Jet Force Gemini
|Jet Force Gemini|
North American box art
|Genre(s)||Third-person shooter, action-adventure|
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 and in Europe on November 2, 1999. The game follows the story of three members of the Jet Force Gemini team and their efforts to stop the advances of the dark insectoid tyrant Mizar and his army. It features a single-player mode where the player must explore a galaxy and save Tribals, a race of survivors who have been enslaved and imprisoned by Mizar, and places strong emphasis on shooting large numbers of enemies while dodging their attacks. The game also includes a multiplayer mode where two to four players can compete in traditional deathmatch games.
Inspired by 80s arcade games and more recent titles of the time, such as Super Metroid and Super Mario 64, Jet Force Gemini blends elements of both shoot 'em up and action-adventure games. Works such as Aliens, Stargate and Battle of the Planets were also major influences. The game received generally positive reviews from critics. Praise was given to its detailed graphics and satisfying gameplay, while criticism was levelled at the game's difficult controls and insistence on having to save every Tribal to fully complete the game. In 2015, Jet Force Gemini was included as part of the Rare Replay video game compilation for Xbox One.
Jet Force Gemini is a third-person shooter with shoot 'em up and action-adventure elements, in which the player controls the player character from a third-person perspective in a 3D environment. The game places strong emphasis on shooting large numbers of enemies while dodging their attacks. Weapons have no magazines restrictions and range from grenades to a pistol, a machine gun, a sniper rifle, a flamethrower, and rocket launchers, among others. Although much of the game is spent in battle, the player has the ability to jump, 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 crosshair appears on screen and the player character becomes translucent so that players can aim and shoot with finesse. By contrast, when walking around, the game plays similar to a 3D platformer.
In the game's single-player mode, the player must explore a galaxy that is composed of 15 nonlinear worlds. Each world is composed of a series of stages with areas interconnected by different types of doors. Most doors open automatically, but some require a special action to be unlocked. For example, some doors require the player to defeat all the enemies in the area, while others may require a specific key. Although the player has a certain amount of health which decreases when attacked by enemies, health-recovery gems and ammunition crates can be collected throughout the world to increase the player's resources. Power-ups can also be found to expand the player's health and ammunition capacity.
While progressing through the game, the player can take control of three different characters: Juno, Vela, and Lupus. Each character has a special ability that allows them to uncover areas which the other characters cannot reach. Juno can walk through magma safely, Vela can swim underwater indefinitely, and Lupus can hover for a short period of time. Therefore, choosing the right character for the right stage is critical in order to complete the game. Initially, the game forces the player to use the three characters individually until they reach a meeting point. Once they reach 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 galaxy to collect several starship parts and save a large number of survivors. The player can then use a starship and travel to the final stage.
In addition to the single-player mode, Jet Force Gemini features a multiplayer mode where two to four players can compete in traditional deathmatch games. Options such as the weapons available, the winning condition, and time limit can be changed to match player preference. Some multiplayer aspects, such as levels and characters, must be unlocked by finding the corresponding secret in the game's single-player mode. Players can also unlock racing mini-games that are played from an overhead perspective, as well as a firing range challenge, where players must shoot numerous targets while the game automatically follows a predefined path. Jet Force Gemini also features a no split-screen co-operative mode where a second player may take control of Floyd, a floating robot that automatically follows the main player character in the single-player mode.
Jet Force Gemini revolves around the Jet Force Gemini team attempting to defeat the dark insectoid tyrant Mizar and his horde of drones. The team is composed of Juno, Vela, and their wardog mascot Lupus. 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, who has been capturing and enslaving a race of survivors known as the Tribals. When Juno, Vela and Lupus are attacked by several drones, the three decide to abandon their ship and go off on their own separate paths to stop the invasion. Ultimately, the heroes find themselves reunited at Mizar's Palace and face to face with Mizar, who escapes to a nearby asteroid where he sets course to impact with Earth. To help the heroes, Tribals leader King Jeff provides them with an ancient starship that can quickly catch up to Mizar's asteroid. In return, the team must rescue all the Tribals throughout the galaxy.
After rescuing all the Tribals and restoring the starship with several needed parts, the team, along with King Jeff, departs to the asteroid and confront Mizar. To the surprise of all though, Mizar is revealed to be a robot controlled by King Jeff's jealous brother, Barry. Realising that destroying Barry's robot ruined their best chance of destroying the asteroid, the team is out of options. In an honorable notion, Floyd, a 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. The team returns to the starship and departs shortly before Floyd destroys the asteroid. Afterwards on Earth, the Jet Force Gemini team is given the highest honors for their accomplishments.
Jet Force Gemini was developed by Rare's Blast Corps team. Work on the game began in 1997 with lead engineer Paul Mountain, who had previously worked on Diddy Kong Racing. The inspirations of the game ranged from 80s arcade classics to more recent titles of the time. The free-roaming nature of Nintendo's Super Mario 64 influenced the scale and the openness of some of the backgrounds and settings, while the collecting and upgrading of weapons were inspired by Super Metroid. 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, in short, we were inspired by all the good stuff we'd played and enjoyed playing." Jet Force Gemini also borrowed elements from non-video game 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."
Originally, the game's protagonists Juno and Vela were designed as younger and more cartoon-like with large heads, but were ultimately changed to a more mature version at Nintendo's request. 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."
Since several members of the team enjoyed racing games and had also worked on Diddy Kong Racing, they 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.
In July 1999, a playable demonstration of the game was presented at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California. The game was originally intended to be released on August 31, 1999, but was pushed back to September 27 in order to give the programmers more 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, but the company did not produce any merchandise for the franchise.
Jet Force Gemini received generally positive reviews from critics. Edge described the game as "a straightforward blaster at heart", adding that "the layers of embellishment heaped upon this simple concept truly make Jet Force shine." Scott McCall of AllGame felt that Jet Force Gemini "pays homage to 8- and 16-bit games with its emphasis on high-intensity action and level design that requires skill with the controller." IGN editor Matt Casamassina remarked that, although the game has some flaws and could be more polished, it 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 sound and graphics were praised positively. IGN's Casamassina described the sound effects as "dead-on and crystal clear" and felt that the soundtrack was "some of the very best ever put into a Nintendo 64 game." Similarly, Johnny Liu of Game Revolution said that the game "goes for a more operatic feel than the generic video game techno." Nintendo Power credited the game's "visually stunning" settings and "state-of-the-art" animations and special lighting, while Game Informer noted that the game's "enormous" explosions help intensify the action. Despite the praise, critics remarked that the frame rate can drop significantly when the action increases. Edge also criticized the camera for refusing to move when the situation calls for such action, requiring players to manually enter the aiming mode to center it behind the protagonist.
While the gameplay was highlighted for its depth and length, some critics reacted negatively to the game's insistence on having to save every Tribal to fully complete the campaign mode. According to GameCritics, "Going through each level three times becomes majorly tedious [...] and finding them also lead a lot of pointless legwork". IGN felt that this task was "far too tedious to truly be enjoyed", even though Game Revolution admitted that it "is countered by the pure fun of running around tearing through giant bugs with lasers". The game's challenging artificial intelligence and variety of weapons were highlighted positively. According to IGN, "It's old-school gameplay brought into 3D and it's all extremely satisfying."
Although the minigames and co-operative mode were considered interesting, the deathmatch mode was criticised for being "slow and clunky". AllGame's McCall felt that it simply did not work due to the game's unusual manual targeting. Publications also claimed that the controls were complex and confusing. In a negative review, James Bottorff of The Cincinnati Enquirer explained that the control scheme is frustrating because players are required to change from using the analog stick to the C buttons of the Nintendo 64 controller when switching to combat mode. GameSpot said that the controls remain responsive at all times, but acknowledged that the alternation between the two control styles "might prove distasteful to some". In a retrospective review, Andy Green of Nintendo Life stated that Jet Force Gemini is "a really enjoyable game" with "its fair share of flaws that tend to hinder the experience a little too much. That being said, it's certainly an incredibly fun title, at its best, that will definitely raise a few smiles".
A Game Boy Color version of Jet Force Gemini was in development in 2000, but was ultimately cancelled. The 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 commented: "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."
In 2000, Jet Force Gemini was ranked by IGN at number 20 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. Subsequent games developed by Rare 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. The game is included as part of the Rare Replay video game compilation for Xbox One, with support for dual-analog controls being added post-release.
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