|Dont imagine a Pokemon
for adults when you think of Jade Cocoon or else you might be missing out on one of the
more interesting games of the year. Sure, you have that Pokemon element of "capture
the monster," but, come on, you cant raise little Pikachu to become some
drooling monster that can kick almost anyones ass now can you? No. Thats the
appeal of Jade Cocoon.
Theres no cuteness in this game and there are no wide-eyed monsters that want to be your friend. This is the world of kick-ass or get your ass kicked. You play Levant, the young Cocoon Master of your village, Syrus. One day a swarm of Onibubu, the Locusts of Apocalypse, break through the barrier between Syrus and the forest, putting most of your people into a deep sleep. The chief calls an emergency meeting of his consultants. They determine that you must become the Cocoon Master and venture into the forests where you father disappeared. So begins your journey. Your job as a Cocoon Master is to save your town and bring peace to the hearts of the miserable monsters of the forest.
If you remember lasts years Azure Dreams (Im sure its got a cult following) and combine that game with a more solid RPG element youll have Jade Cocoon. As opposed to Azure, this game has some pretty stunning graphics and an interesting environment. It reminds me of the jungles of South America, at least what they look like in my own little world. There are dozens of rendered backgrounds that you get to run through finding items and fighting monsters, all while trying to save your town and figure out the mystery behind your fathers disappearance and your own future.
Heres the layout of the game: Basically, youre job is to capture monsters and then bring them back to town for your wife, Mahbu, to purify. Once this is done you have a few options: merge, spin, equip or view. The place where youre going spend most of your time is merging the monsters. Essentially, you should be trying to combine them in a unique way thatll make them powerful enough for battle. On their own I found that most monsters perished pretty fast. If you decide to have Mahbu spin some of your monsters you end up with various types of silk that you can sell at the local shop. Since theres only one way to earn money in this game to buy medicine, armor, weapons and what have you, my recommendation is to capture a few monsters you wont be using in the merging process and have them spun so you can sell them and earn some cash for your efforts. In my opinion the equip function is limited. Youre only allowed to take three monsters with you, although, this does add to the overall difficulty in figuring out a strategy to defeat the denizens of the forest. Finally, view just allows you to view what your little guys look like. Pretty boring, but nevertheless at times cool. Trust me, you can make some ugly looking creatures.
One of the more annoying aspects of Jade Cocoon is the spoken dialogue. I mean come on. I dont want to sit there and listen to really bad actors recite a mediocre story. Luckily enough, theres a way to turn this off in the options and speed up the overall written dialogue. A nice touch. They must have been thinking ahead. Another gripe I have is that controlling your character during the exploration scenes is a bitch to say the least. No dual-shock here. Nope. Straight forward control, but crappy at that. Even after playing for a few hours I wasnt used to the control of this game. Its just too clumsily put together. Theres no fluid movement through the jungle.
After awhile, I began to fall in love, not with the story, but more with the logistics of trying to get all of my monsters up to higher levels while keeping my main characters experience on a steady rise. Jade Cocoon is a balancing act. On one hand you have to strive to improve your characters capturing skills while also pushing your monsters up to higher levels. Theres no simple way to do this. In order to increase Levants skills you have to capture. In order to raise your monsters to become more powerful monsters you have to let them kill the enemy.
I dont want to sound like Im preaching a kick-ass game here, because Jade Cocoon is cool, but it isnt that cool. The story is weak and the overall play of the game doesnt last long enough for me. It took me about 10 hours to complete the thing. The challenge of this game is not in the difficulty of the foes you come across. Instead, the hard part is combining your captured monsters in the right way to create creatures that you can use to make it to the end. Here are some pointers. Try to build creatures that are well rounded as well as some that specialize in one element. You have the classic four to pick from: water, earth, fire and air. Some monsters will be useful in certain forests, while others wont do jack. Luckily, you also have four forests so it isnt that hard to figure out.
If Crave Entertainment is working on a sequel to Jade Cocoon, Im hoping theyll make it a multi-disc game with a complex story line, more monsters to tweak with and more ways of tweaking them. Right now we have the basis for a really good idea. Hopefully if there is a sequel well see this idea more developed. I mean Jade Cocoon is worth the cash, but it doesnt permeate your dreams like other RPGs out there. This title is something youll like if youre more into the combination of monsters thing than the RPG element. In any case, itll be a cult hit.