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Jet Force Gemini (Nintendo 64) artwork

Jet Force Gemini (Nintendo 64) review


"Jet Force Gemini "



Jet Force Gemini

Introduction
Just recently I was able to download some music from this n64 game off everyoneís favorite music service, Kazaa. And guess what - it brought back fond, fond memories of this Rare sleeper. Itís gameplay is marvelous, it sounds better than it should, it looks rather lovely (most of the time) but its design, pacing, and frustration levels have some dangerous flaws. Sound like a Rare game yet? (Nodding head at the fetch-quest games Banjo-Tooie and DK64).

Story
Jet Force Gemini follows the story of Juno - a half cyborg, half human male lead;, Vela - a half cyborg, half human female lead;, and Lupus, the half cyborg, half canine counterpart. ThatĎs right, dogs rock.

The intro to the game sets up a lot of the gameís story. In it you meet the team as they pilot their ship to the planet Goldwood, which just happens to be under attack by the evil MizarĎs forces. The team becomes separated in a last ditch attempt at escaping when their ship is being taken over. Thus, the game begins - each team member goes through their own quest leading to Mizarís lair, where they hope to become fully reunited and hope to stop Mizar from enslaving the innocent Goldwoodís inhabitants.

Mizar is a big, bad, evil..... praying mantis-like creature. Mizarís evil army is consisted of..... ants, beetles, and lots of tiny flying robots. This all may sound very silly, but this is the kind of stuff that Rare does - it usually is never a bad thing to have strange characters, as long as itís a Rare game.

The actual adventure has a lot more to it than you may think. There are 15 gigantic planets and other types of areas to explore, each one with itís own history and story to it (most of the time). One world, Tawfret, had a planet-changing accident when a resident attempted to use voodoo magic to fend off the enemy troops. This voodoo magic backfired, turning everything into a wasteland, and causing the enemy troops to be zombified. Another world, Rith Essa, is a tropical paradise that became taken over by troops (just like every other planet, it seems). The spaceships that you explore involve you trying to hitch a ride on them or to immobilize the shipís troops.

On a character level, there are a quite few touching moments - which might come as a surprise. My favorite character, matter of fact, is a character that Juno comes across in Tawfret. When Mizar designed his airborne mechanical troops, he wanted a special class of soldier with high intelligence to be leaders. The most advanced one of all, whom Juno comes across, became so smart that he was able decipher that Mizar is a bad guy, and what heís doing is wrong. Very wrong. So when he attends an execution of a rebel native, he turns on the troops and opens fire - saving the native tribal. But, he is eventually shot himself, and the troops disassemble him and nail him to a stake. When Juno finds him and hears his story, you are to find the missing parts and reassemble the poor guy. Once you do that, he stays with Juno till the end (he plays a very important role in the gameís conclusion, matter of fact) and even lends a hand in the gameplay by warning you when an enemy is near.

Other great moments include one with Vela. She makes her escape after the intro to a enemy ship, but instead of hiding and hitching a ride she finds a soft spot for the trapped tribals and attempts to free them, getting caught in the process. You eventually save her as Juno, followed by a touching scene between the two.

Thatís not even close to finishing the list of great plot moments - there are a surprising many for this type of game.

World Designs
Separate storyline paths are good things, right? Yes, they are. Each character has their own set of planets/ships to visit, and after you reach Mizarís palace you are able to venture to any planet with any character.

So, the worlds are huge, right? They are much larger than you could possibly imagine. I canít think of any game that comes this close in pure level size, really (although Iím betting thereís a lot of X-Box and PC stuff that beat JFG quite easily). To get a grasp on the length of these levels, understand that the truly important worlds (not the secret ones) have roughly 2 or 3 separate areas. Goldwood, for instance, has the main path that Juno follows; an underground section known as Interior; and a cliffy path known as Exterior that only Lupus can access. For other worlds, there is just as many or more areas to explore, and trust me - they arenít small. Including enemies, it takes about 35 minutes to 1 and a half hours on average to cover the whole entire length of a world. Thatís big. Really big.

Are the worlds interesting? Yes, they are. As I mentioned with Goldwood, only Lupus can access the area known as Exterior. Every world has either 1 to 3 off-limits areas that only one character can access (more later on why this is). There is a lot of intrigue; you see an off-access area into the distance, and youíre just itching to see whatís in it.

Worlds are very different from each other, as mentioned before. Radically different. Goldwood has you venturing through a jungle with sharpshooters to tackle at every corner. Tawfret has you taking on Zombie-like enemies, with eventual you taking on an entire fort. Eschbone has you venturing past lava pits and into the heart (or intestines) of a massive sand worm, just like in the movie ďDune.Ē Cerulean has you venturing through an underground labyrinth with so many large enemies, you just might go insane (more on that later).

Once again, this isnít even touching on the amount of stuff this game has to offer. Thus, Jet Force Gemini is probably my favorite 3D Shooter-Action-Adventure game of all time; it has impeccable world designs, a very special atmosphere and aura (more later), and even a sci-fi movie-like presentation to boot.

Action and Gameplay
JFG is an adventure game at heart, action/shooter in gameplay. No, wait a sec - itís a RARE adventure game at heart, action/shooter in gameplay.

Company love aside, Rare has once again created a very engrossing game for us to enjoy and play, as well as to shoot countless enemies with a wide assortment of deadly weapons. And, and donít forget the blood - thereís lots of that too (even the multi-colored kind!).

You play JFG mainly at a 3rd person perspective, but when it comes time to shoot things, youíre going to be glad that thereís also a 1st person view. The 1st person view is very accommodating; just press the R button and youíll be able to aim with the joystick, use the C-Buttons for strafing and even moving forward and backward. Basically, you could play as much of the game in 1st person if youíd want to, but for the platforming tasks of JFG youíll have to play it in 3rd person. To jump, just press the corresponding jump button (Up-C for expert control, A for normal control) and your character will jump accordingly. Hold down the jump button for higher jump to reach a higher platform, quickly tap it for a quick dodge.

Other aspects of the gameplay involve special character abilities. Vela is the only one who can swim, which is done with a swim button and the joystick. Lupus can hover for a certain amount of time (all cyborg dogs have self-propulsion, it seems) and he uses this skill to reach across gaps and even to dodge enemy crossfire. What can Juno do? He can walk across lava, and no one else can.

Also, midway through the game everyone receives a jet-packs that merely requires a quick fuel pad visit where available. Sadly, you canít bring the fuel outside the immediate area, which can be a bummer.

Weaponry is quite the delight in JFG. Your main weapon is a speed bursting Pistol, which can generally kill any type of enemy. Your second most used weapon would be your machine gun; it does what the Pistol does much better, but youíll probably run out of ammo quite quickly. There are two missile orientated weapons, an extremely useful homing missile and the ultra powerful Tri-Rocket. There is an assortment of grenades and other types of explosives at your disposal, such as nifty remote mines and cluster bombs. Thereís even sniper-rifles, flamethrowers, shrukens, an electric paralyzing weapon, and a charge-shot plasma gun.

The many different kinds of weapon will always keep things interesting. Does that enemy ant have a shield? Use a shruken to cut through the shield and cut off his head. Lots of pesky ants? Use well-timed charged plasma gun shots to pick them off, one by one. Surrounded by a large mass of flying robots (sometime 25 at a time)? Whip out the machine gun to mow through their defenses.

Thereís even a co-op mode for you and a lucky friend, for he controls the robot counterpart integral to the gameís story (as mentioned above). Speaking of special robot friends, this little guy even goes on interesting first-person flying missions as a type of mini-game. The purpose of these is to acquire key items for trading with the gameís inhabitants for secrets, multiplayer modes, yet more mini-games, and the such. The actual game is ruined, though, by freakish controls and a really high challenge level.

Multiplayer modes are good for showing off all the weapons to your friends, but not that much else. If JFG is the only multiplayer game you have, itíll do - thereís King of the Hill, regular old everyone for themselves combat, target practice, and even several surprisingly addictive racing modes. The combat and target practice are bogged down by lots of slowdown and framerate problems, so they may grow old quickly.

So, how's the controls and camera? They get the job done okay. I only have a few control gripes (characters are a tad bit slippery) and the camera can be very evil sometimes, but it couldíve been much worse. Getting the camera where you want it in 1st person mode can be quite the chore, sadly. Turning the camera around is the worst aspect - youíll have to switch in then out of 1st person mode to accomplish it.

All in all, I had a very fun time picking off flying fiends with my trusty pistol, cutting off enemy and tribal heads with my shrukens, and even throwing fish food for the fish (someoneís got to feed the poor buggers, am I right?). Itís generally a smooth and easy process with handy quick-access buttons at your disposal, and oh so much stuff to kill. But, even thought the gameplay in JFG is very good, is the gameís design ever too much?

Game Design
If there is an aspect of JFG where it falls flat on the ground, seizures, sputters a little and bursts into some milky liquid, itís in the game design. JFG has been notorious for this big problem by just about anyone who owns it, and gosh darnit you have a right to know.

In terms of game length, you will spend somewhere between 9-15 hours on the main quest (I spent 14 hours). This was a very memorable 14 hours, with lots of memorable locales, boss fights, and enemy decapitations. But, the game turns for the worse with itís other half - its dark and evil half. What makes up this ďother halfĒ of the game? A 14+ hour fetch quest.

Halfway through JFG, priorities change. Mizar decides to focus his attention on crushing the teamís innards, along with their spirits. This might be a spoiler, but itís no big deal if you find out. Mizar sends an asteroid to Earth, in hopes to destroying the JFG teamís home. Oh no! Well, now the team has to rely on a Goldwood resident magic-doer to get them to the asteroid and destroy it. Sounds interesting so far, but this magic-doer turns out to be an ugly old hag that will only help you if you can find the parts of his high-speed super spaceship scattered throughout the galaxy. It gets worse - the very, very last part (that ends up being some antenna or something) is being held hostage by the old fart himself, and heíll only give it up if you save and free every single last member of the Goldwood race scattered throughout the galaxy.

To accomplish this, youíll need to visit every last nook and cranny of every last sub section of every last planet - even the secret planets. Thereís an average of 15 tribals per area - thatĎs a lot of fetching. Youíll also have to be careful to not let one die from enemy crossfire, for youíll have to start all over collecting the tribals for that specific sub area.

This took me 16 or more hours to fully accomplish (without the help of a strategy guide), and since it can be so frustrating youíll probably experience strange forms of videogame misery. I experienced it with this game; it was just so much beyond my grasp, I actually wanted to not look at a TV screen during my immediate after-school free time, and wanted to do homework!

You can just decide that the game ends before the fetch quest, making it still a worthy 14 hour quest. But, Iím reviewing the whole game here, so itís got to be included.

Other problems with the game design involve some game flow problems. Throughout the main game, some worlds arenít very fun-friendly; they are just way too hard for the amount of ammo space youíll have at that time, and even the amount of gameplay experience youĎll have by that point. A perfect example for this is the world Cerulean. It took me more than 3 hours to complete, because I was forced to try and retry until completion.

Some levels have just much more to them than others, in a bad way. Some enemies, especially the ones with shields, take a lot of effort to kill - and sometimes you find yourself surrounded, helplessly trapped by these almost invincible bad guys. The humor of ant soldiers then disappears, as you go on a life and death mission against the shoddy camera and immense slowdown to just kill off the bastards. Shrukens, the perfect weapon for this type of enemy, may help a little - but you canít tackle 6 at a time with them.

There are some redeeming qualities with JFGís game design; character have separated strengths, the hovering, swimming, and lava. So as you go through the game youíll spot out of reach areas, and youíll have the urge to return to them once youíre able to go anywhere with any character. Thereís a ton of secrets to find, as well, and thatís always a good thing.

Iíll just end it here for the game design. As you can tell, the fetch quest can be potentially depressing, and sadly enough for me it was. Thanks a lot, Rare!


Graphics
First, the bad - like many n64 games, there is a lot of slowdown and framerate problems. Whenever there is a lot of stuff going on (such as having a lot of enemies onscreen at a time) JFG goes into massive slow-down mode. The camera becomes you worst enemy, you canít tell whatís going on, and by the end of it youíll probably be ant food.

Good stuff time - on a standstill, JFG is really quite lovely. I think that it captures the gameís sci-fi fantasy ideas quite well, with amazing looking locales and cinematic opening cinemas for each world. The enemies are highly detailed and very smooth, and so are the heroes (most notably Lupus). The atmospheric effects, such as water and the sky, are very rich and believable. The permanent wasteland Tawfret looks very, very good - it looks a lot like the Ewok village of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, but except itís a dark edged wasteland - very, very cool. Now that I think about it, JFG is probably one of the best looking n64 games. Each locale looks fantastic and believable, and they set the mood very very well.

So, the atmosphere in JFG is pretty spectacular. Just one look at Tawfret, and youíll be very impressed.

Sadly, some areas may be too dark, as in not being able to see anything dark. In these specific planets, when you add in the slowdown.... Oh man, thatís just painful!

Sound and Music
Rare, how do you guys keep on doing it?

One of the most important factors in creating JFGís wonderful aura and atmosphere is the near-perfect music. First off, thereís the moody music that comes with Tawfret and other wasteland-like areas (and a specific water world that Iím sure will make anyone want to hit the music services). Secondly, thereís the sci-fi music that comes with space ship levels that really, really set the mood - itís just like the movies, only better! Hey, itís Rare - what did you expect?

The sound effects rock the house too - each weapon sounds as it should, and it sounds better than you would imagine - they sound too good to be true. They are very area and direction specific, so you could possibly spot out and eliminate a well hidden sniper by your sense of sound.

Character voices are very good, as with everything else audio-wise. There isnít much actual speech in JFG, but whatís here is very cool. Your first mission is set before you by an unknown narrator (thatís British and probably from the Rare studio in England). It sounds very cool and adds to the very cool sci-fi theme.

In Closing
So here you have it - an action-adventure-shooter with an excellent atmosphere, world design, and for whatís there the storyís quite good as well. Hmm... smells like Metroid..... Hmmm.... Maybe Rare should take on more Nintendo franchises than just Star Fox and Donkey Kong?

For what flaws are here, they are easily overlooked by the addicting gameplay and the gorgeously designed worlds. Youíll go on many adventures in JFG, across massive abysses, through a large cave system, into the murky depths of a world - heck youíre visiting multiple planets here! As sci-fi fantasy adventure games go, this one is my favorite. Itís also one of my favorite adventure games, but I donít think itíll ever claim the top spot thanks to some control, camera, slowdown and framerate issues. Those aside (along with the miserable tribals) Jet Force Gemini achieves greatness like nothing else imaginable for this type of game. Good job, Rare - you guys pulled it off again.

Positive:
+A very well-executed sci-fi fantasy theme and atmosphere
+Interesting story and memorable moments
+Great weaponry
+Great, smooth-most-of-the-time gameplay
+Excellent world designs
+Superb soundtrack, created by the one and only musical king Rare
+Great looking worlds

Negative:
-Some camera, control problems
-The game design is shoddy
-Some areas are way too dark
-Some bad game progression - too frustrating at points


Graphics: 8.25/10
Sound and Music: 9.5
World Design: 9.25
Game Design: 4
Story: 8.25
Action and Gameplay: 8

rxfang6ís game grade: A-

Rating: 8/10

rxfang6's avatar
Community review by rxfang6 (August 26, 2002)

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