Jet Force Gemini: Rare’s Epic Shooter Still Packs a Punch

Jet Force Gemini
Jet… Horse Gemini?

Rare’s Jet Force Gemini (1999) is something of an oddity from the developer’s library. A third-person space shooter, its heady mix of adventure and shoot-em-up action was set alongside one almighty orchestral soundtrack and some of the most impressive graphics the Nintendo 64 ever did see. It’s not perfect, but we’ve got many happy memories of this one.

Jet Force Gemini

This SOB hit the shelves in November of 1999. Yowza, 19 years ago. But a good birthday present for a young Mr. Wapojif, who hit 15 on the 21st. And what better game to take on than blowing up the evil tyrant insect overlord Mizar!?

The Jet Force Gemini elite space team is made up of three dudes: Juno, Vela, and the doggy Jupus. All have separate skills (the dog has rocket boot so can fly, for example) and weaponry that allow them to traverse the various alien landscapes you come across.

The core gameplay is about running and gunning, adventuring, and exploration. Now during this era of gaming, many games became collectathons. Donkey Kong 64 is notorious for this. So is Jet Force Gemini. Basically, any Rare game would involve gathering huge amounts of stuff (like music notes, in Banjo-Kazooie) to progress.

As a gaming mechanic it’s a way to add extra longevity to a title. But many gamers found the most frustrating element to an otherwise great game remaining with the collection of Tribal beings.

You have to ave these little bear-like creatures and they’re spread across every level. But the game’s insistence you collect EVERY single one of them is somewhat infuriating and can lead to a lot of backtracking.

But there’s still a lot to love here. After 19 years it’s showing its age, yet Rare’s ability to create compelling levels and some epic boss battles stands the test of time. Add into that some really bloody fancy graphics and a brilliant soundtrack and, despite its flaws, Jet Force Gemini is one of the Nintendo 64’s most innovative and rewarding gems.

Soundtrack

Now, with this a Rare game you expect a great soundtrack. And, boy, did it deliver. This wasn’t an effort from industry legend David Wise, for some reason, with duties instead heading to Robin Beanland, Graeme Norgate, and Alistair Lindsay.

The above music we were always rather fond of. It set the scene to beginning a level, so it got us stirred up and ready to annihilate all before us. Hell yeah!

Despite Wise’s absence from the project, there’s his sense of atmospherics and wonder to the compositions. It’s all rather ethereal and the grandeur of space is on display for your earlobes to enjoy. And even now, almost 20 years after Jet Force Gemini hit the shelves, the soundtrack has stood the test of time.

There’s a Wise style sense of atmospherics and wonder to the compositions. Robin Beanland later said he was given full creative freedom with the project, so decided on a John Williams-esque orchestral theme. Fun tidbit, the theme tune was initially intended for a Conker game. Ooh!

Rare Replay

Righto, there’s a documentary with former Rare bods above documenting the creation of Jet Force Gemini. The game made a reappearance in Rare Replay in 2015, with an HD makeover for Xbox One gamers (Microsoft bought out Rare in 2002, making it an exclusive developer for its systems).

As we went into detail in on our Perfect Dark re-review last week, Rare is a shadow of its former self. Microsoft’s highly expensive payout for the studio hasn’t resulted in much noteworthy new content. But, Rare Replay was a welcome addition… even if it’s something of a celebration of Rare’s brilliance in the past, rather than in the modern era of gaming.

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