Saturday, 3 October 2009

Retrospective - Jet Force Gemini

  • Game: Jet Force Gemini
  • Format: Nintendo 64
  • First Release: 1999
  • Developer: Rare
  • Publisher: Rare
  • Genre: 3rd Person Shooter

If I had a penny for the number of times I went into town to buy Jet Force Gemini all those years ago only to find out that it had yet again been delayed then I would have roughly 10p. Jet Force Gemini was one of those very special games that was worth the wait for no matter how long said wait was, least of all because it was a Rare game from the N64 era. Jet Force Gemini was a wonderfully crafted third person shoot ‘em up rather unlike many games before. It had aliens, ants (who would hilariously try and tip-toe behind you), Ewoks (read: everything aside from the name), a dog with a tank shell, a disco complete with a couple of arcade games (one of which was immense fun and called Jeff and Barry Racing), a sarcy flying robot, a lonely mole wanting a porn magazine to pass the time (who also “can’t wait to get started” and wants you to lock the door on your way out), a cheat code called “Ants as Pants”, a Jimmy Saville impression and bucket loads of the trademark Rare charm and humour. Jet Force Gemini had as much charm as any other Rare game of the era and was all the more special for it.

The game had a fantastic mix of seriousness and fun, the aim of the game was to free the aforementioned Ewoks (or Tribals to give their proper name) on request from their leader called Jeff, who had a brother called Barry, from the wrath of an evil overlord named Mizar. The three protagonists were Juno, a strapping, late-teens lad who seemingly had made boots made of asbestos as he could walk through lava, Vela, Juno’s twin who wore an alarmingly short skirt and could hold her breath underwater indefinitely, and Lupus, a dog with a gun on his back... and he could fly for short periods of time... and later in the game he was given a tank shell. A second player could take control of a small flying robot called Floyd who could help with the aid of an onscreen aiming reticule. Naturally Mizar had an army to do his bidding, an army of ants of various sizes and strengths that you could shoot with the rather sizeable collection of weapons available to use.

Speaking of weapons and shooting enemies, the game had no hesitation to show a little cartoon gore; exploding heads, decapitation and lashings of crimson were the order of the day and thankfully there was a level of creativity available for players to kill ants (or Tribals), personally you couldn’t go wrong with the tri-rocket launcher (yep, three rocket launchers in one weapon) before making an ant the size of Andre the Giant explode in a shower of blood. There were also shurikens available for the more daring player and by far the best part of these were that you could lock onto multiple enemies / friendlies with the same one before performing what I used to call “The Bruce Lee” named after the great man due to it’s equally high fatality numbers accomplished via equally spectacular methods.

Ah, the N64. It was unique in that it made you feel like you were playing games on a TV which had Vaseline smeared on the screen. Good times…

The only real fault in the game was the Triforce-in-Wind-Waker-esque ship part hunt which did become a chore towards the end of the hunt but thankfully also served as means of immense exploration of areas in levels that were once inaccessible to other characters. The difficulty of the game was perfect and with very rare times when it felt unfair (in my experience I just could not beat the fantastically epic final boss. I ended up giving up for a few months before managing to defeat him on my first go and then beat him a second time just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke).

Jet Force Gemini was in its time completely unparalleled, few other games were like it – none of which even came close to the quality of gameplay available and it’s influence seems to be clear in modern games of a similar ilk. Thankfully the game also stands the test of time and is almost as wonderfully playable now as it was ten years ago. If you ever have the chance to play through this criminally unknown and under-rated classic then you could do few things much better than play Jet Force Gemini.

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