Unless you are a guileless video gamer who sits down in front of the console or PC to pass the time, to distract yourself or even to broaden your horizons, it could be that your social status depends on what you play, why you play it and most importantly – how you find what you play. Just as in some circles you have to take a position on which movies from the MCU do justice to the comics, which grape variety had the best grape harvest the year before, or which band from the 90s has the most relevance, so it is with video games: Those who have good taste are ennobled by their peers.
Having your own taste is not easy. It must be sound, you need a broad knowledge of the subject, it must not be too mainstream, but if you deviate from it, it must elicit appreciative nods. Confirmation is the currency of this hard selection and sometimes you strike gold. You find a game that everyone should have played, but didn't.
A proven strategy is to take refuge in niches. Where there is no one else, it is easy to gain interpretive authority. Some play early access titles to be at the forefront of the next big thing. Even with small indie titles, it's easy to create the appearance of a connoisseur. But the freestyle is to have a dissenting opinion on a big title and still get recognition for it.
I've sometimes wondered if I've maneuvered myself into a bit of a tailspin by elevating Jet Force Gemini to the ranks of masterpieces of its era. It's a game released quite late in the life cycle of the N64 by Rareware, who at the time were considered a guarantor of good games. JFG, however, has had a mixed reception. Still I bought it and it made me happy. At that time without any meta-discourse and peers I wanted or could impress with my taste.
With the years the memory faded, how I saved little cute aliens on board of the SS Anubis or on the fire planet Eschebone and shot big nasty aliens to mud with my arsenal of weapons, but what remained was the feeling to have played a very special game. While I often inevitably refresh such a feeling about other games because they are omnipresent in discussions, articles, or video essays, JFG disappeared from my consciousness a little more with each passing year. At the same time I became increasingly curious if I would even like it anymore. JFG, meanwhile, was possible testimony to my exquisite taste, but doubts were mounting that perhaps it was rather the opposite. Perhaps out of this concern I never touched it again.
When my son asked me the other day to show him the second Mario Kart ever, I pulled out my N64. In the module slot was Jet Force Gemini. And on the same evening I finally tried it out and experienced one of the most beautiful video game experiences in a long time. Never before have I had the opportunity to play a favorite game as if I had never experienced it. And I never expected it to stand up to the mortgage of nostalgic transfiguration with flying colors. And not only that. With a sharpened eye, I can acknowledge and appreciate much more what this game did in 1999.
But the nicest thing is that I don't care about any of it. I don't need to analyze the level design and I don't need a trophy to prove myself to others. I also don't care how good it really is in the end. Jet Force Gemini was the game I liked and everyone else didn't for more than two decades. 2021 it's the game that brings me forgotten memories and surprises me with how happy it makes me. It's not what I feared and so much more than I had hoped for.
Jet Force Gemini was released on 29. October 1999 for the Nintendo 64 and whenever it gets to winter, I think the game. In fact, it received decent reviews and sold more than a million copies after all, but in some ways it was probably too ahead of its time. Two analog sticks and better hardware would have been good for this ambitious title. You can get a taste of it with improved controls and visuals as part of the Rare Replay Collection for Xbox One and as part of the Game Pass program.