E3 2001 Hands-onJade Cocoon 2

The second installment in the monster-raising RPG series is in development for the PlayStation 2, and it was playable at E3.

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Jade Cocoon was originally released a year after the first installments of Pokémon hit store shelves, so its turn-based RPG mechanics and monster-raising attributes have drawn many comparisons to Game Freaks' blockbuster franchise. Jade Cocoon 2 is currently in development for the PlayStation 2 at Genki, and it looks to expand on both the series' gameplay and its graphical finesse.

Information regarding the story of Jade Cocoon 2 is hard to come by at this point, but there are plenty of playable levels included in the version of the game being shown at E3. The basic premise of the game is that you adventure through lavish jungle locales on predetermined paths. When you come across an enemy in the path, the screen swirls into a turn-based combat arena where you square off against other monsters. Up to eight monsters may be included in your party, and in order to choose which monster to attack with, you must spin a dial with eight slots using the analog stick. Once a monster has been chosen, a simple press of the circle button will execute the monster's single attack. While it may seem ridiculous that each monster has just one attack, there are more than 400 species included in the game, and they may be mixed together to produce some interesting results. After each battle, the experience points are spread throughout your entire party. Each of the creatures evolves in 10-level increments and will change three times before it reaches its final form.

Jade Cocoon's graphics are lush and impressive. The adventure areas require that you stay on the predetermined path, which is outlined by your radar. Each area contains an abundance of plant life and rock structures--so much so that it's sometimes difficult to see the main character onscreen. All spells are cast in real time, and some are quite impressive. Each monster is based on the four elements: air, fire, water, and earth. The attacks each monster performs are directly related to its elemental designation, and their effectiveness depends on the enemy it is attacking. Real-time cinemas occur frequently, complete with streaming dialogue and animated faces in addition to a wealth of text boxes that pop up constantly. Similar to in Zelda, a fairy follows the main character around at all times and frequently offers you advice.

Jade Cocoon bears a striking resemblance to the Pokémon franchise in both game design and execution, and it should provide a nice diversion until the real thing arrives for the GameCube next year. Genki claims that Jade Cocoon 2 will include well over 20 hours of gameplay, and with the seemingly limitless amount of monster combinations, it should provide enjoyment well beyond the first play through. There is no solid release date for Jade Cocoon 2 yet, but you can count on more details on the game coming soon.

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