What do you get when you cross elements from Body Harvest, Banjo-Kazooie, Star Wars, E.T., Gremlins and (insert obligatory pop-culture musical reference) Atari Teenage Riot? I'll give you a hint: it's not Dino Crisis. That was a joke. Anyway, the game that I'm beating around the bush about is Rare's latest foray into the action-adventure genre: Jet Force Gemini.
Jet Force Gemini just feels so right when you play it. Everything about it, from the graphics to the play mechanics... it's all near perfect. Rare has always been able to bring out what people are looking for in a video game. Jet Force Gemini, if nothing else, reaffirms my convictions pertaining to Rare as one of the industry's premiere developers.
In JFG, you take control of one of three space-hero type people. You've been sought out by King Jeff to free a race of aliens from the evil Mizar. Be prepared to face enemies, of all types, of all breeds of evil, but mostly you'll be killing everyone's favorite antagonists: mutant, alien, bugs.
Rare has pulled off yet another graphical miracle on the "fun machine." Even without expansion pack support, JFG looks better than just about anything that the system has to offer. The environments, for example, are massive. Probably the biggest levels on the N64 with the gigantic Body Harvest a close second. There's no sign of clipping or draw in as far as the eye can see and the fogging effect that has plagued so many great games seems to have been left on the cutting room floor. Words cannot describe how solid everything is and how fluid it all moves. Even the character models exude this visual consistency. From the protagonist to the most expendable drone, everyone looks perfect. If I didn't know that I was playing an N64, I could easily be fooled into believing that I was playing a Dreamcast. It looks that good.
The lucrative audio could easily contend with anything Danny Elfman or Skywalker sound could offer. The laser blasters, the explosions, the squeals of dying bugs, and everything else that could be done to create a thoroughly engrossing aural experience is pulled off flawlessly. The voices in the game are reminiscent of those found in Banjo-Kazooie. Instead of having every different race or tribe speak english, they all make these obnoxiously cute grunts, sighs, or chirps to follow along with the text. The music is epic as epic can be. If I ever got pissed off because I was lost in one of the HUGE levels, I'd just rest and listen to the music, which would reinvigorate my thirst for battle. I don't think many people can say that about their games.
And the game itself plays so well too! Who could imagine that Rare would have another blockbuster title on their hands? The control is tight, responsive, and intelligently designed. The difficulty seems a bit hard at first, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be tearing through of waves of buggies like wet toilet paper. There's also the incentive of exploration that so many 3-D games have incorporated in the past. The more you explore, the more pretty stuff you'll see and you'll find more powerful weapons to unlock.
My only gripe is that this game looks like it would be geared towards a younger audience. Unfortunately, any kid who picks up a copy because he/she likes the cartoony visuals is probably going to get stuck very, very quickly. The game is far too vast to be played by the same gamers that were attracted to Banjo Kazooie or Super Mario 64. While those games were also pretty large, relative to JFG, they're the size of the first level Fighting Force 64.
Jet Force Gemini deserves to go down in history as one of the best action-platformers off all time. The game is a work of art from beginning to end. I just hope that the hype surrounding Donkey Kong 64 and Perfect Dark won't overshadow it.
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