In my Riddick review, I mentioned that it was the first game I reviewed that I didn’t actually finish. This is the second such review, though the reason why I failed to finish Jet Force Gemini is totally different and way more friendly. See, unlike Riddick, Jet Force Gemini is actually a good game. You may be asking why I failed to finish this game if it’s so good. The answer is that I’m a sociopath.
There’s a huge catch to this otherwise excellent game, that being that you can only actually get to the last level and finish the game if you save a bunch of these little “tribal” dudes who are hidden around all of the levels. They’re these adorable little bear things, and it’s impossible to not shoot them with explosives. Sometimes they get caught in the crossfire of your more heated firefights, but most of the time they’re just so adorable that you won’t be able to resist shooting them in the face and splattering them all over. They do splatter, too. Red goo, and it goes everywhere when you use explosives. It’s unquestioningly demented, and yet this is more fun than you could possibly imagine. Of course, since you have to save them (which is as easy as touching them), shooting them is a no-no and makes the game impossible to complete. This is why I’ve never completed this game—because I can’t resist shooting adorable living teddy bears with rockets.
I hate the fact that the game is only completable when you save all of the tribals. It’s a lot of hassle, because there are a surprising number of levels (for a Nintendo 64 game) and three characters. Different levels require different characters since they all have individual skills that may be more or less suited to a particular level, meaning that there’s an element of backtracking that can wear thin for those sensitive to it (like me) and render the whole tribal thing more effort than it’s worth. As far as the characters go, there’s a guy who can walk on fire, a girl who can breathe underwater, and a dog who can hover. How they ended up with such powers is a mystery, but I figure they were visited one night by some kind of robotic gypsy who imbued them with their powers at the expense of basic coordination.
I say at the expense of their coordination because the controls in this game aren’t perfect. Manual targeting is a mess, and the camera can zoom in on your character unexpectedly for the “combat” controls, which have a different feel than the normal “running around” controls. It makes certain sections unnecessarily frustrating, especially when you’re trying to avoid an enemy shooting a rocket in your direction and accidentally killing a tribal (I promise, I did try to save them all once).
Those flaws aside, everything else about the game is good. In fact, I’d go so far to say that everything else about the game is incredible. This is vintage Rare from back around the time of Goldeneye, when that name meant that quality was guaranteed, and while the switch to from first-person shooters to a third-person shooter rendered some of the camera stuff a bit wonky, the gameplay manages to actually be quite fun. You have a number of different weapons that are unlocked over the course of the story, ranging from plasma guns to rocket launchers (including one that fires three rockets at once) to shurikens, and many others. Managing ammo is necessary if you want to save your best for boss fights and the more difficult sections, but you rarely find yourself without enough to defend yourself. Even if you somehow end up wasting all of your ammo, your main gun has an unlimited supply of “weak” bullets that can get you through.
The game itself is kind of a blend between games like Banjo-Kazooie and Goldeneye, with shooter mechanics added on to that kind of third-person “collect this and this and then you can go through this door” gameplay. It manages to be fun without ever being too tedious (except for having to save those stupid tribals), and despite the possibility that you’ll never complete the game for the same reasons I haven’t, you’ll enjoy every bit up to the last part that you’re able to play. Besides, that’s what Youtube is for. You can watch the last bit on there and go through the game slaughtering the innocent little bears willy-nilly, and everyone will be happier for it.
Jet Force Gemini has beautiful, colorful graphics. They’re a bit on the cartoony side, but rather than that working against the game, it actually works to give the game its own unique visual identity. There’s blue and purple and orange all over, and each world has a unique color palette, keeping the game from feeling visually stale as you progress. The character models are all good (especially for the Nintendo 64), though as you’ve no doubt seen in the picture above, the female character has some weird jiggle physics going on. This has always bothered me, because she’s never really running toward the camera anyway. Why put that in at all? It’s not really a negative point against the game so much as one of those weird decisions that you have to wonder about. Growing up, it was also a fun way to make nearby people uncomfortable.
Music is a serious high point. Though not quite at the same level as Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask (though those games revolve around the music, so it’s not really a fair comparison), the whole soundtrack is full of memorable themes. The instruments range from futuristic synths to orchestral strings, and the juxtaposition of the two is surprisingly effective, never coming across as forced. Here’s one of my favorites, and a song that can get seriously stuck in your head:
Here’s what you should do: