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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Role-Playing

 

Publisher

Ubi Soft

 

Developer

Genki

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q4 2001

 

- Nice visuals

- Some good voice acting

 

 

- Repetitive dungeons

- Stagnant battles

- Some poor voice acting

 

 

Review: Legaia 2: Duel Saga (Playstation 2)

Review: Lost Kingdoms (Gamecube)

 

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Jade Cocoon II

Score: 7/10

 

Sometimes a game comes along that you have a nagging feeling possesses some sort of spiffiness hidden away deep inside, and if you stand there shaking it out for long enough, the sparkling gem that makes the game shine will drop right out.  This was my experience with Jade Cocoon II.  It’s a very nuts and bolts sort of RPG with a fair amount of nooks and crannies to check out, but the game lacks the pop that will keep a player glued to their seat until the wee morning hours.  The game makes a valiant effort at being a really deep experience, but in the end it’s as though it tried a little to hard, leaving a somewhat dry gaming experience in its wake.  

 

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The story leans far more towards far more towards being a premise than a full-blown narrative.  Taking place 1,000 years after the first game, Jade Cocoon II follows the story of Kahu, a young lad about to go through the tests to get his Hunter’s license so that he may go out in the world, gather treasure, and ultimately a good amount of fame and fortune.  Unfortunately while out taking his test he gets himself cursed by laying his paws on the wrong magical plant, leaving him with a tail thanks to being possessed by a demon named Kalma, and with a fairy friend to help him get out of this mess.  From here it’s off to get rid of the curse so that Kahu can hopefully go on to become a nice normal hunter.

 

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The plot won’t be turning heads anytime soon, but to its credit the story remains a notch above what you would usually find in a monster breeding game.  Helping to elevate the story’s quality is the level of voice acting.  While usually I cringe at the mere mention of voice acting, what I found in Jade Cocoon II was actually reasonably good; not Oscar material by any means, but better than most of the crap out there passed of as “acting”.  The fairy, Nico, has by far the best acting of the bunch, very 

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believable and well paced.  A fair amount of the supporting cast aren’t too bad either, bringing a very Saturday morning cartoon vibe to the mix.  On the far end of the spectrum though, Kahu’s voice acting fell short.  The pacing, the context, everything just felt out of whack with what was happening on-screen.

But with the story staying light, this allows the gameplay to take center stage.  While it’s nice to see the developers weren’t trying to have their cake and eat it to by including a both a heavy story and heavy gameplay, it unfortunately amplifies the title’s shortcoming.

The overall combat system is pretty flexible, utilizing each of the four basic Aristotelian elements.  Fire creatures are relegated to physical attacks, Earth to defense, Wind to condition affects, and Water to recovery in the game.  There are exceptions, but that’s the basic gist of it.  Players will be able to have up to 8 critters in their party at a time eventually, though they’ll start with three.  These monster are assigned to quadrants on a ring surrounding Kahu that correspond to their respective elements.  Players will need to pick which monster(s) they want to use for their next move, deciding between their offensive and defensive abilities, or a combination of them.  In the early going you’ll likely only be able to choose one monster at a time as they’ll be divided so much between the elements. As the game progresses and you get more monsters in your collection though, you’ll likely have at least one beast on each side of the selected on, either of the same element or the element in the quadrant next to said monster; allowing for multiple elements to be used at once.  It leaves quite a bit of room to move, especially later on in the game when you’ll find yourself with a very diverse beastiary, but with time it feels like overkill.  This is largely due to the repetitive nature of Jade Cocoon II.  You’re constantly fighting in order to strengthen your monsters so that they can evolve into something even more powerful, but it eventually gets redundant.  The different dungeons totally lack variation.  Every four levels there is a shift towards more difficult beasts, but there’s an overarching sameness that must be dealt with.  RPGs that go for a very “nuts and bolts” approach to play mechanics still need some sort of variation to prevent redundancy from sinking its ugly claws into the experience.  There just isn’t enough of that here, so by the time you hit the 15-20 hours of gameplay you’re only really toughing it out to see the end of the game because you feel some sort of obligation to seek closure from this long, drawn out experience, not because your having a bunch of fun.

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Traversing the dungeons consists of gathering the necessary keys to open the gate to the next level while fighting monsters to strengthen your own beasts and finding eggs containing new monsters to raise as well as other handy items.  For the first while this is perfectly acceptable, but it quickly becomes repetitive.  If there were more quests to do it would cut down on this.  There is a job board for the hunters that you can use to add some variety, but they are often gofer missions.  There really isn’t a strong sense of purpose to help carry you though all of this.  It’s just: get the keys, grab some goodies, later, rinse, repeat.

Although you may seemingly be looking at the same things over and over again, the scenery, characters and monsters look pretty good.  The visual designs of the game are reasonably varied and they have more of a cute, cartoon style which is a nice change from the more aggressive, “grrrrrr” approach to graphics a number of RPGs use.  Animation is smooth without slowdown, and there’s the occasional pretty lighting effect to enjoy as well.  Sound too is decent in terms of effects, but the music felt a bit flat.  It just doesn’t distinguish itself from the sort of music we hear time and time again in console fantasy RPGs.

While Jade Cocoon II is by no means a bad game, it is really hard to find the fun unless you absolutely love this sort of game.  To it’s credit the game doesn’t feel like it was geared towards a five year old like other monster raising titles, but nonetheless, it’s a title to approach with caution.

- Mr. Nash

(April 18, 2002)

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