For all its pomp and grandeur, Final Fantasy is so often at its best when it's being a little bit dumb. And it doesn't really get much dumber than the Moogle Chocobo carnival that's just launched as a free update to Final Fantasy 15. A standalone of sorts set in Altissia, the carnival repurposes the Venetian city as a colourful parade of mini-games that offer enough diversions to while away an hour or two.
Square Enix has certainly put the elbow grease in to make it worthwhile, and there's a surprising amount to see and do here. Is any of it actually that good? I'm not wholly convinced - the Chocobo racing is cute but throwaway, a shooting range and Cactaur-themed game of whackamole are equally slight and the only activities that last more than a couple of minutes are extended treasure hunts that are as torturous as they are titillating - but I've had a lovely time in the carnival nevertheless.
As the owner of two moogle plushies and someone who's constantly scouring Etsy for a moogle outfit for my nine month old daughter, I was always likely to be a pushover, but there's a goofiness to the whole thing that I think anyone can get onboard with. Within seconds of entering the carnival I was dancing alongside a man in a moogle suit; shortly after, I was warping from point to point in pursuit of a child's rogue balloons.
And then, apropos of absolutely nothing, I was mugged by a walking, talking Kenny Crow as the in-game fast food mascot forced a bottle of pop down my throat. I have no idea what it means, why it happened but I kind of love the madness of being so rudely assaulted by one of Final Fantasy 15's more offbeat mascots. Someone invested a decent amount of time into making this encounter happen, and I'm really glad that they did.
Whether it's worth your time depends on how much you get off on the nuttier side of Final Fantasy, as the lasting benefits aren't really there to be found. It's possible to grind some otherwise hard to find elements, but really the aim of the carnival is to earn enough credits to buy yourself a decent seat for the evening's fireworks show. It's all wonderfully aimless.
As to how the update speaks to the wider world of Final Fantasy 15, it sets an interesting precedent. The carnival is a timed event, suggesting the Final Fantasy 15 team is taking notes from its friends over the way making the outstanding MMO Final Fantasy 14 as to how to get players to keep coming back. For a predominantly single-player game, it's a curious twist.
Final Fantasy 15's got plenty more updates coming, of course, and some players are understandably sour that this throwaway makeover is coming before the promised changes and tweaks to the main game's story and its notorious chapter 13, though I'm not so bothered. It's flimsy, wonky and without much real substance, but it's got so much heart it's hard not be won over - just as with Final Fantasy 15 itself, really.