It’s time for another Bring it Back feature, where we look back at games of yesteryear and why they should be brought back to the modern days of gaming. Last week, we looked at Nintendo’s Geist franchise, citing the potential of the concept. This week, we look at a Rare classic from the Nintendo 64 days that frankly doesn’t get talked about enough. Of course, we’re talking about Jet Force Gemini. With the way games have evolved, this is a game that would do well with a modern update.
Jet Force Gemini was a game that came about from trying to make a Super Mario 64-like platformer, but with guns. Using remnants from Diddy Kong Racing and Blast Corps, Rare came together to make a game that would fill the void of 3D Metroid games during the Nintendo 64 era. At the time, the game would have a heavy emphasis on platforming. Unfortunately, the platforming elements started to conflict with the shooting, so it eventually became a smaller focus. The early concept stages started by using assets from Diddy Kong Racing and cartoonish kids with large heads. Nintendo didn’t like the idea of kids shooting and killing, so the game was given a more mature look and began to develop in a different direction. Thanks to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, more exploration elements would integrate themselves into the game.
Rare was using a lot of sci-fi pop culture references to formulate the concept of the game. Naming characters after stars and constellations, space was the name of the game. The game was getting a lot of attention at trade shows, but it would still end up getting delays before fully releasing in October, 1999. Not only would it include a single player mode, but a co-op multiplayer mode for two players as well. Of course, there was a more competitive version of the multiplayer as well for four players. This included a death match, and even a racing mode (more on this later).
Players would begin a story that introduces them to three characters: Juno, Vela, and Lupus. Together, they form the team of Jet Force Gemini. After receiving an alert of ant-like aliens attacking a nearby planet, the team is suddenly also attacked by the same bugs. During the attack, Vela and Lupus escape to the nearby planet Goldwood while Juno stays back to fight. Eventually, Juno would get his chance to escape, and that’s where the player takes control. Landing on the planet Goldwood, Juno would meet up with the Tribals and their king Jeff, who catches him up on the details. An alien insect by the name of Mizar is leading insect drones in an attack against the galaxy. It’s up to the three Jet Force Gemini members to travel the galaxy while saving Tribals. As they take their journeys, they’ll all meet up again at Mizar’s palace.
The game would be a third-person shooter, giving players access to multiple weapon and armor upgrades along the way. Players could auto-target enemies, but they would also be able to manually aim for more precise shots. Collecting gems would regenerate your health and ammunition packs would increase the magazine on your weapons. The gameplay would put a large emphasis on rescuing each and every Tribal, making the game essentially a search and rescue mission. Players would have to be careful though, as the Tribals could die during a mission. To make it easier, you’d have a tracker to let you know how many Tribals were left in each area.
Missions would include swimming through underwater tunnels, unlocking various paths, and even large scale boss battles. Players would travel from planet to planet as Juno for the first part of the game before reaching Mizar’s palace. They would then take control of Vela, taking on her quest across the galaxy, with Lupus following behind. When starting as new characters, you won’t have the same upgrades, but you’ll often start with all the new weapons very quickly. Once all three characters meet up at the palace, players will have the ability to choose their character freely. Oddly enough, your first mission after reuniting is to disguise yourself as a drone and take part in a race. It seems Rare couldn’t get Diddy Kong Racing out of their system just yet.
Like a typical Metroid game, players would eventually be able to go back to older areas to find new tools. Thanks to their newer upgrades, they’ll gain access to out of reach areas from earlier. These upgrades are typically necessary for the battle ahead, as Mizar now plots an asteroid toward planet Earth. There’s a lot more to the story that we won’t spoil here. Overall, Jet Force Gemini had a lot of praise upon release, especially for the graphics. That’s not to say that there wasn’t any negative feedback. Many people were having trouble with the controls in the game, mostly due to the nature of the Nintendo 64 controller. A lot of critics also weren’t a fan of the heavy emphasis on saving all the Tribals.
There was a lot of evidence that Jet Force Gemini was meant for bigger things. A Game Boy Color title was in the works, and even got close to completion before an untimely cancellation. 4Kids licensed the series to produce toys and other merchandise, but nothing ever came out of the deal. There was even a plan for a webcomic, Jet Force Gemini Adventures, but even that didn’t see the light of day. Thankfully, the game got recognition when Microsoft released Rare Replay for the Xbox One in 2015. This collection not only gave Jet Force Gemini a visual enhancement, but even included a lot of behind the scenes details for the game. Despite this, we still haven’t seen any other announcements about this beloved classic, which is why we need to Bring it Back!
In a lot of ways, Jet Force Gemini is an easy answer to Insomniac’s Ratchet & Clank series. Sony is continuing to ride that train nearly 20 years later with their upcoming Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Microsoft doesn’t have too many third-person shooter franchises outside of Gears of War, but their acquisition of Rare puts Jet Force Gemini in their stable. There is a ton of potential for this series, especially given the pretty simple premise. We already have a remaster in the form of Rare Replay, so at this point, the next step is to make a follow up. Considering how several Rare properties are getting sequels these days it would make sense. With the way the original looks, an update would have a ton of potential, especially with the graphics of today.
As for who would develop a continuation, it’s tough to say. Dlala Studios was the team behind Battletoads, and The Initiative is developing Perfect Dark. While Rare is involved in the development, it does seem like they get help from other studios. For something like Jet Force Gemini, where characters use lots of guns to take down alien insects, there’s only one team I would turn to. Not a lot of people know who Sandlot is, but they’ve been making Earth Defense Force games since 2002. As another game where players shoot at alien insects, especially large ones, this would be a perfect collaboration. With Microsoft’s funding, Rare’s quality control, and Sandlot’s experience, this would be a perfect way to continue the series.
A lot of people have fond memories of Jet Force Gemini, so hopefully Rare can see the potential in reviving the classic. What do you think? Would you like to see a brand new entry to the series? Perhaps a more up to date look for Juno, Vela and Lupus? Let us know in the comments below! Also stay tuned for next week for another Bring it Back feature. Next week, we’ll be looking back at a classic EA title that many have forgotten about. We’ll see you then.
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