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Well what can I say, it's the latest game FROM Rare, and it upholds their position, in my view at least, as not only the best game developers on the N64, but possibly the best game developers in the world, on any format.
Oh, and yes that does include Nintendo. You see Rare take time over their games, they will delay them even if that is to the despair of many people, but by taking the decision to delay a game, it can make it all the better. Imagine if they didn't do one of the final additions to GoldenEye, the deathmatch, it hardly bears thinking about.<br><br>But back to the game in question. Jet Force Gemini is an ambitious old school shooter that features some stunning graphics, stunning sound, fun and violence. As well as featuring the traditional smattering of typically Rare humour, which may be lost on many people. <br><br>The premise of the game is typically dodgy for a game of this sort, Mizar, the all round nasty-scum-of-the-universe type of bloke is the bad guy, and he is taking over the universe, enslaving and killing the cute little Tribals. You as members of the Jet Force Gemini team must destroy Mizar and his hordes of troops. This 'plot' gives you license to go in with the big guns blazing. What the plot doesn't do is tell you why one of the team is a cyborg dog with a gun on it's back and jets in his feet. Well you can't know everything now can you?<br><br>In the game itself you have to destroy the ant troops, try to save the Tribals, and solve a few little puzzles along the way. Killing the troops is easy enough, the control system is initially awkward, but it is difficult to see how else Rare could have implemented it given the nature of the game requiring accuracy and movement at the same time. That said control of the game does become very instinctive after a short while, however initially confusing the GoldenEye - Turok hybrid may be. Ironically I feel that the PlayStation dual shock pad with twin analogue sticks would be the best system for this game, allowing for a Robotron style of control, but as it happens the default control system is more than adequate.<br><br>Graphically this game is a showcase for the N64, and it is pushing it to the limits both in terms of detail and number of things on screen. There is one cutscene, in real-time remember, where there are at least 50 ants going into 3 different ships, all of this is in a large hanger, impressive to say the least. Thankfully the game doesn't use the RAM-Pak, I say thankfully because it is good to see Rare really pushing the standard N64 to great effect without reserving the best for those with the additional RAM. To me the game is more impressive than Zelda, featuring easily as big views, but with more special effects and more detail on the characters. Rare have managed some frankly stunning lighting and shadow effects that occur on every creature, these really add to the atmosphere. As does the art direction as a whole. In each world everything feels right, whether it is a forest environment or a space ship, everything looks in place. The same is true of the character design, three of the four main characters look suitable heroic (yes even the dog) the forth main character Floyd, the flying helicopter does not look heroic. The enemies are suitably evil looking, following an insect theme, with some of the bosses looking like extras from Starship Troopers. However special praise must be headed to the people at Rare responsible for designing the Tribals. These cute little bear-cum-ewok type things are supposed to be saved by you. But Rare have given them big cute eyes, and large fluffy ears, and big heads, nice big heads that are just begging to be hit with a shot from the sniper riffle.... Call me evil, but seeing a Tribal standing there, finger on the trigger, I defy anyone not to want to see what happens. Oh but what does happen you may be wondering. Well when you kill a creature in the game, be it friend or foe, then a whole load of blood comes out, green for bad, red for Tribals. Oh and heads come off, which can then be collected for cheat purposes. Limbs go everywhere and blood gets all up the walls, make no mistake Rare have gone evil, although evil in a cute cartoon way, take away the cutesy graphics and you do have a violent game, one of the most violent on the N64, but it's all in context, doesn't happen to humans, so it's alright.<br><br>There are some gripes about the graphics, but these are mainly down to the N64 itself, and not lack of effort on the part of Rare. First gripe, frame rates. Although the frame rates in game are more than acceptable, they do slow down in places, however not by enough to actually affect the gameplay. The main problem with frame rates occur in the cutscenes, which can sometimes make them appear jerky, which is annoying because it does detract from the impressiveness of them. Second gripe is the textures, and I feel that this is more of a technical limitation of the N64 itself. The textures are nice, but too blurry, especially in light of the Dreamcast with its vast storage space. That is not to say that the textures in JFG are bad, just well, not as good as Rare would have originally intended. Neither of these gripes are major, and it is more me being very critical of this game rather than anything intrinsically bad about the game. The game is better looking than any PlayStation game out there, and the overall graphical effect is not too far off some of the Dreamcast games out there, Soul Calibur excluded of course.<br><br>As well has having the best graphics on the N64, JFG also boasts arguably the best sound in any game on the system. This is the first Rare game to feature full Dolby Surround support, and those with TVs up to the job are in for a veritable aural treat. Bullets whiz behind you, ambient sound effects move as you would expect, enemies are now postponable by sound. Oh and the music is top too, which is odd for a N64 game, although not so for a Rare game, as all of their previous games feature great music. JFG is no exception, the sound track is very much like that of an epic sci-fi film, with grand orchestral pieces for the 'big' parts and much more atmospheric pieces for well, the moments that require more atmosphere. The music for the enemies is suitably dark, and the music for the opening forest level is just plain cool. Another triumph for Rare as JFG's sound seems to surpass all expectations you have of the N64. If only the cart had enough space for full speech for the characters though...<br><br>In traditional shoot-em ups the enemies are quite often rather dumb and stupid. Not so here. The evil ants often dodge, duck, hide, retreat, snipe and do lots of other things that are frighteningly intelligent. The fun of having gun fights against the ants is heightened by their intelligence, as it is not always best to go in all guns blazing when the enemies are hiding behind their shields and you machine gun doth not harm them... Hmm, anyways I'll set aside my pure hatred for the ants, and admit that their smart antics really add to the game, placing it a cut above the 'dumb' competition. Another good thing on the part of Rare, do they ever make a bad move in a game?<br><br>Nicely liked son. Yes Rare do make a bit of a error in this game, with one single aspect of the game failing to be as good as the rest. And the bad point isss.... Multiplayer. Shock horror. Following in the footsteps of GoldenEye is no easy task, and JFG's multiplayer modes are simply not up to scratch. The main problem is the third person perspective. It does not led itself to split screen deathmatch that well. If they made it first person then it would be better, but it would not topple GoldenEye, not by a long shot. There are a couple of cool variations, like the on rails shooter style target practice, and the racing game, but neither are spectacular. So the multiplayer falls short of hopes, but given that the one-player game is so good it's not too bad. Also given the fact that every N64 owner should own at least one copy of GoldenEye it is not really a problem either.<br><br>Basically Jet Force Gemini is a vast, epic game, that is totally impressive in one-player and should be on the shopping list of every N64 owner this Christmas. As per usual Rare come up with the goods, including a perfect PAL conversion as ever. Nice one! Oh and to save you reading between the lines; buy this game now if you own a N64
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