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So, you want to be a Cocoon Master eh..?
Huh, what the hell is that..?
Well, lets start with the introduction of your character Levant and all will soon become clear...
Levant is descended from a long lineage of Cocoon Masters, the last of which was his father Riketz who disappeared when Levant was just a small boy. Not being a Cocoon Master yet, young Levant enjoys life in his town of Syrus basically just hanging around ripping the wings off fly's and kid stuff like that. Venturing outside of Syrus is often a risky task as there are monsters that dwell in the forests called Minions. Although the villagers have managed a semi peaceful coexistence with these creatures, spending your time in town is the preferred method of staying alive.
The only known way to capture a Minion is for a Cocoon Master to cast his powers and seal them inside a Cocoon. Once captured, the Minion can be used to breed or fight other minions.
Then one day all hell breaks loose as the dreaded Onibubu, the Locusts of the Apocalypse, invade the town. The Onibubu possess a power that inflicts an endless sleep onto the villagers and while not everyone in town is effected, the losses are still great.
The villagers have heard stories of a cure for the endless sleep that lies somewhere deep in the Beetle forest. They figure their only hope is to send a Cocoon Master out into the world to see if he can recover the cure.
Levant being the logical successor is elected Cocoon Master and tasked with the recovery of the serum. Before Levant can leave though he must marry a Nagi women as is the custom of all Cocoon Master. Mahbu, a young Nagi women and lifelong friend of Levant is chosen.
Nagi women have the power to control the Cocoon's inhabitants to some extent. They must be used to release the minions from their prison, because should anyone else attempt to release a minion from a Cocoon that person will be cursed. Nagi's can also spin the Cocoon's into silk, which can then be traded for money at the local store.
As the wife of Levant, Mahbu will play a crucial part in helping Levant survive his perilous journey. Without her, you wouldn't be able to use any of the minions that you collect throughout the game.
So now young Cocoon Master, you are finally ready to begin your journey and take that first big step into your ultimate destiny .
Sound and Vision:
One of the first things that stand out in Jade Cocoon is the soundtrack. The music has a very mystical feel to it and fits into the overall structure of the game perfectly. When played through a Surround system all of the subtleties and richness of the tunes come out in all their glory.
Sound effects are also very well implemented and often go hand-in-hand with the game various special effects. The only drawback to the sound effects is that sometimes they come off sounding a bit flat in parts, especially when in battle. One minion attacking another sounds kinda like someone snapping a wet tower against a wall.
Jade Cocoon also features a wide variety of voice acting to coincide with the text that pops up during a conversation. Although it does not occur with every encounter, all of the games main characters have a voice associated with them. The voice talents are well done and convincing. You can also choose the just press a button and skip through the voice and text if you so choose, but it's a nice touch and adds some depth to the story.
The graphics actually surprised me quite a bit in this game. The backgrounds are all beautifully pre-rendered and give a nice lifelike feel to the game. Of course the quality isn't up to Final Fantasy VII or VIII standards and unfortunately some of the paths in the forests are rather difficult to see but the overall effect is pleasing to the eye.
Characters are large and consist of a pretty high polygon count with detailed and colorful textures. The reason for this is simple there is never more than a few characters on the screen at any given time so the developers were able to crank up the polys.
Animation is pretty fluid although I think a few more frames could have been added during a battle sequence.
Special effects are decent but nothing to write home about with the occasional spiffy effect when using spells, but otherwise things are quite unspectacular. The saving grace is the overall combination of the backgrounds (which are very nice) with the characters (above average) and the ambient effects that create a nice, pleasant environment.
Jade Cocoon certainly starts out as your typical run of the mill RPG with the lead character able to roam the town, talk to it's people and buy supplies, armor, weapons and accessories. It's not until you actually leave the town that you begin to notice that in addition to a regular RPG, Jade Cocoon has also thrown in some monster breeding elements ala Monster Ranger or Pokemon.
Traveling in town is a relative breeze as you only need to select the location you want to travel to, press a button and you are there. Once your selection is made, you will have to take a few steps here and there in order to talk to people or walk up to a counter to buy goods, but a lot of time is saved by being able to "transport" directly to where you wish to go while within the town.
Walking is accomplished by using the directional buttons, there is no analog control allowed here folks sorry. Pushing the directional pad up moves your character up and pushing down moves him down. The left/right directional buttons are used to turn your character left or right but will not move him out of place unless you are pressing the up or down buttons at the same time. You can also run by pressing the triangle button.
The "X" button is used to enact conversations, picking up items and for opening doors. You can also use this button to help speed you through your conversations.
Once you pick through the town and talk to everyone, stock up on your supplies and buy whatever weapons and armor you can afford at this point (bare minimum), it's time to say goodbye to your wife and mother and head off into the unknown.
Lavant's real journey begins when he starts his search for the endless sleep curse. Once he leaves the town and enters the perimeter of the froest, Levant is faced with four passages; each sealed with a lock bearing the creature that the forest is named after.
Your first journey will bring you into the Beetle Forest where it is believed the cure lies. It is here that you will meet up with another Cocoon Master, Koris, who will help to instruct you and will also lend some insight to your father whom he befriended many years ago.
Beetle Forest is where is will you will encounter your first Minions and also begin to truly learn the ways of being a Cocoon Master.
As you journey through the forest you will see creatures roaming around...these are the Minions. The pathways that you take through the forest are rather fixed with occasional branches that will lead you into other areas of the woods. Because the pathways are rather narrow, getting around these creatures can be rather difficult at times especially considering the fact that once they get a sniff of you they tend to hone in. Making contact with a Minion will bring you into battle where you will square off against them. At first it will be just you against the Minions (occasionally more than one will be in the battle at the same time). Once you get their health down into the red, it's time to try and capture the little suckers and entomb them in a cocoon. Each time you are successful in capturing a Minion your capture percentage will go up and enable you to collect more powerful Minions later in the game. Killing a minion yourself will grant you nothing and should not be done unless by mistake or you have no choice in the matter.
Levant is able to equip up to three Minions at a time to use in battle. Capturing them is limited to the amount of empty cocoons you are carrying at the time. Once you feel you have captured enough different types of Minions (there are a ton of different kinds), you can elect to leave the forest at any time and visit Mahbu.
Merging minions can help you to create a new and unique minion that can be stronger and more flexible than the other two taken separately. There is a nice little screen that displays what the combined minions will look like and there is also a status screen to let you know if your choice is a good one or not. You can always elect to back out of the combination should you not like the potential outcome.
Each core Minion has an elemental specialty: Fire, Earth, Water or Air. Knowing how each works will give you a distinct advantage during an encounter. For instance, Water is stronger than Fire yet weaker against earth. It would be neutral or even to air. It is a good idea to pit strong water Minions against a fire Minion any day.
When merging, it is also a good idea to try and combine water and earth Minions. If you are lucky, you will get the best from both minion's and have one tough little customer to boot.
You may also choose to destroy a Minion and spin the cocoon into silk. This silk can then be traded for money at the local town store which can then be used to purchase supplies, weapons, etc. Some minions silk are worth more than others, so you best be taking some notes. A good idea early in the game is to snap up as many similar minions as you can, roast 'em into silk and upgrade your weapons and armor because once you get through the first level the difficulty begins to ramp up.
Of course, since there are three other doors to enter besides the one to Beetle Forest you shouldn't really expect to find the endless sleep cure there. Learn what you can from Koris where there, capture as many level 1 minions as you can carry, grab the Dragonfly key and head on out to the next doorway and into the Dragonfly Forest.
As you venture deeper into the game you will begin to learn more about yourself, your father and the world around you. Using the minions that you captured and combined during battle will help you to keep your strength up and also increase the minion's level as well. Just make sure you continue to capture a healthy dose of creatures yourself so that you experience level (capture level really) continues to rise.
In the end, Jade Cocoon turns out to be a rather slow moving yet interesting little RPG that successfully combines monster breeder elements to make things exciting and fresh along the way. You also have the option of saving your minions to a memory card and fighting your prized possessions against a friend in the games Battle Arena stage. There is also a nice little prize once you complete the main game. An Eternal Corridor stage opens up and allows you to capture minions that are not available during the actual game. Here you will find unique and powerful minions that can also be used in a two-player battle mode.
This is a single disk game for 1or 2 Players (2-player in Battle Arena mode only). It is compatable with the standard (digital) joypad and is Dual Shock compatible. Games can be saved via memory card (1 block per save).
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