|a game by||Crave|
|Editor Rating:||6.5/10, based on 3 reviews|
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Developed by Genki in Japan and published here by Crave Entertainment, Jade Cocoon is a cinematic RPG expected to hit this summer. The game has you following in your father's footsteps to be the cocoon master of your village, a job that has you using magic cocoons to train monsters that join your party. Katsuya Kondoh--the conceptual artist for Japan's highest-grossing film, Princess Mononoke--is crafting the game's unique visuals.
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Jade Cocoon was an RPG I wanted to fall in love with. For starters, the character designs were done by Katsuya Kondo of Studio Ghibli (Laputa, Kiki's Delivery Service, Mononoke Hime). Plus, the story really appeals to me; it manages to be both allegorical and ambiguous. The theme itself is universal; an imbalance of power between man and nature has brought suffering to the people of Parel. As you proceed through each of the "chapters" in the game, the story unfolds via beautiful hieroglyphic panoramas and quality voice-overs. Unfortunately, somewhere between concept and execution, the game fell terribly short. As an RPG, there's a dire lack of character growth. Rather than rewarding you with stats and numbers, your boy in Jade Cocoon can only level-up his monster "capture" ability. The only way to upgrade your stats is to find potions or items. Since you're a one-man party, you'll need to rely on summoning your monsters to do most of the fighting for you. This wouldn't be so humdrum if your creatures weren't so dull to play. The monster breeding aspect of the game however, is complex and the possibilities seem endless. Finding the right monster combinations will be an acquired discipline. Unfortunately, there are dungeons late in the game that get recycled with a new color palette. It feels like they ran out of money two-thirds through the game. Totally disappointing.
Jade Cocoon certainly takes its time getting going, but things eventually pick up. The Poke-cloned monster-mixing gameplay is ultra deep, rewarding and maybe a bit boring at times (battles do get tedious). As you've no doubt heard, the game packs sweet, stylized visuals. I wish there was a second CD so the developers could have crammed in more FMV. You can even keep playing after you beat the game, although by that time I'd had enough.
Jade Cocoon is an average RPG helped along by some great character designs and animation by one of Studio Ghibli's finest. Catching, combining and developing monsters is fun for a while, but the gameplay doesn't evolve much beyond that through the rest of the game. The story's strong, but even though its got Ghibli on its side, there's not much animation in the game. There's a lot of reading text during FMV that could've been turned into some nice cutscenes.
Jade Cocoon could've been much better if it had more personality-or at least something else to make the experience more memorable. Your character never really talks, and the monsters in your party--even after gaining experience--lack inspiration. The way I look at it, games like this take far too much time and energy to play for them not to score an 8.0 or above. It's worth a rental, but I can't see spending hard-earned cash on this one.
If you're depressed because you've already finished Legend of Legaia and anxious because Final Fantasy VIII has yet to be released, perk up! Jade Cocoon is here to fill your RPG void with dazzling graphics, a challenging epic quest, and a two-player Arena mode.
You play as Levant, a young boy following in his missing father's footsteps to become the villages Cocoon Master. To fulfill your destiny, you'll learn to use magic cocoons for capturing, pacifying, and training the monsters that inhabit the surrounding four forests. You'll need these monsters if you want to save the people of Syrus from the invading Onibubu--the Swarm of Destruction. Not an easy task when the same people you are trying to save shun you and your kind, ultimately blaming you for their demise.
Unlike other RPGs in which you meet up with party members as you progress, Jade requires you to build your partners by merging the monsters you capture. There are over 150 creatures to find during your quest, and they come in four flavors: earth, wind, water, and fire. Learning to combine the elements is imperative if you want to create the biggest and baddest allies. Plus, you're allowed to carry only three monsters at a time--so mix them wisely. The Arena mode enables you to pit the monsters you've created against your friends' ghastly creations.
A Monster Cast of Players
Graphically, Jade's world is a joy; it's worth stopping at just about every screen to take in the scenery. Your characters travel through a world map as in most RPGs and always appear in full 3D--they never become small or squashed.
Moving your character through the many environments feels very similar to Resident Evil's action v and requires getting used to. Navigating through the menus, however, is a snap. As for the sound, the voice-overs are clear and expressive, commanding your full attention (whether the text dialogue is on or off), and the flute based soundtrack paces the flow of the game nicely.
Let the Fun Shine In
Jade Cocoon takes RPGs to a new level with its deeply involving story, awesome graphics (which will impress even the most jaded players), excellent controls, and evocative soundtrack. RPG fans will absolutely want to add this gem to their collection.
- Visit the old man at the cemetery frequently. He'll tell stories about the new characters.
- The first time you beat Kikl-nak, you receive the Spider Forest Key. Subsequent prizes include Great Walnuts (the only way to increase Levant's HP) and healing items.
- Pick up the stone tablets scattered throughout the forests. They teach you about fighting, magic, and monster merging.
- For the key to the Dragonfly Forest, find the Blue Master Inside the Beetle Forest.
Visually, Jade is in a class by itself. Stunningly lush pre-rendered backgrounds draw you in from the start getting better as the story develops and new areas are revealed. There's nothing wrong with the cut-scenes, either.
Jade Cocoon's soundtrack is a rare treat The voice-overs are clear and convincingly performed, making the gameplay and cut-scenes a most enjoyable experience.
The controls are easy to use and never get in the way of gameplay. Inventory access is a snap, and the monster-merging menus couldn't be more clearly laid out If the game were analog compatible, the score would've been perfect.
Hours of exploring and monster-mixing fun lie ahead for discerning gamers. The Arena mode that enables you to play against a friends saved monsters ensures that this game won't be gathering dust anytime soon.