For Nintendo enthusiasts, the name Shin'en will need no explanation. A Germany-based developer consisting of half a dozen people, Shin'en has constantly defied the limitations of Nintendo's hardware and produced works akin to the best looking games of the generation. From one of the few 3D games on the Game Boy Advance to the DS' first visual treat in Nanostray, Shin'en has adapted to and gotten more out of humble technology than many multi-million dollar corporations. With Nintendo's latest line of gaming machines, there has been the Nano Assault series appearing on both Wii U and 3DS as downloads, and more recently the confirmation of a new FAST game to scratch that F-Zero itch so many Nintendo fans have.
In the meantime, however, Shin'en has crafted a handheld sequel to the WiiWare standout title Jett Rocket. Is Jett Rocket II: The Wrath of Taikai a moon landing or an atmosphere burnout?
For Jett Rocket II, the titular character returns - minus his helmet - to combat a new robotic foe, Kaiser Taikai, a remnant of the bad guys of the first game. Like before, this consists of exploring a number of levels across themed areas, collecting Solar Cell capsules and exploring to free Jett's assistant robots that have been captured. Whereas the first game took the approach of a completely 3D free-roaming world, the sequel tones it down a bit for the vast majority of the game, instead opting for a 2D side-scrolling angle.
This slightly more limited approach does wonders for both the presentation and the actual platforming. Jett Rocket II holds steady at an impressive 60 frames per second and keeps it going even with the 3D-slider up. The slower pace of the game, while jarring at first, allows the player to appreciate the strong palette of the beaches and toxic swamps. Aside from the sadly generic visual style of the game that gives little indication of personality, this is easily one of the strongest lookers on the eShop. The soundtrack is a worthy mention also, as it takes the trademark rhythm of Shin'en themes and gives them an otherworldly feel, whilst littering in a few voice samples here and there.
As for the action, the phrase 'limitation breeds creativity' might as well be Shin'en's motto, as Jett Rocket II takes the two basic commands of Jump and Forward Roll to the extreme. Precise play is required for the game's more difficult parts, and tight controls help back this up; if Jett dies or succeed then it will be purely on the player's own merits. Jett's rocket pack makes a comeback too, except this time it functions as a level-based collectible item instead of a rechargeable permanent feature. It is also now much more of a rocket and less of a hover pack, shooting Jett straight into the air to progress through levels and find hidden secrets.
While the free-roaming 3D levels are indeed of a lesser quantity in this sequel, they are as tightly designed as their 2D counterparts and enjoy equally as much of a boost with the 3D slider upwards. These levels do, however, make readily apparent how slowly Jett can move at times, especially for those who wish to explore and collect everything they can instead of just going from A to Z.
This sequel brings a new trick along in the shape of special UFO-like pods, that when broken into take Jett into a special course separate from the rest of the level. These courses bring to mind the levels of Super Mario Galaxy, with paths suspended high above the ground, filled with trails of collectibles, and an extra life at the end with a timer counting down to hurry things along. These courses make for a nice little distraction and a worthy reward, as later levels can deplete the life meter pretty quickly.
Jett Rocket II: The Wrath of Taikai adds a few more mini-games in tandem that make worthy use of the 3D effect, be they mid-world ice breakers to gain more life hearts or to space out the worlds themselves; Jet Skiing and Skydiving being the main standouts. There are also a vast number of picture collectibles hidden through the levels, and a special new mode unlocked after finding them all that adds the challenge of collecting as many Solar Cells as possible in a specific time limit. Platform fans and completionists will find much to enjoy for Jett's latest, as will those looking for a game to show off the 3DS' visual capabilities.
A pure platformer if ever there was one, Jett Rocket II: The Wrath of Taikai continues its predecessor's line of top precision platforming and striking visuals, yet is not quite at the level of carving out a non-generic look of its own.