Jade Cocoon is a game that I found through a video rental store called Family Video. I knew nothing about it but was interested in RPGs and took a chance. I found a spectacular RPG that felt like a cross between Princess Mononoke and Pokemon.
There is more to it than that. Jade Cocoon does rely on monster collecting as a mechanic for combat, but it is also how you make money in the game. Because of the time that it was released, it does feel like a Pokemon clone, but there is more to it.
I have a ton of nostalgia for the game. It is a short RPG that has a great story. It feels rushed, as some ideas could have been better explored.
TLDR: Not Pokemon, but it feels like it could be.
At first, the story doesn’t seem all that interesting. You play as a chosen one who has to save the village from an evil force. It does get more interesting as you learn about the identity of the characters in the game. As you go through the forests, you learn that several of the characters are gods in human form.
Near the end of the game, you learn more about the villagers you’ve spoken with. Their motivations and feelings are explained to you through the boss battles. It is pretty interesting and adds more depth to them that would have been left out if these were standard elemental bosses.
In the opening cutscene, you’re told that the balance between the people and the forest has been upset. Winged insects have broken through a divine barrier and attacked the village. Your first task is to save the villagers by finding a cure for the sleeping sickness that these insects spread.
To do this, you much explore the four forests that act as dungeons in this game. As you go through the forests, you learn more about the game’s world and the people who call the forest home. These people come back later and are explained as being the spirits of minor gods.
One small thing that bothers me is when you meet two people from the village while in the forest. Your character needed a key to access the forest, but they didn’t. It felt a little strange when I thought about it for a bit. I don’t remember questioning it when I first played the game.
Back in the village, a crazy shaman tries to sacrifice one of the people helping you, who turns out to be the spirit of a goddess. She turns the villagers to stone and tells your character to search for a temple in the last forest.
Once in the temple, you go through the same forests again, but not they are darker and have stronger monsters. This all leads to your character fighting your father and restoring balance to the world. It is a fun story with some interesting ideas that could have been expanded.
Jade Cocoon’s gameplay feels like it could’ve been a Pokemon game or could have been a discarded idea for Pokemon. You play as a Cocoon Master, and you travel around the forests of this world fighting and capturing monsters. These are called minions in the game, but they’re monsters.
The game is broken up into eight dungeons. In the first half of the game, you go through four forests; in the second half, you return to the dark versions of those forests. The forests are:
You need a key to get into them in the first half of the game, and a portal takes you to them in the second half. I wish they had been able to create new dungeons, but having your character return is part of the plot.
In each forest, you’ll find a bunch of monsters. You’ll need to capture these monsters so you can fight and buy things. Each monster is aligned to one of four elements:
- Fire – Red
- Air – Yellow
- Earth – Green
- Water – Blue
The developers gave the player every possible advantage they could. Each monster is color coded so the player can identify the element and what their weakness might be. Some monsters can be a bit tricky to visually identify, so their stats bar also tells you the elemental alignment. Bosses don’t display this, but you can figure it out quickly.
There are two ways to make your monsters stronger. You can level them up through battles or merge them with other monsters. Merging them has advantages; you can alter their alignment and give them better attacks and magic.
Your monsters don’t have to do all the fighting in Jade Cocoon. The main character gets weapons and armor to fight. This greatly helps you, especially when you find a monster too weak to withstand attacks. If you need to reduce their health, your monsters will kill their target if they attack again.
Having the main character be able to defend himself is a great idea! It was something that I wanted to be able to do in Pokemon because it was a little strange that you would plack out if all your Pokemon were defeated. It didn’t make sense to me.
The monsters aren’t just for fighting. You also need to spin them into silk so you can get money. I’m glad this is in the game. It wouldn’t make sense that the monsters would be carrying money. To do this, you’ll have to return to Mahbu or the other Nagi women later in the game and select the monsters you don’t need anymore.
The battles are turn-based, like many RPGs. You can summon one of your minions or try to weaken the enemy with your main character. Either way, you must reduce the enemy monster’s health to capture it. Once you capture a monster, you’ll need to purify it before you can do anything with it.
By capturing monsters, you’ll increase the capture level for your main character. However, your monsters won’t gain experience. It creates an interesting balance in the game where you must decide when to capture a monster or level up your monsters.
The gameplay is rather involved and more complex than Pokemon. It makes for a good foundation to build off. The story is the part of the game I like the most about the Jade Cocoon.
For the time, Jade Cocoon was an average-looking game. It has some great graphics at times, and the anime cutscenes are excellent. However, the character models and monsters don’t always look good.
My issues regarding the characters and monsters relate to how they have aged. The monsters in the game are 3D models that are at the mercy of the PlayStation. At the time (1999), they would have looked fine. They don’t look terrible compared to other games from that period, but now they’re average at best. Some of them are downright terrible, but most are okay.
The character models suffer from a lack of emotion that many games from the PS1 suffer from. The faces on the characters are pictures that were attached to the model and are stuck with a neutral expression. The rest of the character models look good. Again, these wouldn’t be issues back in 1999 but are now as expectations and technology have changed.
I was having issues with the lighting. Sometimes things were too dark to tell where I was supposed to go. I don’t have a CRT TV, which might have helped with how dark things were.
The game uses pre-rendered backgrounds for the dungeons. These usually look great! However, they can be too dark to tell where you need to go, and they create a lot of loading screens, even if they’re short.
The anime cutscenes are amazing! They help to make Jade Cocoon stand out from other games that use CGI. I prefer these cutscenes to those in the Final Fantasy games from this time.
The cut scenes that use in-game graphics are fine. They get the job done. If I were to critique them, I would restate the same issues I’ve already mentioned.
Overall the graphics are good. The anime cutscenes and intro are my favorite part of the game. I was really into anime then, and seeing stuff like this was awesome. The rest of the graphics looked good for the time but haven’t aged as well as other games from the 90s.
8.5/10. This great game stood out from other RPGs from the 90s. The way that monster collecting was used in Jade Cocoon was different, and the story was special.
Jade Cocoon is one of my favorite games on the PlayStation. I have a lot of nostalgia for it because I learned about it when renting it. That isn’t around anymore, and I miss certain things about the rental experience.
If you give the game a chance, you’ll see there is more to it than the similarities with Pokemon. It is a solid RPG that is, unfortunately, associated with being a Pokemon clone. There were several games that suffered from this label.
I wish the game were more widely available than it is. Like many games on the PlayStation, Jade Cocoon is stuck there. As far as I can tell, it wasn’t released on modern hardware, which is a real shame as it is an excellent RPG.