Developer(s) – Rareware
Publisher(s) – Nintendo
Director – Peter Beanland
Producer – Chris Stamper
ELSPA – 11+
Developed by Rare, and inspired by numerous works of science fiction and previous Nintendo games such as Super Metroid and Super Mario 64, Jet Force Gemini is a run-and-gun shooter emphasizing exploration, intense combat, and item collecting, and was warmly received by critics upon release; albeit without criticism. In my opinion, what criticism was levied against this game was justified, since I personally found it far too problematic to be able to call it one of the better games for the Nintendo 64. I ran into numerous issues with this title that I found impossible to overlook.
Graphics – 7/10
With a conceptual design influenced by several popular sci-fi series like Star Wars, Stargate, Dune, and Battle of the Planets, the game’s visuals are most definitely the best redeeming quality it has to offer. It takes place in wonderfully varied locations ranging from spaceships and caves to castles and swamps. The different types of locations are reminiscent of many of Rare’s previous games developed under Nintendo like Diddy Kong Racing or Donkey Kong 64, and to me, it was a positive demonstration of how Nintendo’s influence had a very positive effect on the once-renowned development company before being bought out by Microsoft.
Gameplay – 6.5/10
The objective of Jet Force Gemini is to explore wide-open locations, collect items, save the NPC inhabitants, known as the Tribals, and gun down everything else in sight. The combat is indeed quite intense, but for what lack of a stable control scheme there is (which I will be expanding upon on momentarily), it can also seem very unreasonably demanding, since not only is it not the most accessible game on the Nintendo 64, but there is a needless insistence on fulfilling most criteria within the game in order to properly complete it. Not everyone may be able to save all the Tribals, as it demands, which may also lead to a level of repetition depending on how many times players are forced to replay each level.
Controls – 4/10
By far the worst thing about Jet Force Gemini is how relentlessly bad the control scheme was handled. Although there is an auto-aim mode in place to help players pick off enemies on the ground, the game insists players use a clunky precision targeting mode to take care of enemies on higher ground, which is extremely easy to lose patience with. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of how the ground missions in Star Fox Assault played out; a lot of unnecessary complications, which if excluded, could have made for a much greater game than what it turned out to be.
Lifespan – 6/10
The title can be made to last an average of around 7 to 8 hours for those who are willing to look past the bad controls. Emphasis on exploration does fairly well to add to its longevity, and there is also additional gameplay value to be had in the numerous different multiplayer modes. The biggest concern going into the game for the player will however ultimately inevitably be how well they can adapt to the control scheme; and speaking from experience, it will not be an easy task.
Storyline – 6/10
The story of the game follows the titular Jet Force Gemini team as they battle the evil Mizar and his horde of insect drones. In a time when video games were in the process of being established as a viable art form, Jet Force Gemini does have some redeeming quality to it in this respect, but nowhere near as much as many other Nintendo 64 games would portray; notably The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. The fifth generation was a wonderfully weird and varied time for video games, and whilst this title didn’t have anywhere near as much of an impact in the way of storytelling as many others, it certainly wasn’t one of the worst video game stories either.
Originality – 6/10
This title does stand out among many other releases for the Nintendo 64; albeit for some of the wrong reasons. Though gameplay was much different than the likes of Super Mario 64 or Goldeneye 007, I don’t think Rare was quite able to make as much use of the analog stick controls as they did with Goldeneye 007, and then later Perfect Dark. If they perhaps made a follow-up to Jet Force Gemini, the control scheme may have come with much-needed improvements, but unfortunately, this is a supposition, and impossible to know for certain.
In summation, despite some redeeming quality this game has going for it, Jet Force Gemini has far too many problems for me to be able to call it one of Rare’s greatest works before the Microsoft acquisition. The company released some of the best games on the Nintendo 64, but unfortunately, this is not one such title.