As a preface of sorts... I've noticed a few of you on here are already well aware of this game, but I figured I'd share a post I made on a forum I used to attend, just for the sake of sharing some info on the game and perhaps inspiring an interest in others to try the game out sometime. Now, as I said, it's an old post, so some of the details may be a bit dated (as far as my personal choice of words and such go), but... frankly, it's a big post, and I just can't be bothered to go back and edit it all, heh. So I'm just gonna copy it word-for-word (more or less). This is... sort of a review, but I consider it more of an informative post. Rather than giving my opinion(s) on the game and rating it and whatnot, it's just for the sake of informing others that the game exists and sharing some reasons why it may be worth checking out, and being a sort of introductory guide in general. I'm sure there's bound to be some amount of personal bias in there, though, of course. (I am trying to spread knowledge of this game, after all. =p) So just, uhh... Yeah. If you're interested, prepare for a lengthy read, and I hope it proves useful in some way or other. For those already familiar with the game, I guess open discussion of it is always welcome as well. ^^ Starting Up After the opening credits, you're introduced to the background of the game's plot, with a narrated anime cutscene. (Wow, I don't recall many of those existing on the PSX. But, hey, I could be wrong.) Wanna watch it now? Thank YouTube. Long story short, though, some deities got upset about the humans, so there're all sorts of beasties running about now. Beasties known as "Divine Minions," which can be captured and controlled by you, a "Cocoon Master." (Yes, the game's a bit of a Pokémon knock-off.) Starting a new file, you're given some additional introductory narration, you name your character (canon/default: Levant), and continue listening to the old guy. The game starts with a series of events including some strange dream sequences, a swarm of "Onibubu" attacking your hometown, you and your gal friend getting hitched (more or less), and setting off on your journey to battle the Divine Minions of the forest, in search of truth... or something like that. (Honestly, I forget the exact motive.) So here's your hometown, Syrus. Here, you'll find a handful of citizens' homes, some public areas, shops, and your home. The blacksmith will be your source of weapons and armor, the item shop will be your source of healing items and such, and Garai's residence is where you will go to take care of your minions. (More on that later.) Of course, you won't be able to do much in the beginning, but after entering the forest, you will have several opportunities to return here to do whatever you have to do. Speaking of the forest, let's move on to the Forest Gate: From right to left, these are the entrances to the Beetle, Dragonfly, Spider, and Moth forests. Of course, your first visits will be in the Beetle Forest and you'll progress toward the left. (By the way, there's more than just going to each of these forests, but that's story-related, so I'll leave that up to you to discover.) To enter each of these forests, you'll need a key, which you will obtain through story events, of course. Now, before we move on to the forests themselves, let's take a look at your menu. Menu Ignoring the minions for the time being, let's just look at the main character. Fireflies: Minions you've captured and haven't purified back in town yet. Use: Inventory. Use Mugworts to heal yourself and Liquors to heal your minions. Detail: Check your character's stats out. Much of this is obvious, but I'll explain a few things on this screen. Capture Level: Basically the only kind of level your character has. While his stats are affected by equipment and stat-boosting items, his Capture Level will increase by capturing minions. The higher their level, the more difficult it will be to capture them, but the more EXP you will gain by doing so. Rank: Honestly, I'm not sure what the ultimate purpose of this is, but it'll change every now and then, and you'll notice a different tune played whenever you capture or summon a minion. (I'[m pretty sure what affects your rank is the number of different species you've captured.) Empties/Fireflies/# Captured: "Empties" are how many attempts you have left to capture minions. Can't capture any minions if you don't have any cocoons to hold them in. "Fireflies" refers to how many minions you've captured so far. (Go to the 'Fireflies' menu to view them.) "# Captured" refers to how many species of minions you've captured in total. Equip: View and use weapons, armor, and accessories. Weapons will allow you to damage minions yourself and sometimes have additional effects such as elemental damage or status effects. Armor is just armor, although some may have resistances or affect your speed. Accessories have various effects -- usually stat boosts or resistances. Valuables: "Key Items," basically. Most of these aren't important, though you may find some tablets along the way, which will explain how various things in the game work. Your main reason for coming to this screen, though, is the Hunter's Earring; an item you'll receive early on, which allows you to warp out of the forest, back to the Forest Gate area, enabling quick travel back to town. The Forest The forests are your "dungeons" for this game. As you meander through these places, you'll find visible enemies which will trigger battles upon contact. Some enemies move more slowly or more quickly than others, so some can be easily avoided while others are nearly impossible to dodge. Some enemies will even be sleeping, which will sometimes allow you to sneak past them. (The 'Sleep Spores' item will put minions to sleep temporarily, allowing you to avoid battles entirely for a while.) Along with minions, you'll occasionally find chests that contain all sorts of goodies, and every now and then, you may even find a weapon just lying around. (You may also occasionally run into a usually-optional mini-boss, the Poacher, who will summon minions of his own in combat against you. Of course, you can't capture his minions, so these battles will be good sources of EXP for your own minions.) Battle The battle setup is pretty standard. Attack, Defend, Use an item, Summon a minion, Capture a minion, and Retreat. Self-explanatory, right? So I'll move on to the minions' battle menu. Attack: Physical attack. Nothing special here. Defend: Reduce damage from attacks while replenishing a small amount of mana. Special: Special attacks. These will usually -- but not always -- be elemental. Some may have status effects or other additional effects, and some will basically just be like physical attacks. Every type of purebreed minion has a preset Special list, as well as Magic list (I'll get to that in a moment), so in order to change these lists, you'll have to do some experimenting with merging. Anyway, special attacks will cost mana according to what kinds of effects they have. The thing that's particularly interesting about these special attacks, however, is that, well, as you'll see in the game, there are five types of them: Horn, Fang, Claw, Tail, and Legs. What makes these types special is that each type of minion will have a sort of affinity with these types. For example, minions with long horns will specialize in Horn attacks, and will actually do more damage than minions with short horns. The damage output of special attacks is determined by these kinds of factors, as well as the minion's Attack value. Magic: Your typical spells. Elemental damage, sometimes to multiple targets. Status effects, healing... That kind of stuff. Damage/healing output is determined by the minion's M Atk value. Switch: Swap the current minion out for another or return control to the main character. (Necessary for capturing minions, using items, and retreating.) Minions & Nagi Magic Back in town, speaking to your wifey, Mahbu, will allow you to heal yourself and your minions and then check out what you've captured, do some merging, make some cash, et cetera. Merging can get a little complicated, so I'll that its own explanation, but for the other options here... 'View' will allow you to simply check out minions' stats, abilities, and appearances. You also have the option of renaming minions here. 'Spin' is a nifty option that will prove to be very important when you're planning to buy things. Since you don't gain reward money for common battles in this game, the way you make cash is by selling things, and minions can be sold, in a sense. Here, you can sacrifice minions in exchange for different types of silks, which can then be sold at a shop. (The quality of the silk depends on the strength of the minion.) 'Equip' is where you go to select which minions you would like to use in battle. You can only bring a total of three with you; the rest you've captured remain in storage until you do whatever with them. Now for merging... Merging minions is how you customize them, basically. Things get really interesting here, and I consider the merging aspect the coolest feature of the game. By merging minions, you can change stats, give additional abilities and change current ones, and change their appearance as well. Let's take these two minions pictured above for example. Patalchu is a fire-elemental minion that specializes in physical power while lacking in magic and speed stats. Terfrayd is an earth-elemental minion that specializes in speed and defense, mostly focusing on physical power as a means for attacking. Now, if you would like to merge these two, there's the decision of who to use as the base and who to use as the complimentary seed. This decision will indeed affect the results. The most obvious is the appearance: (Left: Patalchu + Terfrayd, Right: Terfrayd + Patalchu) The first minion selected will act as the base. In other words, the final result will most closely resemble this one. The second one chosen will affect the change in stats and abilities, as well as certain physical features. To get into specifics a bit... Stats: As you can see, the main focuses for stats are Attack, Defense, Speed, and Magic. The red dot indicates where in the statistic field your minion lies. When it comes to merging, let's say your minion's stat field looks like this. Would you like to continue to focus on attack power, leaving it vulnerable in other areas? Then merge it with a minion with a similar stat field. If you would like to strengthen other stats, then you may do so, but at the potential cost of lowering its currently high stats. (Note the bilateral grid, which ensures an effective balance of strengths and weaknesses.) Element(s): This is the elemental table, using a fire-elemental minion (Patalchu) for an example. Wild minions will all be only a single element, but through merging, it is possible to give additional elemental properties to your minions. However, you must keep in mind that multi-elemental minions will have weaker elemental properties than purebreeds, and the more you mix them, the weaker some of those properties will become. Let's use those fire-earth combos above for an example: Now, in this case, we're lucky enough to see opposite elements merged. This means each of the purebreed parents' elements are reduced by... probably about 25-33%. This means that elemental attacks will be less effective than if they were used by a purebreed, and elemental defenses will be weaker as well. However, your merged minion will now be able to wield multiple elemental powers. Forgive me for not using opposing elements here, but I will explain the difference in that situation. If you were to merge fire with, say, air, then both elemental properties would decrease, but the stronger element (fire, in this case) would have the advantage, and thus decrease less than the other. (Air, in this case, would decrease by about 50%.) On a less important note, elements will affect the color of your merged minion as well. Purebreeds, of course, will retain their respective colors. I'm not sure about opposite elements (with Patalchu and Terfrayd above, both combinations resulted in a green minion...), but opposing elements will sort of mix. For example, red (fire) and yellow (air) will mix to make a sort of orange-ish minion. One more note concerning elements: There are certain magic abilities in the game that will turn the in-battle environment to the minion's advantage. For example, a fire-elemental minion may alter the terrain to compliment its fire attribute. However, multi-elemental minions cannot gain/use these spells, due to possessing multiple elemental attributes. Abilities: When merging minions, the properties of the latter parent's special attacks will overwrite those of the base parent's. So, using a fire-elemental base with a horn attack and an earth-elemental with a horn attack second, the earth-elemental horn attack will be the one inherited by the merged minion. The same goes for additional effects. Magic, on the other hand, will simply stack the parents' spell lists. Wtf?: Although the chance of accidentally stumbling upon one of them is extremely low, there are two particular "recipes" for creating unique minions. Basically, by merging specific minions in a particular order, you can obtain unique minions with their own specialized appearances and preset abilities. Conclusion I suppose that's pretty much it. As I suggested above, the merging system is probably the most fascinating thing about the game, considering how many factors are taken into account, but all in all, while the overall game may not be anything outstanding, I've always considered it a bit of an overlooked gem -- entertaining and with a few nifty features that I think make it worth checking out. The soundtrack (composed by Kimitaka Matsumae) is pretty nice, the character designs and anime cutscenes are products of Studio Ghibli, and the overall setting and story of the game just give a sort of unique feeling to the game. If you've read this and it seems interesting to you, I'd certainly recommend looking around for a means to play it sometime. Oh, by the way, from the game's main menu, there is a competitive multiplayer mode, in which you can load the rosters of two save files (or just load the same one twice) and battle a friend. May the best Cocoon Master win.