For their past few efforts, Rare has decidedly gone with the theory that more is better. Banjo Kazooie had lots of items and treasure, Donkey Kong 64 had more than it's share of secrets times five, and Jet Force Gemini follows in this tradition. With an abundance of extras, three characters to choose from, and wide spanning locales, the only N64 game to rival it in terms of sheer size is DK64. And you know what? I like this more than the primates' latest romp. So much for bigger is better, eh?
The music has crystal clear quality, but falls short of being memorable. It's loud, symphonic, and the musical score feels like it came straight from a movie. However, it feels uninspired and dull, along with the fact that the high quality tracks are rather short. This leads to repeated looping, and that gets rather boring. Sound effects are cool though; enemies sound gruesome, and the Tribals are ultra-cute. Gunfire, splatters, explosions...all the action sounds are here, and sound good to boot.
Graphically, the game looks pretty good, but can't hold up to Rayman or Donkey Kong 64. Cool lighting, well modeled heroes and decent environments are abundant, but the enemies look simplistic and there's always a fuzziness on the screen, kind of like how Starfox 64 is. Enemies and furry Tribals alike blow up when shot at, which seems disturbing considering that the protagonists were supposed to be little children. It won't warp impressionable minds though (it didn't screw me up =P). Plus, there's something off about collecting the heads of fallen Mizar soldiers. Locations you fight in vary from marshy planets to complicated starships, all with nice level design, but aren't very detailed. In fact, if it weren't for the different lighting used on some planets, I could swear that textures get recycled a lot. Don't get me wrong, these are some impressive visuals on the N64, but I thought the RAM pak could be pushed a little further. Oh well, at least the game plays fine enough, graphical glitz or not.
The premise of Gemini is simple. The Tribals are a civilation of cute, furry, peaceful creatures, similar to the Ewoks from Star Wars. The Mizar, an army of volatile insects have enslaved the Tribals. Enter Jet Force Gemini: a deadly duo of teens, along with their dog Lupus, who right wrong and kick baddies across the universe. Juno and Vela hear word of what the Mizar are up to, and head out to stop the atrocities at hand. Players first start off with control of only Juno, but after the second level Vela joins and shortly after that, Lupus. Each character has a different story and set of levels, giving this game an advantage over DK64, where all the characters shared locales. The goal in each level is fairly simple; complete an objective (i.e. meet with a tribe leader), get to your ship at the end of the level, and rescue Tribals along the way. Rescuing the fuz-buckets is the hardest objective, since they are placed in obscure places, and some come under heavy enemy fire. Believe me, it's not pretty to watch a Ewok wannabe get blown up ><. The weapons are futuristic and a delight to weild. Tri-rocket launchers, machine guns, homing rockets, particle bombs, and even more intense firearms are at your disposal. My favorite would have to be the tri-rocket launcher; it fires three missiles which spiral around until they meet their target. This usually sends enemies in multiple directions...and little pieces. Too bad players start with just a lousy pistol =(. Control is handled...um...differently than most games. Think of it as a hybrid between FPS and adventure games. Strafing, jumping and ducking are controlled by the C-buttons while walking and turning utilize the analog. Fire with Z, cycle weapons with A and B, blah blah blah. Basically, the control scheme did not sit well with me; Jet Force has platforming elements, but FPS style controls make it hard for acurate jumps at the start. Fighting is akward when you first get into it, because there's no aiming system unless the R button is held down. This makes battle very hard in the beginning, but after awhile, it can be second nature. Patience is key, since gamers have a long journey ahead and it would suck if they couldn't get the control scheme down.
However, invest some time learning the controls, and the game blows wide open. Enemy AI is startling; Mizar troops hide, attack, and regroup like they were real. Fire on one unsuspecting victim, and expect all the enemies in the room to take notice, gang up on you, and fight in full force. Strategy is essential when fighting, because running into a room guns-a-blazing will only result in your death. Trust me; I've done it too many times and know all too well how futile that approach is. And if the regular foes weren't enough, try the bosses, who are some of the most awe-inspiring, large, and just plain difficult creatures ever witnessed on the Nintendo 64.
No major treasure hunts here, just get from the start to finish of each stage using only 3 lives. Picking up Tribals isn't even required, which keeps the game simple. Granted, there are many things that can be done, and backtracking is also an option, but none of it is required. After I got the hang of the controls, I was spending much time killing off Mizar scum. The characters are cool too; Juno, Vela, and Lupus share most weapons, but there are a few originals that make each person/dog special. All in all, if you have patience and some time to kill, Jet Force Gemini is worth a look.
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