Review by Goryus

"An enjoyable game of surprising depth."

Sometimes you get so excited about a new game that you're really looking forward to that you almost don't want to open the package and play it, just because you know that the reality couldn't possibly live up to your expectations. As an avid fan of the original Jade Cocoon, that's exactly where I was when I first got this title. But I steeled myself up for the disappointment, hardened my resolve, and plopped the little sucker in.

Fifteen minutes later, I was so entrenched in the game I'd completely forgotten about all my misgivings - and I haven't put it down since.

The Good
• Voice Acting
The first thing that struck me about this game was the voice overs. The voice actors did what was, for the most part, an admirable job, and all the voices were extremely well suited to their characters. The little choppiness that appeared was more the result of an awkward text phrasing than a poor voice over, leaving the overall impression a good one.

• Music
The next thing that struck me was the music: well suited and varied enough not get repetitive, and surprisingly relaxing. Few of the tunes are really the high-paced, high-energy themes one hears so often in games today, and most of them are quite mellow and soothing. I found it an extremely welcome, and infinitely suiting, change.

• Plot
I'll be frank with you: this game is not a Final Fantasy. It is centered almost entirely around its game play, and the plot takes a very secondary role. However, it is there, and it is unique enough and clever enough to at least keep you interested - and I don't think you can ask for much more than that. Kahu, your plucky young hero, arrives at the temple of Kemuel to begin his training to be a BeastHunter (someone who uses monsters to fight other monsters). So far, so standard. But in how many games does your main character get possessed by a demon, grow a tail, and become cursed with an irritating yet somehow unbearably cute fairy sidekick, all in the first few minutes?

• Combat
The game's combat system is easily its most unique and engaging aspect. You're given a four sided wheel known as a BeastAmulet, upon which you can place up to eight monsters which you have acquired. You order them to act by spinning the wheel so that the desired side faces forward and then pressing accept. Three monsters will face forward at any given time, and each of the four sides has its own elemental affiliation. To succeed in this game, it's important to have a well balanced team that works well together - and with the almost overwhelming number of attacks and abilities available, no two teams will be quite the same. The game balance is also extremely well engineered, with different monsters remaining equally powerful yet still surprisingly individualized.

• Depth
Once you beat the game, you'll find you're maybe 1/3rd of the way through. No, I'm not kidding; that's how many side quests and diversions this game has to keep you occupied, everything from collecting action figures of all your friends to beating special arenas and collecting medals to a two player battle mode where you and your friend can go head to head. The clock maxes out at 99:59:59, which really is a pity.

• Graphics
The graphics are extremely pleasing. The monster range from the cutesy baby forms to the ferocious adult stages, the character designs are gorgeously done, and the forests are rich and full of colorful plants and wildlife. Sadly, the forests themselves don't vary very much, and have a slight tendency to get repetitive. The cute cut-scenes that appear infrequently as you play the game utilize that cell-shaded look that is become so popular nowadays, but that I personally dislike, but even they add beautifully to the general atmosphere of the game.

The Bad
• Merging
I have to be honest here: I'm prejudiced. There's really nothing wrong with the new merging system, which allows you to take one of your monsters and ''merge'' it with a captured Kalma (a special monster you find in the Forests) to grant it new skills and abilities. So why am I complaining? Because the first Jade Cocoon did it better, and I'm bitter about the change. In the original, merging two minions radically altered their appearance to produce a brand new, unique looking one. The monsters in JC2, however, retain their normal appearance no matter what you do. While I understand the logic (it's hard to get monsters that look this gorgeous when they're that malleable), I can't help but feel cheated from the loss of my favorite aspect of the last game.

• Repetitiveness
In some cases, particularly in the Forests, this game begins to feel a little monotonous. While the over all gameplay is excellent and you're rarely left doing one thing for too long before something interesting happens, there comes a point when you feel you just don't want to go through another forest exactly like the last one, for the fourth time.

The Ugly
• Translation
Don't get me wrong: the localization team did a tremendous job, and pretty much everything the characters say is in excellent, perfectly understandable English. Yet in the middle of it are some pretty glaring errors that should never have happened. People will re-use terminology from the last game, referring to the critters in this one by their analogs from the last (Ogs being called Chus, for instance), or referring to something by a different name than someone else did. A few of the text boxes also appear to be linked to the wrong conversation - the text reads one thing, but the voices are going on down an entirely different track! While by no means the norm, mistakes of this nature are easily preventable and should never have appeared in the finalized version. All in all, this was the only thing in the game I considered truly inexcusable.

Jade Cocoon 2 is an extremely enjoyable game with a few minor flaws. The incredible deep and yet laid back gameplay provides an enjoyable experience that will keep you coming back for more. It's too bad that JC2 seems to have been overshadowed by such games as FFX and MGS: SoL. This is one game any fan of the genre, and even those who are not, really can't afford to miss.

Final Score: 10/10

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 02/25/02, Updated 02/25/02

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