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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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by Crave Entertainment


Ups:Cool monster breeding; incredible graphics.

Downs:Limited storyline; awkward control.

System Reqs:
Sony PlayStation, memory card.

jade-shot1b.jpg (4802 bytes)Don’t 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 can’t raise little Pikachu to become some drooling monster that can kick almost anyone’s ass now can you? No. That’s the appeal of Jade Cocoon.

jade-shot2b.jpg (4419 bytes)There’s 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.

jade-shot3b.jpg (3161 bytes)If you remember lasts year’s Azure Dreams (I’m sure it’s got a cult following) and combine that game with a more solid RPG element you’ll 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 father’s disappearance and your own future.

jade-shot4b.jpg (3147 bytes)Here’s the layout of the game: Basically, you’re 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 you’re going spend most of your time is merging the monsters. Essentially, you should be trying to combine them in a unique way that’ll 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 there’s 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 won’t 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. You’re 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.

jade-shot5b.jpg (5790 bytes)One of the more annoying aspects of Jade Cocoon is the spoken dialogue. I mean come on. I don’t want to sit there and listen to really bad actors recite a mediocre story. Luckily enough, there’s 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 wasn’t used to the control of this game. It’s just too clumsily put together. There’s no fluid movement through the jungle.

jade-shot6b.jpg (3323 bytes)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 character’s 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. There’s no simple way to do this. In order to increase Levant’s 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 don’t want to sound like I’m preaching a kick-ass game here, because Jade Cocoon is cool, but it isn’t that cool. The story is weak and the overall play of the game doesn’t 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 won’t do jack. Luckily, you also have four forests so it isn’t that hard to figure out.

If Crave Entertainment is working on a sequel to Jade Cocoon, I’m hoping they’ll 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 we’ll see this idea more developed. I mean Jade Cocoon is worth the cash, but it doesn’t permeate your dreams like other RPGs out there. This title is something you’ll like if you’re more into the combination of monsters thing than the RPG element. In any case, it’ll be a cult hit.

--Matt Baldwin