When I was younger, I got so close to beating Jet Force Gemini but never could because I couldn’t save all the Tribals (cute cuddly bear people). This stopped me from being able to go and fight the final boss.
Now, after 20 years, I have the opportunity to give it another go. Jet Force Gemini felt extremely ambitious for its time: a third person shooter with multiple characters. There are 10 main worlds to explore with hidden secrets, and a few bonus places to find, lots of weapons to find (including ones you can miss if you don’t explore), and bears to save.
You play as siblings Juno and Vela, as well as their dog Lupus (the best character). You get attacked by an army of Ant Drones and are separated. Each of them head to big boss Mizar’s Palace via their own journeys to take on the villain. At this point, you can’t access all the doors, which means you can’t save all the Tribals yet. Your main focus is getting to the end of each level, although exploration will reward you with more health, more weapons and bigger ammo capacity.
Once you’ve teamed up together, you’ll get upgraded suits and revisit the previous planets to search for ship parts and save the Tribals. You are hunting for ship parts and have to use the skills of each character to do so: Juno can survive in lava, Vela can swim underwater and Lupus can traverse gaps without needing any jetpack fuel (which Juno and Vela can use for their jetpacks, but only in certain areas).
Each world is set into different “areas” (the game clearly marks the end and start of these) which reset each time you leave. This means you have to find all the tribals in one go, miss one and you’ll have to go back and find all of them again. Jet Force Gemini can also be very cruel: Tribals will be next to explosive barrels (sometimes out of view with enemies nearby), some enemies will target Tribals, at one point I encountered flying enemies and shot them, only to discover that a tribal was hiding behind a crate and was killed by the explosion.
That said, this time around finding the Tribals didn’t seem too bad. Exiting an area and returning isn’t so bad, and you can prioritise the more dangerous ones first. You’ll learn which areas you’ll need to revisit as who and eventually find everything you need to fight the final boss. I did enjoy the fight, but I wish you could have chosen who to take on the final boss as.
The controls in Jet Force Gemini take some getting used to, and the original controls are a complete nightmare. It tried to do a full 3rd person shooter on an N64 controller with one analogue stick. The Rare Replay has a “modern controls” option which is a must. Here, when you aim, it takes on a more modern way of shooting, letting you move with the left stick and aim with the right. I found myself using this for the whole game instead of using the autoaim that happens when you don’t try to target. It’s a great addition and makes the game much more playable.
The soundtrack is also phenomenal, making Jet Force Gemini feel like an epic sci-fi adventure.