Despite the awkward interim development and ugly 3D of its graphics, the N64, with its eerily shaped controller and under-utilized “camera” buttons (hint: that’s what C stood for, on all four of ’em) gave birth to a staggering amount of first and second party classics during its six-year run, thanks in no small part to a little studio called Rare.
The developer who practically won the console war with Sega in the previous generation with titles like Donkey Kong Country (which still plays great, even today) and Killer Instinct (which totally doesn’t), Rare was primed to be the golden boy developer for Nintendo’s new platform, and they took full advantage.
As the developer of a staggering amount of N64 titles, Rare is single-handedly responsible for the likes of Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Blast Corps, and, of course, Goldeneye. It’s only natural that some games would get lost in the fold during that insane barrage of staggering and time-consuming titles, and alas, one of them was a little game called Jet Force Gemini.
Set amid a legion of alien planets, Jet Force Gemini puts players in the middle of an intergalactic war with a species of insectoids hellbent on concurring peaceful planets and enslaving their inhabitants. As the only survivors of a surprise attack on the legendary Jet Force, the protagonists are tasked with toppling the legion of alien forces and crippling their fleet before they reach Earth. It’s pretty standard stuff as far as sci-fi goes but where the game really shines is the depth and diversity of its gameplay.
Cobbled together as a sort of ultimate genre hybrid, Jet Force Gemini features run-and-gun sections, platforming elements, a staggering amount of well-hidden collectibles, and three playable characters with vastly different strengths and weaknesses. In fact, the small decision of which character to play as on a given planet could vastly affect your chances of success, not only in acquiring the various upgrades and collectibles but also in regard to just staying alive. Plus, one of them is a cybernetically enhanced “Wardog”. Can you say AWESOME!
As far as gripes go, there was a major one that many reviewers agreed upon: the fact that you have to save all of the Tribals, the peaceful Ewok-like aliens who have been enslaved by the Droids, in order to achieve the ending of the game. This forced players to be incredibly dedicated and thorough in order to even finish the game, an aspect that rubbed some folks the wrong way. Stalwart completionists and Rare aficionados, of course, had no objection to collecting everything before finishing the adventure but some people just want to play games on a more fun and casual level (the mooks!).
Still, as one of only a few Rare classics to never receive a sequel or reboot, Jet Force Gemini remains a hidden gem in the truest extent of the term, and one can only hope that it will get its proper due with the purported upcoming revival that Rare has been hinting at as of late.