E3: Ubi Soft to publish Jade Cocoon II

[05.18.00] » Genki's sequel shows up playable at an unexpected booth; full impressions included.

    When Genki first announced the sequel to its monster-battling RPG Jade Cocoon, it was widely assumed the game would arrive in America courtesy of Crave, the US publisher for the first game. A quick tour of Ubi Soft's booth here at E3 revealed, however, that the Grandia II publisher has picked up the game for the US.

   Tentatively scheduled for a November 2001 release, the game seems a late addition the Ubi booth. The single kiosk is simply labeled with the Japanese "Tamamayu Saga" logo with a small #2 underneath. The game is very far into development, although still in full Japanese, and the GIA got a chance to spend some time with a much changed Jade Cocoon.

   The more cartoon-ish style seen in the early media is strongly apparent in the playable version. The collection of monsters featured in the game bear a closer resemblance to cuddly Pokemon than the insectoid creatures from the previous title. The designs are still unmistakably from the hand of Katsuya Kondoh, but much cuter. Creatures do evolve into stronger forms during battle, and seem to gain a more fearsome appearance as they gain strength. The new fully 3D graphics are sharp and colorful, though the isometric perspective and maze-like forests don't prove much in the way of variation.

   The battle system has also greatly changed from the first Jade Cocoon, though enemies are still visible on the field map. Once again the main character fights using captured creatures. Instead of using on at a time, however, the main character is surrounded in battle by a ring of up to eight monsters. Only the front three of these are assessable at one time, but the ring can be rotated with the shoulder buttons. "Attacking" causes all the front line creatures to activate a special move, but whether this is a spell, attack, or other effect seems to depend on the creature's placement. Between battles, players can rearrange the order of the creatures to implement different battle strategies.

   Jade Cocoon II from Ubi Soft is one of the few localization surprises here at E3; look for more information on the US version from the GIA soon.

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