It’s been between a week this one and my earlier report on Jade Cocoon, game-wise, though the publish dates might differ. Since then, I’ve completed the game, though there is a large amount of content left once the story is over. I made good use of my ARCHOS Gamepad though!
Once the four forests have been cleared, the story took an unexpected twist, at least for me. Unfortunately, the game took the twist together with the story, switching from a relatively open world where you freely roam the forests and catch monsters, to a lengthy linear section where you explore a dark version of the first three forests one at a time, in order to fight elemental bosses and collect their elemental jewels. There’s two bosses in the Nether Spider Forest and once you beat the second one, the game’s story is over. The credits roll, after which you are able to save one last time and you get to reset the console (or in my case, the emulator).
Once you load this new save, you are introduced to the Endless Corridor. This seems to be some sort of long, possibly infinite dungeon where the monsters vary and you probably get to catch most of them, but it’s still very linear. From what the Internet is telling me, there’s lots to do here, including finding special monsters and monster skins, but this new mode is mostly designed for the player to mess around between battles with friends.
The monster catching and merging element of Jade Cocoon is amazing, but in my opinion, the way the game is structured around the story makes the whole thing less enjoyable. I don’t want to mess around after the story is over, I want to get overpowered and do everything before the final dungeon, and I didn’t get to do that in Jade Cocoon.
Luckily, the game only lasted for 12-13 hours, so I didn’t grow tired of it before it was all over. I even played through the area of Endless Corridor up to the first boss, and I might even return to Jade Cocoon at a later time.
There aren’t many Jade Cocoon guides out there, which forced me to take more notes about the game itself and less about the story.
I actually tried to keep a monster list, but by the time I figured out (for the most part) how the system works, I was already in the second nether area, so I lack a big chunk of data. Still, I did figure out some stuff, so here’s what I got.
Monster appearance, or monster family, depending on how you want to call it, is what determines the affinities of the monster. There are four affinities, with pairs of two opposing each other. Defense opposes Speed and Magic opposes Strength. This means that a monster with a strong attack will have a weak magical attack, while a speedy monster will have low defense and the other way around. The way the monster looks is what mostly determines where the monster is placed in the affinity spectrum. Individual monsters do vary to a small degree, but for the most part, a monster’s appearance will place the monster in a certain area on the affinity grid.
The two locations I have a full list of monsters for each had a different number of monster families available. The thing they have in common was that each monster family in a single location had two different monsters with different elements. I might not be completely clear here, but I think a proper list might help.
Nether Dragonfly Forest Monsters
|Zulmoo||One-eyed armadillo mouse||Water||xxxx||xxxx|
|Mugoo||One-eyed armadillo mouse||Earth||xxxx||xxxx|
Nether Spider Forest Monsters
|Carmine||Eyeless snake with spike mouth||Fire||xxx||x|
|Mukshab||Eyeless snake with spike mouth||Water||xxx||x|
|Spiral||Humanoid winged unicorn||Fire||xxx||xx|
|Jirahl||Humanoid winged unicorn||Water||xxx||xx|
|Noobwee||One eyed frog-wolf with huge mouth||Earth||xx|
|Robun||One eyed frog-wolf with huge mouth||Water||x||xx|
|Turem||Dopey flying fish snake||Earth||x||x|
|Uglam||Dopey flying fish snake||Air||x||x|
|Dogpara||Helmet guy with claw arms||Water||xx||xxxx|
|Tehrambu||Helmet guy with claw arms||Aert||xx||xxxx|
As you can see, monsters in the same family start with the same stats and stat-growth, with only minor difference. Different names mean different elements coloring and moves, but the shape and stats remain the same.
I ran through each of these two locations a bunch of time and didn’t encounter any other monster except bosses, which you can’t capture.
Now to compare it with a different area.
Monsters in Eternal Corridor, First Area (Incomplete)
|Tertodon||Dopey bigger ogre with forehead horn||Earth||x||x|
|Tereeb||Smaller ogre without horn||Earth||x||x|
|Radeeb||Smaller ogre without horn||Water||x||x|
|Teramine||Eyeless snake with spike mouth||Earth||xxx||x|
As you can see, the eyeless snake has the same stat distribution as the eyeless snakes in the Nether Spider Forest. The helmet guy is different, but he is also slightly different in appearance. The one here doesn’t have any arms, while the other one has claws for arms.
This list here is incomplete, but I can safely assume that there’s one more helmet guy and one more dopey ogre, probably of earth and water elements respectively.
Two monsters that merge with each other basically merge everything – elemental affinity, stat affinity, moves and appearance.
In regard to appearance, the first monster in the pair you merge seems to decide the basic look of the resulting monster, while the second one somehow modifies the original look. For instance, if you merge a bee type monster in the first slot and a snake type in the second slot, the result will remain mostly a bee, except it might have a scales texture and become slightly elongated, or in the case of the spiked mouth snake, it might replace the mandibles it had with spikes.
The color of the monster is determined by elemental affinity, but it seems to me that there’s an original element for each monster family. The coloring looks it’s best when the monster is of the original element. If the element changes, then the whole monster model gets tinted to that color, which doesn’t look as good. In any case, there is definitely some sort of procedural generation taking place, as the first monster’s shape is always every so slightly modified by the shape of the second monster.
In regards to stats, the first monster is again the base, with the stats averaging with the second monster. The level of the first monster is most of the time increased by one or two, but I’m not sure how that works exactly. As for stat affinities, when there’s a large difference, the affinity get’s averaged between the two. On the other hand, if the affinities are very similar, they get boosted in that direction. Pairing two monsters with a lot of attack, with one of them having high speed and the other low, will result in a monster with an even higher attack, and speed half way between the speeds of the original monsters.
With elemental affinities and moves, it’s more complex. These two get weaker with each generation. This means that two earth monsters will result in an earth monster, but if you then pair that monster with different elements over and over again, eventually, the earth element will be bred out – it will become weaker with each generation until it goes away. The same goes for moves. Eventually, moves and spells get forgotten if you don’t breed monsters which know these moves.
Optimal strategy for breeding?
It’s difficult to know for sure, but the way I see it, the best approach would be to pick two stats that aren’t opposites and merge monsters with moves and affinities that fit those two stats. Once you max out the stat affinities and get all the moves you want, it’s best to stop merging and simply train those monsters regularly from that point on.
As for elements, I didn’t have a lot of issues with elemental weaknesses in Jade Cocoon. In my experience, most battles are over quickly enough for your monster’s weaknesses not to matter. If each of your monsters has attacks for several different elements, you can always switch them in and out easily.
My previous plan was to go with a speedy fire magician, strong and fast earth/air physical attacker and a defensive water magician/healer. Up until the last few areas, I’ve been following this plan as well as I could, but then I started realizing elements don’t matter as much and started focusing on stats instead.
The result was chaos. I ended the game with no monster of a single element and all three of them having randomly selected attacks and moves. The only thing that remained the same are the names and stat affinities.
Juggy remained my fast physical attacker. He started out with a gryphon shape, turned into a flying armadillo which got fatter and fatter, then started getting an evil-unicorn appearance, and finally ended up as an armored, flying evil dino-unicorn.
I completely switched out Glut’s basic shape for the flying frog monster that started appearing in the Nether Dragonfly Forest. The reason for this is because this frog had stat affinities exactly where I wanted them. This shape then slowly got twisted into a flying lizard/insect with a severely curved body shape. Basically, the lower jaw of the frog eventually turned into a forward-curved tail.
Undine changed the least, I think. It was a mixture of a dragon and a bee in the early game, but the bee shape was slowly being bred out as the game was progressing. He ended up as a scrawny dragon, very similar to the ones found in later forests, except the wings were, I think, slightly bigger and more bat-like.
I wanted a well-rounded party, but in the end, monster distribution made it so that my original plan didn’t work and I ended up with Juggy winning the game for me, with the other two monsters not nearly as helpful. I liked the fact that Glut was extremely speedy and that Undine had a nice assortment of spells in the end, but it wasn’t the was I imagined it. Also, I lacked proper fire spells throughout the game.
My play style remained the same as before. I would enter a new area, push as deep as possible, while training existing monsters and capturing new ones I wasn’t familiar with or knew I needed and then teleported outside to heal, merge shop and go back stronger.
The difference is that there was less freedom and the game started throwing points of no return at me, so instead of figuring out how to progress further, I was guessing how not to do it, in order to catch all the monsters in the current area before the game pushes me into the next one. This didn’t work all the time, so I’ve probably missed a bunch of monsters. I know I definitely did in the moth forest, which I never even fully explored.
I died a bunch of times to, mostly because I would stumble into a conversation leading up to a boss with my monsters badly hurt from all the exploring and capturing. Luckily, when you die in Jade Cocoon, your capture experience for the current capture level is dropped to zero and you return to the hub area. There is no other punishment, so it really is no punishment at all. You can just zerg to victory if you want to.
Some random thoughts
Jade Cocoon innovates greatly in some parts, just like Vagrant Story did. The fact that monster breeding is, in part, procedural, is amazing considering the time the game comes from.
There are other details to. Both weapons and armor are visible on your character. In most games of this era, the best you could hope for was a changing weapon graphic and that’s it.
As your capture level increases, the quality of your flute melodies improves. By the time I hit Hero or Champion levels, it was a huge difference compared to the simple tune I had at the beginning of the game. In a game level, this doesn’t really change anything, but it’s a great touch, just like the equipment graphics part is.
From what I can tell, there’s plenty of post-game content, but I don’t think I’m interested enough to go through it. Had I played it as a kid, I probably still wouldn’t be interested, because the main motivator to keep playing – train monsters for battles against your friends, was wasted on me. It’s not that I didn’t have friends, it’s just that among my friends, I was the weird kid that played RPG and strategy games. Everyone else was of the shoot stuff and mash buttons to skip the story type.
I’ll say it one more time, I’m extremely impressed with the procedural merging system. I would love something like that in a newer game. It’s just a waste that the game pushes you out of it so abruptly with the story structure in the second half.
Overall, though, Jade Cocoon is a pretty good game. Not great, and there’s plenty of flaws, but it’s worth the 12 hours it takes to complete it. I’d say you should buy it, but the sad reality is, I don’t think you can get it on the PSN. Your best bet is to find it on eBay or Amazon (affiliate link) and play on the original system or an emulator.
I’m thinking Vandal Hearts or Front Mission 3. I played both of these games for an extremely short time, but never got far, even though I loved the experience. The only issue is that both are quite lengthy, if I’m not mistaken, which worries me.
I might also keep up with Jade Coocoon for a while longer and maybe compile some monster lists for other people. I’m not sure.
Bay the way, it took me a total of about 12 and a half hours to beat Jade Cocoon, and that was with a lot of wasted times. I could see the game be completed in under 10 hours.