Review by Mariner
"Can the fun factor override the tediousness?"
Jet Force Gemini was one of Rare’s “big three,” one of their late N64 games to try to stimulate interest in the N64 (the other two were Perfect Dark and DK64). Unfortunately, PD was the only one to escape major complaints. Also unfortunately, JFG was the only one that flopped. It is also the 3D Megaman or Metroid that never was. Despite a few major flaws, it proved that it was possible to make a great third person shooter. And so here’s the review for a game that is, quite simply, a love it or hate it game.
Genre - Adventure (Third Person Shooter)
Story - 8 - Presumably based off of Starship Troopers, and is yet another humans vs bugs space war. Humanity is allied with the pacifistic teddy bear-like Tribals. However, the emperor of a relatively small empire, Mizar, has created spawning labs to create armies of insect drones. With this new force, he captures the Tribal homeworld, enslaves the Tribals, and smashes the Jet Force fleet there. Only the Gemini team escapes, and the three of them must fight their way to Mizar’s palace. Yet he escapes in an asteroid aimed at Earth. Only a Tribal ship can catch up to it in time, but the cheif won’t give it to you until you rescue all of the Tribals. Somewhat standard, but there are a few nice places. Characterization is pretty good as well, at least for the two main characters (the dog doesn’t get much characterization).
Graphics - 10 - These are some of the most beautiful graphics on the N64. The characters are very detailed, the effects are nice, and there is very little slowdown considering the amount of action that can take place. The environments are amazing, with a massive draw distance on massive worlds. It truly serves to draw you into the game. And, of course, there is the surreal and somewhat crazy atmosphere that Rare is so good at making. The bugs themselves are somewhat cute, the characters are rather cartoony, but all that changes when you start firing. Bugs will explode, green blood splatters everywhere, and limbs will skitter across the ground. Definitely very nice touch there. All things considered, the graphics are one of the best things about this game.
Sound - 9.5 - Another plus. This is the first Rare game to use surround sound, and the quality of the music is pretty darn good. It is very sci-fi-ish, and also serves to draw you into the game. The opening track is very theatrical, and the level music is subdued and perfectly suits your surroundings. The sound effects are pretty nice too. Your weapons sound futuristic, water splashes, and so forth. The best sounds, of course, are the squeals from the bugs as they slowly die, and the splattering of blood. This game can get pretty sadistic. The grunts from Juno and squeals from Vela can get annoying, but it is only a very minor complaint. The music and sound effects of the game really help to pull this game together and give you a completely immersive experience.
Gameplay - 7.5 - Here’s the point where things start to go wrong. At least, it seems ok in the beginning. It is a third person shooter, which has yet to be implemented perfectly. The only camera control you get, however, is to force it behind you (like pressing Z in Zelda), along with aiming obviously. This generally works out fine, and I have no problems with it. The auto aim also makes sure that you aren’t too frustrated. And enemy AI is superb. The bugs cover each other, strafe, and so forth. However, the aiming system is tough, as you only wave your weapon around while holding R. A lock on system would be nice. And the jetpacks are absolutely impossible to maneuver with. Yet, level by level, gameplay is pretty good. However... forced collecting kills the game. After beating Mizar the first time, you have to go back and rescue ALL of the Tribals. This is tedious and bothersome, especially when there are executioner drones that kill the Tribals (and Tribals often get caught in crossfires). The tedious backtracking and such makes the game’s fun factor take a nose dive. However, I do have to say that Rare included a mini arcade game, which is pretty much an NES style racing game. It’s cool. But, if you don't mind not finishing the game, it's still an incredible experience while the fun lasts. It just so happens that the fun doesn't last throughout the entire game.
Challenge - 7.5 - It depends on what you mean by challenge. The game is often a challenge level by level. Enemy AI, as stated, is great, and gets steadily more difficult as one progresses. The bosses are very difficult, but the presence of unlimited continues when you meet them and plenty of available ammo make the game more enjoyable and less frustrating. The game is not too hard and not too easy. But the forced collecting makes it impossible to beat. At least, it is next to impossible without an FAQ (but that's what this site is here for, isn't it?). And even with them, it is extraordinarily difficult. And, of course, Tribals die easily, so you may find yourself collecting all but one, having it die, and go through the entire 30 minute level again. Frustrating? Most definitely yes.
Replay - 1 - No, no, and no. Rare has made a point of insuring that all replay value is killed while finishing the game the first time. You cannot win unless you find everything of value, so there’s no point in going back to see if you can get more Tribals or anything. Also, you will end up playing each level multiple times, so there’s no reason to want to play through it again. And, of course, the game is so frustrating in itself that you will not want to go through the turmoil again. There are things to unlock in multiplayer, but multiplayer is pretty useless anyways (at least useless enough not to care what you don’t unlock). So no, there is no replay value.
Overall - 8.3 - Despite it’s glaring faults, this can be a fun game. It is totally immersive due to the excellent graphics and sound, and I think most people enjoyed it for awhile. And that's the problem. Although it is great at first, it becomes tedious. Granted, you're already 15 hours into the game by then, so it's not like it isn't worth the money (especially since it can be found for $15 these days). Unfortunately, its poor sales mean that the chances of a sequel are slim, which is sad. This is the type of game that can be improved to near perfection. In any case, the game proves that 3rd person shooters can work, and that forcible collecting is not fun.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/14/01, Updated 11/14/01
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