The year was 1999, and I was a fledgling RPG fan. I had come off from playing Pokemon Red, and was looking for a new game to play. Then, I came upon Jade Cocoon while looking for a game to rent at Blockbuster. A couple years later I can finally give it the review it deserves. Read further to see my thoughts.
Mahbu's such a sweet girl
The story centers around you, Levant (or any other name, as the characters like to avoid actually addressing your name in conversations), and your quest to cure the villagers after they are afflicted with a spell that causes them to be in a permanent state of sleep. You are helped in this quest by your betrothed, Mahbu. It's a fairly straight forward story at first, but gets more interesting later on. There are plenty of twists in the story to keep your attention without being too complicated.
The controls are probably the worst part of the game, and may be cause for frustration. The main reason is that it works similarly to Resident Evil in how your movement is handled. First, you must manually turn to the direction in which you want to move, then you press forward. This can make it difficult to avoid battles, and makes the game feel a little slow. There are ways around this problem though, so it's not too bad. Other than that one problem, there isn't anything else to say about the control scheme.
The environments look pretty nice
The graphics were, for the time, decent. The character models look blocky and have few polygons, but it was not bad for it's time. Textures also look pretty low quality by today's standards, but were fine for its time. The backgrounds look nice, and are plenty detailed. There was quite a bit of detail put into the environments. The character portraits are really well drawn, and have a great style. There really isn't much else to be said about the graphics.
The game plays a lot like a 3d version of pokemon (done right) in that you must capture monsters and summon them. Monsters must first be weakened in order to capture them, and you must have enough cocoons (if you fail in capturing a monster you lose a cocoon). You can also opt to attack with Levant, but that's pretty risky (you don't get a game over if you lose though; you are just sent back to the beggining of the level). Each monster has an element assigned to them; which affords them a weakness and a resistance (Wind beats Earth. Earth beats Water. Water beats Fire. Fire beats Wind). Each monster also has a set of elemental magic and physical attacks (some of which are imbued with their element) that use up its mana(MP). Utilizing the elements is vital in order to beat some of the tougher battles.
The monsters don't look too original, but that's where fusion comes in.
The best part of the game (such that it deserves its own section) is the fusion aspect. It is probably the most important element to learn in order to beat the game. There are almost countless fusion possibilities, as every monster can be fused together. The resulting monster combines the physical and elemental attributes of the materials (so if one is fire elemental and the other is water, then the result is half water and fire). Skills are also carried over from the fusion, so long the skill slots are not shared. It really is fun to see what you get from every fusion, and adds to the depth of the game.
The audio is a pretty mixed bag. The worst part of the audio has to be the voice acting. Each character has either a bland or just plain terrible voice actor. Some of the conversations just sound too bad to listen to. Fortunately, the soundtrack makes up for it. The background music really fits well with the levels they accompany. The battle song is also pretty good. The only other problem is that there isn't a lot of songs in the game.
The game itself is pretty short (I spent 20 hours, but most of it was me messing around with the fusion element). The good part is that there is a good amount of replayability. After you beat the game, you unlock a dungeon that is practically endless and allows you to unlock alternate "skins" for your creatures. There is also a 2 player battle mode that allows you and a friend to use your monsters to battle each other.
Overall, it is a fun game that was sadly overlooked. There are some issues with controls and the voice acting. Fortunately, it is a fairly deep and enjoyable game. I would recommend it to anyone who likes RPGs or pokemon-type games (so long as you don't mind that it's a PS1 game), if you can find it.