From a Gamer’s Basement

Alright, so one week removed from semester break, and already school threatens to drive me to new heights of insanity. Luckily none of that is your problem, and all you get to hear me talk about is this week’s topic of From a Gamer’s Basement: Guilty Pleasures. We all have them when it comes to video games. Some of us could, I am sure, define Pokemon as such a guilty pleasure, because while Pokemon never gets the credit it deserves for its complexities and little nuances, it is widely considered a game meant for the kids of the world. But really, a guilty pleasure could be nearly just about anything out there. You know it’s bad, or not your style, or just flat out weird, but you still can’t pry yourself away from it. I’m sure I could sit here and list some of the most widely shared guilty pleasures of video gaming, but honestly that’s just not my style. I like to give real life examples that I have, and go from there. So today we will examine one of the biggest guilty pleasures I have in terms of video games. I hear the game I am about to talk about get panned every now and again, and unless I travel to a nearly abandoned board specifically about this game I rarely find some honestly good remarks about it. It ranks as one of my top five all time favorite games, and to this day I still play it (hell, it’s the only reason outside of Mariokart 64 that I keep my old N64 around.) One of Rare’s lost gems; today we exult, praise, bow down too, and generally make a huge fuss about: Jet Force Gemini!

So let’s get down to it, as I apply the time tested Inside Pulse Games review format to a game that I, admittedly, am a bit obsessed/maniacal about (a bit? Who the hell am I trying to fool?).

1. Story

Well it isn’t Shakespeare, but it’s not so offensive that you must turn the game off as soon as humanly possible. You play as a team of three professional hunters: Juno, Vela, and…their dog Lupus. Your mission is to topple the evil big Mizar who is causing all sorts of trouble in the universe, particularly by sending his armies after the peaceful people called the Tribals (think Ewoks) and forcing them into slavery. From there it is basically a crush, kill, destroy mission as you mow through many levels of countless insects, saving Tribals along the way until. It’s basic, but it’s fun. And hell playing as a dog with guns equipped on his back has a certain odd appeal to it as well. Still, I didn’t end up loving this game for the story. As you will see as we march onwards there are a ton of other areas that JFG excels in.

Overall Story Rating: 6/10

2. Graphics

When JFG hit the streets, I really think the graphics for this game were unique and very well suited towards the game. While certainly not revolutionary, its clear Rare did a very nice job designing this game. The best aspect of the game graphically is, by far, the backgrounds of the levels you progress through. Ranging from the belly of a giant insect, to abandoned and creepy space stations, to beautiful and lush grasslands every background is done just right. The environments seemingly come to life as you play, as you can’t help but get into the experience as you move through wherever you are at the moment. The enemies are also very nice to look at; as each distinctive foe has its own little details, weapons, etc that adds a nice feeling of variety and strategy as you fight the hordes of insects that come at you. For a game on the Nintendo 64, I really believe JFG pushed the system to its limits in a lot of ways and the results are definitely more than agreeable. Rare was at it’s peak of popularity on the N64 at the time, and JFG holds up to the standard I came to expect from them graphically with such other nice looking titles like Perfect Dark, Donky Kong 64, etc. also on their impressive resume.

Overall Graphics Rating: 8/10

3. Sound

Ok, even I can be reasonable here: I have a love/hate relationship with the sound. Sometimes it’s brilliant. While being subtle it still manages to totally fit the mood and play off your emotions at just the right time. One of my favorite examples of this is the level that consists of a space station that is seemingly completely abandoned except for a few bugs here and there. The music is simple, but it so completely goes with the creepy and dark atmosphere that you find yourself holding your breath as you edge out around the next corner, your weapon ready to splatter whoever shows up. If every level was like that I would continue to shout the praises of JFG in a generally embarrassing fashion. Yet, while sometimes the sound it great, when it’s bad it’s abysmal. Some levels (mostly outside world levels) will become less fun if you get lost or stuck, and you are forced to listen to this slow, simplistic, and monotonous music. It’s a flaw, but I decided early on while I was playing JFG to ignore said flaw because I was already completely under the spell the game weaved around me. But remember, this is my guilty pleasure, and not yours. While I was able to get over it, some people may not be able to. Still, I would be remiss if I didn’t stress how little of a detail I find this to be when you look at JFG as a complete package.

Overall Sound Rating: 6/10

4. Controls

This one is a given people. I don’t care what anyone says, to me is a control scheme sucks there is no way I would be able to get into and enjoy the game in question. Jet Force Gemini provides ones of the smoothest, and well designed control schemes I ever used on a N64 game. When I think about how bad the actual N64 controllers are, and then how great they made use of the damaged goods they had to work with my appreciate for JFG only grows. The learning curve for the control scheme is about an hour in terms of actual gameplay, and once you have it down you are set to go as you happily massacre whatever the hell decides to step into your path. It also really does not matter which of the three characters you are at the time, because all three work very well within the context of the gameplay. Switching through your weapons is simple, as it moving, and shooting (and being accurate as your do so). Everything else you can think of also runs just as well, as the menu’s are well designed and easy to navigate with a lot of specification put into them so you can keep track of everything you have collected, uncovered, and so on. What it comes down to is that JFG rocks out when it comes to the control scheme, and that alone makes it worth the mere five dollars you can get this for if you hunt around a bit.

Overall Control Rating: 10/10

5. Balance

Jet Force Gemini is challenging. I don’t just know this from playing it. I also know this from those people I have come across who trash JFG. Their number one complaint: They got stuck and in their frustration just gave up because the game was “too hard”. To tell you the truth, people who cop that excuse with me obviously don’t know what a video game really should be. I don’t like my video game to be three hours long and utterly devoid of anything resembling an adequate challenge. I want a video game that definitely gets me riled when I screw up, or fail a level. It only makes me want to go back again and try twice as hard to completely annihilate the game. JFG is just like that. It makes you want to find all the secrets, and successfully rescue all the bug’s hostages in the levels. And none of it is easy. The sheer numbers of enemies in some of these stages is mind boggling, and as your progress further and further it only gets harder. The final boss of the game is also one of the most challenging I have ever faced. He takes practice, precision, and a lot of skill to defeat, but when you finally do it is well worth the feeling you’ll have afterwards. JFG is for those of us seeking a first person shooter that isn’t simply going around and fragging everything with little risk of failure.

Overall Balance Rating: 10/10

6. Replayability

With three different characters that you will play from, a very nice amount of levels, huge amounts of secrets and challenges for you to do, AND a very cool multi-player mode that can be enhanced by some of those secrets Jet Force Gemini is a game that I always find myself going back to when I find myself out of good material to play. I mean, really, what did you expect out of me with this category? It’s my guilty pleasure, the game I don’t pull out when friends come to visit (they, sadly are in the naysayer group when it comes to JFG), so naturally when I’ve got some time to kill this games comes out and I enjoy my JFG goodness. It’s a shame my friends don’t enjoy this game, because killing my girlfriend in multi-player mode really isn’t fun. When I lived at home my brother was some very real and tough competition and that certainly kicked copious amounts of ass. Still, if you enjoy this game as much as I do, there is no way you will come out of it saying there is no replay value in it. I am not sure just how many times I have played through it, although it may approach double digit numbers by now. And if you wondering: no I am still not even close to being tired of it.

Overall Replayability Rating: 9/10

7. Originality

Well, it’s a tough call here. While a first person shooter on a system, which admittedly, was a haven for that particular genre of game is particularly original, I think that a game that does it better than the rest deserves some recognition. While I am sure those Perfect Dark and Goldeneye enthusiasts will disagree, all I can is that this is my column and not yours so deal with it bitches. Ok well maybe that’s a bit harsh, but honestly I feel while JFG is not overly original it does do everything it does with a style all to its own and with a quality that is hard to match. I’m reasonable though so we’ll agree to disagree here. It’s a great game, but it doesn’t break the barrier in terms of revolutionary new stuff.

Overall Originality Rating: 6/10

8. Appeal

It’s plainly obvious that I am jaded when it comes to JFG. I love this game, and have since the day I started playing it. It’s a fun shooter that really goes the extra mile to make you take notice of just how great of a game it is. Yet for some reason, I seem to be in the vast minority of those who think like that. It all comes down to preference. Sometimes the most unique thing in the world can be just as boring to another person. Still, if you haven’t played JFG and have a N64 sitting around it’s not like it will break the bank to throw down a five spot for it. Give it a shot. I think you’ll be very pleasantly surprised with the results.

Overall Appeal Rating: 8/10

9. Addictiveness

To me it’s like the drug of choice when it comes to the N64. And, unlike most others, I love the N64 and a lot of games on it. But above the rest of the games on that system stands Jet Force Gemini. If you get into it, you fall hard and fast. The first time I played it through it took over my life. Others wondered what the hell was I doing with a game they did not particularly see the good in, but I was helpless. I still am. It’s has a ton of things to do, a great control scheme, nice graphics, and an overall feel that I just can’t find in many other places. Addicted? Way past it my friends…way past it.

Overall Addictiveness Rating: 10/10

10. Miscellaneous

I’ve said all I can really. It’s cheap, it’s around in most stores that carry used N64 games (Gamecrazy especially) and it’s worth a shot. All in all I think it’s a shame it never caught on like some of the other shooters of it’s time. Rare really had a monopoly on shooters at this time in gaming history, and this one just got lost in the shuffle despite its charms. It does the little things right and it is just downright fun to play, while still presenting a great challenge. After writing all this I wonder if I should really be feeling this guilty about my guilty pleasure? But those always in the minority never get why the rest of society just doesn’t get it:)

Overall Miscellaneous Rating: 7/10

Story Rating: 6/10
Graphics Rating: 8/10
Sound Rating: 6/10
Controls Rating: 10/10
Balance Rating: 10/10
Replayability Rating: 9/10
Originality Rating: 6/10
Appeal Rating: 8/10
Addictiveness Rating: 10/10
Miscellaneous Rating: 7/10

Overall Final Rating: 8.0

So there you have it my official guilty pleasure reviewed Inside Pulse style. So now it would be cool if some of you e-mailed me telling me what weird, bad, unappreciated, or just flat out messed up game you play or have played that falls under the guilty pleasure category. I’ll share some of the responses I get in next week’s column. See you all next week.