When the first Jade Cocoon was released, it didn’t really draw many players in. Though the game had boasted great graphics and millions of monster combinations, the lack of a developed story and characters lessened its appeal. Genki has learned their flaws and it shows in Jade Cocoon 2, brought over and localized by Ubi Soft.
In the first game, the Cocoon Master Levant traveled deep into the Forest to save his village from the Locusts of the Apocalypse. He made it to the Temple of Kemuel where he reunited with his father. There he performed the Requiem of Light and Darkness, purifying the Divine Beasts and the Dragon God Kemuel in the Forest, freeing the Nagi peoples from the cursed existence of being separated into Light and Darkness and saving his beloved wife, Mahbu. After his ordeals, Levant sealed the Forest into a time-space wormhole and began presiding as the lord of Kemuel Temple.
Time passed, and a new threat had emerged from the Wormhole Forest, the Kalma. The Kalma are a mutation species, evolved over the years of confinement within the Wormhole Forest. They are creatures of Darkness, blessed by the power of knowledge. The Kalma seek to escape the Wormhole Forest, and eradicate the humans through assimilation. Levant, who had attained immortality when the purified Dragon God Kemuel entered his body, gathered warriors from all over to the Temple of Kemuel to battle the Kalma. These warriors came to be known as Beast Hunters.
Our story starts at the arrival of our boy hero, Kahu. Kahu is the son of a carpenter who came to join the Beast Hunters when he saw a want ad in his village. However, just before he could finish his final test, he came into contact with a fairy cocoon and not only did he fall under its parasitic curse, he ended up getting a wacky sidekick in the fairy Nico, and also a tail sticking out his rear end. With the advice of Levant, Kahu must gather the four Orbs in each elemental forest, to break the curse, before he is consumed by the demon within him. Unfortunately for Kahu, this was merely the beginning of events to come.
The characters in the game are the major draw. They are simply overflowing with personality, due not only to their superb voice acting, but also their overall design. Kahu will meet interesting companions like the research-hungry Dr. Gil, the clashing personalities of the Sweet Knights, who are this world’s alternative to a girl group. There is also cheery Cure, a Divine Beast girl who desires to become human, the feisty Nam who seeks strength, and the enigmatic Wu, an old geezer who is more than what he seems. However, these characters and others won’t develop into their full potential until the later half of the game, but even with a slow start, they still become characters that will probably be burned into the minds of players for years to come.
The gameplay is almost the same as the first game, with the general idea of collecting monsters and using them in battle. Jade Cocoon 2, however, adds and improves over the first game. Players now control up to 3 monsters each turn using the Beast Amulet devised from the ancient arts of Gehenna Pale. The system is simple enough, consisting of a spin battle grid with 4 sides each, divided into Fire, Wind, Water and Earth. Each side has 3 slots, 2 of which are connected to the neighboring support element. An example will look like this: Wind/Fire, Fire, and Fire/Earth. Each monster has a dominant elemental affinity. If a monster is Fire-based, it most likely should be placed on any Fire slot for full effect. Placing a monster on the Wind/Fire or Fire/Earth side works when in the Fire side of the Beast Amulet, but if it does not have an appropriate Wind or Earth skill when the player spins to either side, the monster will not do anything.
Through merging, monsters can learn another elemental skill. For example, merging a Fire monster with a Wind based one will let the monster posses both Fire and Wind type attacks, and thus more effectively place on the Wind/Fire slot.
Early in the game, players can only use up to 2 monsters, but once into the later half of the game and the maximum of 8 monsters is allowed, strategy begins to come in earnest. Players will find themselves contemplating where to position their monsters on the Beast Amulet to get the best overall battle results. The possibilities are endless, and the myriad of skills adds tactical variety to the overall battle plan.
Battles are fought mainly in the Forests, against wild monsters or other rival Beast Hunters. Battles are won when all opposing monsters are felled, or a rival Beast Hunter’s Shields are depleted when attacked. Losing occurs when the same happens to Kahu. Losing in the Forest forfeits all items in the Inventory, so it is wise to store anything valuable in the Storeroom. Battles can also be fought at the Arena for increases in Reputation and money, and losing battles does not incur penalties like in the Forest. However, no experience is gained in Arena Battles.
The overall idea in this game is to explore the Wormhole Forest, battling wild monsters which can be seen roaming around, picking up items and eggs, and battling Kalma to increase your Seed Beast options for merging stronger monsters. The Wormhole Forest is divided into Fire, Wind, Water and Earth, and each has its own unique environment, monsters, and characters. The goal for Kahu though, is to also reach the end of each Forest and obtain its respective Orb, so as to free himself from the curse that has befallen him.
Merging of monsters is the sole way of allowing your monsters to climb the evolution ladder and become more powerful. Merging is done by selecting the monster, which is at least Level 15 in experience, and a Seed Beast. Seed Beasts are acquired by purifying Kalma found in the Forest; the more powerful the Kalma, the better. Each Seed Beast adds not only a skill and trait, but also some levels to the Evolution Level of the monster. A bar in the status screen of the monster represents Evolution Level. At Evolution Level 5, monsters can evolve into their adult form and at Level 15, their most evolved and powerful final form.
Jade Cocoon 2 also offers a job system of sorts, where Kahu can take up jobs offered by other Beast Hunters at the Lounge. Rewards generally come in increase of Reputation, followed by money or rare items and eggs. Jobs are important in raising reputation, as it is needed to do the Advancement Tests that not only allow more monsters to be brought into battle, but also increase the number of Shields Kahu has. Failing at jobs will deplete Kahu’s reputation, so it is a wise idea to take a job only if you are confident in finishing it. The tougher jobs give bigger rewards, but are more risky.
Controls for the game are smooth and simple. Accessing menus is simple enough and spinning the Beast Amulet in battle is a breeze. Running around the Forest is pretty limited as the paths are narrow, but some locations are open and allow Kahu to maneuver around enemies more easily for a back attack on enemies, or to avoid them outright.
The graphics in the game are pretty well done, though they can get repetitive. The forest environments are lush and attune to their elemental affinity. The Earth Forest has a lush green theme, while the Wind Forest has a dry and dusty look. The later Forests offer snow, raging fires, rain and indigenous flying insects! Character designs are quite detailed and simply unique to their personalities, monsters are pretty well designed, ranging from fearsome to plain weird. Battle animations are rather simple, but quick, so there isn’t really much to complain about.
The music in the game is unique and also nostalgic for those who have played the first game. The game boasts the usual tribal tunes to slow and erratic chimes. Some themes from the Jade Cocoon make a return as well. Battle music is mediocre, but certain boss battles boast some very pleasant aural motivation.
The sound effects in the game are well done also. Pouring rain sounds uncannily realistic and things like the howling winds in the Wind Forest to the raging fires in the Fire Forest are crisp and clear. Attacks also have decent sound effects to accompany them.
The major aural pleasure has to be the voice acting. This may be one of the best voice acting jobs done for a Breeding/RPG. The voices really add to the unique personalities of the characters and make them even more lovable than they already are. There are some minor errors in the script and text that make what is being said and what the player is reading seem different, but it can easily be overlooked.
Overall, Jade Cocoon 2 has some minor bugs. The major flaw is that this game gets quite non-linear near the later half, and many event scenes become a jumbled mess to the point of confusion. Players will also be stumped on when to decide to complete the game, as there is an urge to hunt down more events in the Forests. All in all, I can say that Jade Cocoon 2 shouldn’t be overlooked and is recommended for RPG lovers and fans of monster-raising games alike. Jade Cocoon 2 is an excellent game that had the potential to be even better. Hopefully Genki will continue to improve in this genre and one day reward us with the deserving sequel to this sleeper hit of 2001.