Introducing Jade Cocoon
tl;dr - I introduce Jade Cocoon, my favorite video game of all time, noting its theme, its monster style, its raising style, and a few other odds and ends.
Jade Cocoon. I will not lie here, this is pretty much my favorite video game. If You have ever seen Sequelitis by Egoraptor, I am at least as obsessed with this game as he is with Megaman X. So, I guess my point here is, I will attempt to be unbiased, but expect a little bit of gushing here and there.
Jade Cocoon: Story of the Tamamayu is a Playstation (that is, Playstation 1) game published in 1998 by Genki in Japan, and brought to the US by Crave Entertainment. The music was composed by Kimitaka Matsumae and might I add, it is exquisite. Though it has not been reprinted in the US since 1999, it is on the PlayStation Network for download – in Japan.
Before You ask, a “Tamamayu” is a “Jade Egg,” or in this context, a “Jade Cocoon.” The original Japanese name for this game is 玉繭物語: Tamamayu Monogatari, or literally, “The Story of the Jade Cocoon.”
The gist of the game is this: You are the only son of an AWOL Cocoon Master, and are still coming of age when the Locusts of the Apocalypse, the Onibubu, descend upon Your village. They leave it only when half of the village has fallen into “a sleep from which they cannot wake.” It is decided then that You must become the Cocoon Master immediately, and go into the forest to seek a cure for the sleeping sickness and to save Your village.
It is a brilliant set up, which really sets the tone for the rest of the game: You simply must continue searching the forests and growing stronger, because otherwise everyone You have ever known will die from the sleeping sickness, their souls trapped in the Dreamworld forevermore. It blew my mind when I first played it, and is still a much more grabbing impetus than many other games have.
Allow me to take a few moments to analyse some themes that this game puts forth. First, let me quote the opening of the game, before You even decide to Start or Continue:
"Ehlrim, God of the Forest, Source of all life. He released his servants, the Divine Spirits, unto the lands. He spoke: 'I am that which has given You life.' For a time, they brought life and happiness to the Forest. But soon the forest was visited by fate. The Divine Spirits created a beast in their own image. Ehlrim warned: 'That is the Beast of Knowledge, and it will Someday bring temptation upon You.' 'Thou Shalt not associate with it.' The Divine Spirits so promised, and gave birth to the beast of their own image. Such was Man's Beginning. Time Passed, and the Forest was again visited by Fate. A Divine Spirit was seduced by a Beast of Knowledge. And so the promise to Ehlrim was broken. The Spirit Lost its Divine Power, and by the Child of Man and Spirit, it was gained. This new power Threatened Ehlrim, and so was divided into Light, and Darkness."
Wow. Not many games use a Creation Myth as their opening movie. This always struck me as making the world in which this game takes place (which is a ficticious world when Man is being besieged by the aforemention ‘Child of Man and Spirit.’ This is a game, for entertainment, please do not take it personally if You have strong religious beliefs.) so much more real. I can count the number of games I have played that go this far with their backstory on my fingers, and that sticks out to me.
Anyway, aside from the stories of Ehlrim and the Divine Spirits, we have two cultures in the town: the Villagers, and the Nagi. The Nagi are travelling Spiritualists who can perform the Purification Magic necessary for the Cocoon Master to tame Divine Beasts. This is another point which sticks out: Your wife is a member of the Nagi Tribe, and is Absolutely Crucial to Your abilities as a Cocoon Master.
In most of the games I have played, if Romance is even hinted at, You leave those people behind in order to save the world or become the strongest or whatever. In this game, without Your wife, You would be absolutely nothing. And You do not start the game married, so it is not just a cool little fluff piece.
NOTE: I am not saying that marriage is something everyone should do or even that there is someone for everyone out there. I am simply saying it is nice to see the role of Your character’s partner be more than just a walk on cameo or a dead body, which are both so much more common in games.
ALSO NOTE: I am not advocating a “Women stay home while Men Adventure” trend, either. I would be overjoyed to see a game which reversed these roles, or had same-sex relationships or anything else where two people, in a romantic relationship, are able to help one another through the game.
Anyway, I am just rambling at this point, so I will continue onto the Monsters. Perhaps I will talk more about the themes here in future installments.
This is the reason You are reading, right? The Monsters (also called minions) in this game are given the name, “Divine Beasts,” because of the story told above. Your job, as a cocoon master, is to purify Divine Beasts with the help of Your Wife, Mahbu.
There are 150 Minions in this game, and they can be merged together to create many more hybrids. This is the coolest part of the monster system, mechanically speaking: You don’t merge a flying type and a fire type to get a flying fire type, You merge a Skaeeb and a Patash and get something in between depending upon the order Your merge them in.
And You are definitely encouraged to merge as much as possible. That is the main way Your Beasts level up: by Merging them together. The only other way to raise them to be stronger is to kill a bunch of wild minions… but then, Your Character’s level never goes up, and it will be harder and harder to capture new minions.
Koris said it best: “Killing will get You nowhere.” Your job as a Cocoon Master is to soothe troubled spirits, not kill them. Which in itself is a very different take on the entire “Monster Breeder” Concept. I mean, what other game has it built into the very mechanics that killing a wild monster is a bad idea?
Anyway, as a final little note, there are two different strength/weakness circles built into the monsters in this game: Elements and Abilities.
First, Elements: “Earth Repels Water, Water Extinguishes Fire, Fire Eliminates Air, and Air Whittles Away Earth.” Standard Hyle here, but this little saying is how I learned it as a child.
And Finally, Abilities: There is a chart each Divine Beast You capture has. It is a grid on which there is a dot. At the Top, We have Attack. At the Bottom, we have Magic. To the Right, Speed. To the Left, Defense. The better You are at one of these two pairs (Attacking and Speed, let’s say) the worse You are at the others (in this case, Magic and Defense).
Anyway, I don’t want to get too in depth here, I just wanted to give a little introduction. This is indeed one of the most overlooked games of the genre, and unfortunately has never really gotten a fair review without being compared to its more successful bretheren. I have attempted to do something of the sort here, and hope I have enticed You to give it a try one day. I promise that You will not regret it.
Any Questions, Comments, or Concerns are very much welcome in the Comments section below, or in my inbox. Thanks for reading all the way through!