Jet Force Gemini (Nintendo 64) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 27.03.2012

Review for Jet Force Gemini on Nintendo 64

Thinking back to what Rareware's forte was during the days of the Super NES and Nintendo 64, the main thing that will likely come to mind is platform games, save for the two first-person shooting masterpieces that everyone knows and love that they made for the Nintendo 64. Jet Force Gemini is part of the select few other games in Rare’s back catalogue that were not simply platform games. Development started in 1997 by the team that had just completed Blast Corps, and lasted nearly two years, leading to its eventual release in late 1999, when the Nintendo 64 was already slowly fading away, with major releases becoming more scarce and spaced out. Its futuristic setting in a distant galaxy and basic premise revolving around a trio of characters exploring distant planets and fighting against insect-like life forms was refreshing enough to get fans of these things excited. As Cubed3’s 15th Anniversary ‘Nintendo 64 Month’ celebration comes to a close, the team now reminisces on this game that went on to become a legend.

Juno, Vela and Lupus make up the Jet Force team known as “Gemini,” a type of rangers working to preserve peace in space. As they patrol the galaxy, their spaceship is boarded by alien creatures called drones, ant-like creatures under orders of the evil Mizar. The team is thrown in disarray and they get separated as they flee their ship aboard escape pods. Soon enough, they learn that Mizar has started invading planets in a nearby sector, capturing fluffy little creatures known as the Tribals to make them work like slaves for the drone army.

With the team separated, players start the adventure with Juno as the only playable character, but free the other two as the journey progresses. Initially, each character has its own set of planets, but they soon enough join each other and then any character can visit any planet. Basically the game is about traveling between planets and exploring them in action platform stages. Each planet may hold several stages, some of which have several exits.

The different stages are divided into smaller areas, like rooms. Typically, one must kill all enemy drones in a room to unlock the door to the next room. And this is done by using any weapons possessed to inflict huge amounts of damage to the insect aliens that roam the environments. Once it's done, a big glowing sign will turn from red to green to indicate that change. Generally, some of the initially “hidden” stages are only accessible to one of the three characters thanks to their unique personal abilities. Juno can walk in lava, Vela can swim underwater and Lupus can fly for a while. As a result, the player will likely come across certain visible doors that can't be reached because the right character is not being used at that moment, so remembering or taking down notes of these is imperative...just like in a Metroid game, actually.

Screenshot for Jet Force Gemini on Nintendo 64

Exploration is at the core of Jet Force Gemini. The locations are varied and hold loads of surprises, some of which are guaranteed to have players roaring with laughter. Rather than spoiling the surprise, discovering what these are is part of the enjoyment to be found in Jet Force Gemini. Searching every little corner of the in-game worlds is very important. Certain secret passages lead to certain secrets and collecting them is also at the heart of the gameplay here. Another important part involves rescuing the Tribals. A set number of those can be found in every stage of the game, more often than not extremely well hidden in sections that can only be accessed with the right item, key or character. Every single one of them has to be found eventually in order to see the game’s ending. Other items to be collected include ship parts and the aforementioned keys to open locked doors.

Lastly, exploring is also important for finding new weapons, which become indispensable for inflicting decent damage to enemies, as well as upgrades to the life bar and the amount of ammo that the current character may carry. Speaking of which, considering Juno is the only character allowed to face the final boss, it is possible to give the upgrades mainly to the other two characters, leaving Juno a little too underpowered to be able to face the already insanely difficult final boss. That is most unfortunate!

Screenshot for Jet Force Gemini on Nintendo 64

Indeed, one of the most defining aspects of Jet Force Gemini is its difficulty. Some of its bosses are among the hardest to be found in any game, and require very accurate handling from the player in order to be defeated. This can be a source of frustration that could have been lived without, especially younger players.

While most of the game is made of the action platform variety, several other types of gameplay are included, of which there is a futuristic race section that could very well have been refined into its own WipeOut clone, flying stages where one must control a little robot named Floyd as fast as possible while collecting items, and so on. This helps increase the gameplay variety, making the game that less predictable, if that was even necessary. It has that slight collect-a-thon feel at times that many Rare games started to include on the N64, with all these various things that needed to be collected at different points in the game (keys, Tribals, ship parts, Floyd parts, weapons, upgrades, Tribal heads, Drone heads, coins, and more), but this remains very minimal compared to other Rareware games.

A multiplayer mode that lets gamers play some of the mini-games found in the main adventure is also included, on top of death matches in arena-like locations based on the different planets from the main game. This mode lets you take control of the different characters, including NPCs and enemies, very much like the multiplayer mode later found in Conker's Bad Fur Day. This won't make you abandon your many other Nintendo 64 games that were tailored for multiplayer action, because the meat of the game is definitely the solo mode, but this is a nice little addition nonetheless.

Screenshot for Jet Force Gemini on Nintendo 64

All this is supported by excellent graphics for the time. While certain textures don't look too bad by standards nowadays, others have aged terribly, as is the case with most N64 games that used darker toned graphics to depict the action. The most impressive part is the lighting effects, though. Jet Force Gemini might very well be the most advanced game on the system in terms of lighting, full stop. A lot of the environments are deliberately dark and will occasionally get lit by weapon shots or futuristic torches. The Space Opera feel of the whole game is also supported by a great soundtrack with an excellent sound quality to it, which is in line with the Science Fiction movie inspiration that the game director Paul Mountain admitted had a huge influence on the development of the game. Movie influences can also be felt in the very cinematic ambience of the various cut-scenes, using very well done camera angles and sometimes even making downright obvious references to famous scenes from popular Sci-Fi movies (the flying pyramid landing on Mizar Palace is an undeniable reference to Stargate, for example).

The years that have passed weren't very kind to Jet Force Gemini, however. It's one of those that begs for a remake. However, just like other Rareware games released back then, it's hard to tell exactly who holds the rights to what parts, as we have seen with GoldenEye 007. Along with other Rareware games like Blast Corps and Killer Instinct, Rareware seems to have completely forgotten about those excellent franchises that they once worked hard to make excellent, and this feels like a regrettable waste.

Screenshot for Jet Force Gemini on Nintendo 64

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Beyond the technical achievements that the game brought, Jet Force Gemini is still an excellent game that is part of those exclusive titles that defined the Nintendo 64, helping it to build the image of excellence that the console managed to keep over the years, and the reason why it is still revered so much to this very day. The excellent work Rareware provided in each and every N64 game it made is largely to be thanked for that, as it is undeniable that they make up a large chunk of the absolute best games for the system. The careful blend of action, platform fun and, especially, exploration reminiscent of the Metroid series, which coincidentally never saw a release on the 64-bit system, make this game a rather unique one on the system. It's hard to imagine, even now, how it could have been bested by another similar game, given how incredibly good it turned out to be. Without any proper competition, and given its numerous intrinsic qualities, it's hands down one of the best Nintendo 64 games, full stop.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (1 Votes)

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