Jade Cocoon: Story of the Tamamayu
ESRB Rating: Teen
I have often described Jade Cocoon to people as 'Pokémon, except it doesn't have a terrible anime to go with it'. There are 161 cardinal minions you can capture. From those 161, you can merge them together to get hybrid monsters. For example, if you merge a wasp-type monster with a snake-type, you'll get an elongated wasp-type with the snakes's skin on it. This gets complicated when you then merge your wasp/snake hybrid with, say, a spider/bat hybrid. From there, of course, you could merge that wasp/snake/spider/bat with yet another type of minion... That's the main point to this game, just getting lots of monsters and then merging them together to get one that looks cool and kills things.
How the merging system works: Each minion has 50 appearance data lines. When you merge minions together, half of those are overwritten with the new data type. So, the wasp/snake would have 25/25 taken up, but if you merged a normal spider-type together with it it would be 13wasp/12snake/25spider. Again, this gets terribly complex when you have twenty-five different types of minions merged together. And what's more, each minion grows. From level 1 to level 30 (the maximum level) the minion's bodyparts grow and change. A dragon's wings, for example, grow faster then the rest of it. When you merge minions together, the growth data is passed on. If you're not careful, this can end with fairly cool looking minions turning into deformed hunchbacks as they level.
The rest of the game is structured around the merging system, and as such is not terribly complex. You play as Levant, a newbie Cocoon Master. You travel around the four forests (really just four sections of a much larger forest) near the village of Syrus. And then, at the end of the fourth forest, you enter another village, and go through exact copies of the first four forests. Except these ones have different minions. Even after you go through those four forests and beat the game, there's still stuff to do. Once you beat the final boss you're dropped into the eternal corridor, which is a randomly generated dungeon. Somewhere around half the minions you can get only appear in the Eternal Corridor, while a few never appear.
There is an 'element' system which works fairly well. Each element (Fire, Air, Water, Earth) is weak against one element, and strong against another, while the remaining element is unaffected. And of course, there are the spells, which all follow the same general progression: weak attack(one target), strong attack(one target), weak attack(all targets), status attack, status heal, field effect. The only exception is that the Water weak(one target) spell is replaced by a healing spell. You can only bring three minions with you (you can store about 20-30 others at town), so you're gonna end up not having coverage of one element, unless you merge your minions cross-element. Which in most cases just makes a fairly wimpy minion, but can sometimes be worked to your advantage.
This is a pretty good game if you enjoy the near-endless customization merging gives you, but the rest of the game is kinda...bleh. Most people I know guessed the DRAMATIC PLOT TWIST!!1 after the first five minutes of gameplay. I am not exaggerating at all, sadly. And running through the forested ruins of Gehenna Pale gets kinda tedious after the first eighteen times you do it. Still, it's a good game that I occasionally play again when I want to mess around with my minions some more.
This game also had a moderately successful sequel, Jade Cocoon 2, which took out the whole merging thing. Well, you can still merge, but the appearance doesn't change. Sigh.
Sources: GameFAQs for release info, my astoundingly complete memories of the game for everything else.