobo are confirmed for Final Fantasy XIV, and so far have enjoyed a brief cameo in a video featured on the official YouTube channel. At E3, Producer Hiromichi Tanaka stated that Chocobo will be available as mounts, but reiterated that they will serve other purposes. In fact, it has been said that the developers wish to present Chocobo and integrate them into the story in unique ways never seen before.
How would you like to see the Chocobo interpreted for the land of Eorzea? Let us know your opinions in the ZAM forums!