Jet Force Gemini
|Jet Force Gemini|
North American box art
|Genre(s)||Third-person shooter, action-adventure, platforming|
|Distribution||256 Mb (32 MB) cartridge|
Jet Force Gemini is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Rare for the Nintendo 64 video game console. It was released in North America on October 11, 1999; in Europe on November 2, 1999; and in Japan on December 1, 1999. The player assumes the role of three members of Jet Force Gemini, the last remaining group of the once proud and strong military organization Jet Force. The main story arc encompasses the trio's quest as they try to stop the advances of the dark insect tyrant Mizar and his army.
Throughout the single-player campaign, the player must collect several spaceship parts and save a large number of Tribals, a group of survivors who have been enslaved and prisoned by Mizar. The game also includes a multiplayer deathmatch for two to four players and a no split-screen co-operative mode. The gameplay shares elements with platform, action-adventure, and run and gun games.
Jet Force Gemini was developed by Rare's Blast Corps team, who originally considered the possibility to use the Nintendo 64 Expansion Pak. Reviews were generally positive towards the game, though not as high as Rare's other Nintendo 64 games such as GoldenEye 007 and Banjo-Kazooie. Praise was given to its graphics, sound and original gameplay, while criticism was levelled at the game's difficult controls and insistence on having to save every Tribal to fully complete the game. Jet Force Gemini is frequently regarded as one of the most innovative and original games of the Nintendo 64.
Jet Force Gemini revolves around the Jet Force Gemini team attempting to defeat the evil leader Mizar and his horde of Drones. Jet Force Gemini is composed of three main characters: Juno, a taciturn, somewhat melancholy human male whose parents were killed by space pirates that invaded his home station; Vela, Juno's feisty twin sister; and Lupus, Jet Force Gemini's wardog mascot. The game begins with the three characters in orbit around the planet Goldwood after barely escaping the destruction of the entire Jet Force fleet at the hands of Mizar. Their ship however, had suffered extraordinary damage, leaving them defenseless and unable to warp out of the system. It is not long before the team witnesses Mizar's attack on Goldwood, and soon afterwards, their cruiser is attacked by a large craft of Mizar's known as the Spawnship. Boarded by drones and out of time, the three decide to abandon the ship and go off on their own separate paths to stop the invasion.
As the game progresses, the heroes eventually find themselves reunited at Mizar's Palace—and face to face with Mizar himself. However, Mizar, enraged and vowing revenge on the human race, escapes to a nearby asteroid where he sets course to impact with Earth. King Jeff, the beloved leader of the Tribals, quickly arranges a plan to help the heroes: by providing an ancient starship that can quickly catch up to Mizar's asteroid. Nevertheless, the team needs to locate several vital parts scattered throughout the galaxy, as well as rescue all the Tribals enslaved by Mizar. Also, King Jeff upgrades the heroes with new armor and jet packs that allow them to fly. From this point on, the team stays united and, together, works to search every world for anything they can find.
After all the Tribals are rescued and the parts found, the team, along with King Jeff, reassembles the old Tribal craft and quickly depart to save Earth. After a rough landing, Juno fights through Mizar's guards and eventually confronts the tyrant. Mizar does not go down easily this time, but indeed after a long struggle, Juno does defeat him. To the surprise of all though, Mizar is revealed to be a robot controlled by King Jeff's jealous brother, Barry. After realizing destroying Barry's robot ruined their best chance of destroying the asteroid, the team is out of options. In an honorable notion, Floyd, the quiet little robot that defected from Mizar and followed the team, offers to sacrifice himself to destroy the asteroid. Hesitantly, the team agrees and attaches a timed warhead to Floyd before sending him into the core. With no time to spare, the team returns to the Tribal craft and departs only seconds before Floyd reaches the core. In a brilliant flash of light, the asteroid is destroyed mere miles away from entering the atmosphere of Earth. Afterwards on Earth, Jet Force Gemini is given the highest honors for their many accomplishments.
Jet Force Gemini is a third-person shooter with elements of platform, action-adventure, and run and gun games. Players control the playable character from a third-person perspective in a free three dimensional environment. The game features extensive levels to explore, items to collect, power-ups that enhance characters health and weaponry, towering bosses to defeat, and devastation on a massive scale. Unlike other Rare shooters such as GoldenEye 007 or Perfect Dark, the weapons in Jet Force Gemini feature no magazines and cannot be reloaded after a certain number of shots. Players fight on foot and have the ability to jump. Much of the game is spent in battle, but some parts feature jump mechanics, as the player can hang from most ledges, swim and fly using jet packs when needed. In combat, the player is free to set on a manual aiming system with the targeting camera fixed behind the character’s head. When using this technique, a reticle appears on screen and the playable character becomes translucent so that players can aim and shoot with finesse. By contrast, when walking around, the game plays much like a typical 3D platformer.
Exploration is one of the most important aspect of gameplay. The campaign features a galaxy that is composed of 15 nonlinear worlds, with areas connected by different types of doors. Most of the doors open automatically, but some need a special action to be unlocked. For example, some doors require the player to kill all the enemies in the area to be unlocked, while others can require a specific key. The players can take control of any and all three characters as they progress though the game, using their individual and unshared strengths where required; Juno can walk through magma safely, Vela can swim underwater indefinitely, and Lupus can hover for a short period of time. These abilities allow the characters to uncover new areas which the other characters cannot reach. Therefore, choosing the right character for the right stage is critical in order to complete the game. Initially, the game does not allow the player to tackle the different worlds with a desired character, and forces the player to use the three characters individually until they reach a meeting point. Once they get to the meeting point, all of the worlds can be tackled with any character in any order. The overall objective of the game is to explore all the areas in order to save all the Tribals and collect several spaceship pieces that allow the player to get to the final stage.
The game also features a multiplayer mode, where two to four players can battle it out in both traditional deathmatch and survival matches. Like GoldenEye 007, options such as weapon schemes, time limit, number of kills or number of lives can be altered to match player preference. Additionally, some multiplayer aspects, such as levels and characters, can be unlocked by finding the corresponding secret in the game's campaign. Players can also unlock some racing mini-games, where players race from an overhead perspective, as well as a firing range mode, which is similar to a rail shooter like Virtua Cop. In this mode, players are limited to moving a crosshair around the screen while the game automatically follows a specific route. Jet Force Gemini also features a no split-screen co-operative mode, where the second player takes control of Floyd, a floating robot that automatically follows the main playable character, and can assist him by shooting.
Development of Jet Force Gemini began in 1997 by Rare's Blast Corps team, with lead programmer Paul Mountain, who had previously worked on Diddy Kong Racing. The inspirations of the game were manifold. The free-roaming nature of Nintendo's Super Mario 64 influenced the scale and the openness of some of the backgrounds and settings, and the collecting and upgrading of weapons were inspired by Super Metroid. Additionally, Mountain revealed that "the behaviour of the bad guys was a mixture of arcade space shooter formations and Quake-style 'attack and cover' mechanics". According to him, "I suppose... we were inspired by all the good stuff we'd played and enjoyed playing". The game also borrowed from other non-related video games sources. Lead artist Lee Musgrave admitted: "There are elements of Star Wars in there, Aliens, Dune, Battle of the Planets, even Stargate – it was a real mix of everything and anything 'space' related."
At one time, the game's protagonists Juno and Vela were designed as younger and more cartoon-like with large heads, but were later changed to their more mature versions at Nintendo's behest. The game's controls were one of the main concerns during development. The idea was to retain a character-based game, where players could see the character they were playing, while keeping the tightness and accuracy of first-person shooters. Rare initially attempted to automate the change of view and targeting mode based on the context of the action, but this idea was eventually replaced with a manual system. According to Mountain, "The solution we ended with is a beautiful thing... It feels very old-school to me; difficult, unforgiving, but ultimately precise". As several members of the team enjoyed racing games and had also worked on Diddy Kong Racing, the team decided to include the futuristic Ant racing featured in the campaign and the top-down arcade racing games in the multiplayer.
Developers initially considered the possibility to use the 4MB Nintendo 64 Expansion Pak, but the idea was eventually dropped. According to Mountain, "we wanted to deliver the same experience to all players and were confident that we could do this using the standard 4MB of RAM on the console." This led to some confusion as the box cover for the original release stated that it did support such a feature. Nintendo provided a quick-fix to the mislabeled covers by providing stickers declaring its rumble pak compatibility and fixed later printings of the boxes. The game was originally planned for release on August 31, 1999, but was pushed back to September 27 in order to give the programmers time to polish up the game. It was then pushed back even further to October 11 due to manufacturing delays. Jet Force Gemini was localized as Star Twins (スターツインズ) in Japan due to Nintendo's opinion that the Japanese pronunciation of the original name, "Jetto Fōsu Jeminai" was too difficult to pronounce. 4Kids Entertainment obtained the rights to merchandising both Jet Force Gemini and Perfect Dark toys, movies, and other recreational products, although 4Kids did not go on to produce any merchandise for the franchise.
In 2006, an unreleased Game Boy Color version of Jet Force Gemini was discovered via Assembler Forum. The current owner of the prototype cartridge has attested that the game appears to be nearly complete, though it was never officially announced by either Rare or Nintendo. In an October 2012 interview, former Rare designer and producer Martin Wakeley said, "Jet Force Gemini on the Gameboy was the only occasion I can remember Rare outsourcing anything. It was being done by Bits Studios and was nearly done last time I saw it, I’m not sure what happened to it."
Jet Force Gemini generally received positive reviews from critics, though not as high as Rare's other Nintendo 64 games such as GoldenEye 007 and Banjo-Kazooie. On the review aggregator GameRankings, the game has an average score of 80%, based on 24 reviews. On Metacritic, the game has an average score of 80 out of 100, based on 13 reviews, which is classified as "generally favorable". GameSpot reviewer Nelson Taruc awarded the game a rating of 8.8 out of 10, commenting "Nintendo 64 fans should pick up this title without delay and hope that Rareware's team of top-notch talent will continue to churn out even more games like this one for years to come". IGN's Matt Casamassina praised Rare for exploring new mechanics and concluded his review by saying "this is still one of Nintendo 64's most original games and it has much more good going for it than it does bad".
The game's audio and sound were lauded. Matt Casamassina pointed out that the music was "some of the very best ever put into a Nintendo 64 game", and described the sound effects as "dead-on and crystal clear". Game Revolution's Johnny Liu added that the game "goes for a more operatic feel than the generic video game techno". Gaming Target's Steve Graff observed that the audio is "suspenseful and exciting" and "it always keeps the mood of the level". The graphics were also well received. Nelson Taruc praised their diversity, colour and lighting effects. However, other critics such as GameCritics or IGN observed that the frame rate can drop significantlly. Dale Weir wrote "With all the special effects, textures, and polygons onscreen, whenever the action heated up, the framerate would become erratic". The enemy AI, challenge and variety of weapons have received positive criticism as well. According to IGN, "It's old-school gameplay brought into 3D and it's all extremely satisfying".
While critics generally praised the game's smart level designs and length, many reacted negatively to the insistence on having to save every Tribal to fully complete the game. GameCritics noted, "Going through each level three times becomes majorly tedious... and finding them also lead a lot of pointless legwork". Gaming Age stated similar cons and criticized the fact of restarting the level and do it all over again if a single Tribal is killed. IGN declared this task to be "far too tedious to truly be enjoyed". Johnny Liu, on the other hand, admitted that this "is countered by the pure fun of running around tearing through giant bugs with lasers". The multiplayer mode received mixed to negative reviews. IGN called it "slow and clunky" and both Matt Casamassina and Ravi Hiranand agreed that the third-person view takes up far too much of the already tiny split-screen and that the complex control system does not help make it a game to pick-up-and-play. Nevertheless, the minigames and co-operative mode were generally well received. Many publications also claimed that the controls were complex and odd. IGN remarked that the targeting system was not very intuitive, even though Ravi Hiranand of Gaming Age observed that "once you get the hang of it after about an hour's play, it does get quite easy to use". Nelson Taruc said that it "remains responsive at all times", but also admitted that "the awkwardness in using two very different control styles in the same game might prove distasteful to some".
In 2000, IGN ranked Jet Force Gemini as the 20th in their list of "The Top 25 N64 Games of All Time". In 2009, Official Nintendo Magazine ranked it the 93rd best game available on Nintendo platforms. The staff called it Rare's "big hope" due to the highly anticipated but delayed Nintendo 64 game Perfect Dark. Overall, despite of the fact that Jet Force Gemini fared generally well with critics, the game did not reach the level of commercial success that other Nintendo 64 games reached, leading Rare not to consider a possible sequel. Nevertheless, since its release, several Rare games have featured cameo appearances of Jet Force Gemini, including Kameo: Elements of Power, Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise, and Banjo-Tooie. Players may also dress their character up as Juno, Vela, and Lupus in Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition through the use of a downloadable content pack.
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