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Jade Cocoon: Story of the Tamamayu
Score: 97%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Crave
Developer: Genki
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:
The graphics in Jade Cocoon: Story of the Tamamayu are top-notch. The backgrounds are pre-rendered 3D, a la Final Fantasy VII or Star Ocean 2, but they are extremely lush. Instead of the stark landscapes often found in the previous two titles, Jade Cocoon has some of the most beautiful forest scenes that Iíve ever encountered in any game, period. They took my breath away. The character models are all superb as well, with fluid animation. And the fact that the game generates monster models on the fly, depending on how you combine them... wow. Lots of them look goofy, but they all have a certain sort of logic to them, and in the end they all look really, really cool. This game excels in the graphics department.

The sound is good too. The battle music is very addictive, a tune I find myself humming even as I write this review. The flute music, which plays at any summon or when you capture an enemy (which annoyed my best friend), I found really neat. Maybe I just like flutes. I donít know. You can turn off the long spell/summon/capture animations, though, if you want the battles to go faster. I donít -- Iím of the old-school, long battle variety. And the battle graphics are just as clean as the non-battle ones. This game does a superb job of presentation.


Gameplay:
You are Levant, a Cocoon Master in the making. Being a beast of knowledge is tough in a world such as this, and even now, creatures from the forest are trying to destroy your village. So your quest begins, in a classic attempt to fill your fatherís shoes as a Cocoon Master. The story unfolds piece by piece as you find out more about the world around you and the way it works. This is classic RPGing, and itís a great feeling. All the time, youíre wandering around an elaborate world with its own true mythologies, own sense of ďbeing.Ē Although itís not quite the level of something like Panzer Dragoon Saga, where everything fit into the ecosystem and such, and the world was effectively its own self-contained reality, Jade Cocoon draws you into its twisted reality better than most any RPG out in the market today. This is a Good Thing.

The gameplay itself is great as well -- itís sort of a Pokťmon meets Final Fantasy thing, where you capture monsters, breed them to make new combinations with more powers, and use them to beat the crap out of enemies that Levant himself couldnít damage much at all. Since Levant cannot die, the game has a failsafe mechanism -- but your creatures can, and thatís a real kicker. You find yourself conserving your best warriors, and using your weak ones just to strike the death blows. The game has its own internal consistency in the ways that it works, and it really makes for good gameplay. The battles mesh well, the exploration scenes mesh well, and the story ties it all together. I find myself purposefully getting in random battles so I can play with my creatures. Itís lots of fun. And then you get around to the actual story of the game.


Difficulty:
It all depends. If you donít breed and fight your monsters, Jade Cocoon is a bitch. Even high level creatures can get mauled by a pack of low-level ones, and youíve really got to use lots of strategy to get it right. However, if you take the time to get your creatures up to par, this game is just right in difficulty. And you wonít mind doing it -- itís lots of fun... really.

Game Mechanics:
The game supports vibration, which is cool, but it doesnít support analog controls, which is the only thing that keeps it from getting a perfect score. Well, that and the load-times are sometimes a bit longer than Iíd like, but theyíre not so long as to make you frustrated. The menus make sense, the combat makes sense, and the control scheme is tight. Itíll take you a minute to figure out how to save the game at a save point, but once you do, the mechanic is natural (you donít stand on it, you act like youíre going to talk to it). This is a wonderful, wonderful game. Genki and Crave really outdid themselves this time. I highly recommend buying Jade Cocoon.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

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