Nostalgia….it’s not always a good thing.
Game companies have a real bad habit of looking at their back catalogue & thinking they can make a quick buck by giving it a touch-up & re-releasing it. It doesn’t always work (I’m looking at you Dragon’s Lair & Sonic Adventure) but when the company gets it right the results are amazing (Beyond Good & Evil, Banjo Kazooie). SEGA are one of the biggest culprits for giving their games a HD touch & sending back out into the world but when you have a back catalogue like them, why not?
SEGA’S latest re-release is the much loved ex-Dreamcast game, Jet Set Radio (also known as Jet Grind Radio in other regions). It was first released on the SEGA Dreamcast in June 2000 & is well-known for spear-heading the use of cel-shading graphics in games. What is now common place in games (Borderlands, The Walking Dead) was unheard of back at the start of the new millennium.
The game begins in the city of Shibuya-cho & introduces the character, Professor K. He is the DJ for a pirate radio station based in Tokyo-to called, Jet Set Radio. He sets about explaining the characters & why they skate around spray-painting. Throughout the game almost all the cut-scenes & plot points will be told by him.
The city is split into turfs & it is your aim to take over all the turf by spray-painting your tag within a set amount of time/life. You will have to contend with rival gangs, the police/army (whose difficulty increases the more tagging you do) & eventually a sinister group of men in black suits.
To ‘tag’ the player must skate around the levels, ranging from a busy commuter street to a city of high-rise buildings & collect spray paint cans. The max number a player can hold is depending on who the player has selected & on each level there will b a set number of ‘tag points’ marked by red arrows (green arrows are for additional points but not necessary to finish the level). Some ‘tags’ just require a single press of the button while others are bigger & require the player to follow directional movements on the pad to complete.
Every so often when selecting a level the player will challenged by a new character who wishes to join the gang but only if you can do what they do such as beating them in a race or copying a complicated move they do. These are good as they help break up the levels & offer a minimal challenge.
The HD treatment of Jet Set Radio is good to look at, every level seems crisp & sharp & the levels vibrant colours really stand out. The games age occasionally shows when looking at some the backgrounds but mostly it could pass for a modern day arcade game.
What was new back in 2000 has been done by many games now so that feeling of ‘wow look at this’ just isn’t there now even if you had never played the game back on the Dreamcast.
My one major criticism comes from the controls & how precise landings can be very difficult. To move your chosen skater you must push forward on the pad, you can get a momentary boost by pulling the left trigger & the right trigger will activate your graffiti skills. Moving around the level is generally smooth & to grind all you need to do is jump on whatever you want to grind on. The problems come when jumping, often the controls will force the skater to veer to the left or right & if you are trying to land on something small you will miss it. This is very frustrating in levels where you need to climb up high as it means a long fall to the bottom just for you to go back & try again.
Other then that the controls are fine, ‘tagging’ is simple enough. Even the longest ‘tags’ only require you to follow along with making ups/downs/half-circle’s/full circles clockwise or anti-clockwise on the stick.
Jet Set Radio’s music is one of the highlights of the game both back on the Dreamcast & now. A mixture of original & licensed music combined from a number of genres including J-pop, Hip-Hop & Electronic/Dance music. It is some the wackiest songs I have ever heard but fits the game completely.
There was a worry that SEGA would not be able to include the entire games original soundtrack (Crazy Taxi had this issue) but SEGA managed to secure the rights to all but one song in the end. Both newcomers & returning gamers will thoroughly enjoy exploring the Jet Set Radio world with this soundtrack thumping out.
Achievements – How tough?
Tough enough to make you work for your 400 gamerscore. There are 60 collectibles to collect across all levels as well as top ratings to work towards on each level.
There a few ‘unlock a certain character’ related ones & their requirements will have you doing a number of different things. A few easy ones require you to fall from a great height & make 100 civilians jump out of the way – you will get these ones without trying.
A varying degree of difficulty is on offer & seasoned gamers will be able to mop up quickly enough.
SEGA has taken a serious amount of time to make sure Jet Set Radio wouldn’t disappoint….& it doesn’t. The levels are varied enough that exploring is fun rather than tedious, the increasing challenge will keep even the best gamer on their toes & the game is just the right amount of length with plenty of playability afterwards.
The challenge to get the best rating (Jet) will keep many coming back for more to squeeze out a few extra tricks here & there to get maximum points (as well as the related achievements).
In Jet Set Radio’s case nostalgia is a good thing.
Jet Set Radio