Review: Jet Set Radio leaves its mark on the gaming world

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By Spencer Pressly

The Sega Dreamcast is a video game system that never gained popularity like the PlayStation did in the late 90s.

The Dreamcast still had many amazing games and one of the most beloved of all the games is Jet Set Radio. Released in June of 2000, the game was called Jet Grind Radio and introduced people to cel shading. Cel shading is what gives a game that cartoony and almost Pixar like feeling in a game. This has been used in Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Borderlands and the new Walking Dead game.

Jet Set Radio is still unlike any other game to this day. Even though the game never sold well the series gained quite the cult following and now Sega has re-released the game in HD as a downloadable game for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.

The game has an extremely minimalistic approach to the story and how it portrays its characters. The story follows main character Beat as he starts his skate gang, the GG’s, as they take over all of Tokyo-to, which is based on real life Tokyo. You will encounter many other skaters who can join your gang as well as other rival gangs who will try and stop you from taking over their turf. The city also has an oddly obsessed police department that will stop at nothing to keep these gangs from tagging the city with their graffiti.

The characters you play as the GG’s give little to no information about what they are doing in the gang, but that doesn’t matter in the game. The characters all look so different visually and have such personality with the tricks they do and the way they skate, which leads to a very diverse gang at the end of the game.

Unlike other alternative sports games of the era, such as Tony Hawk, Jet Set Radio takes a very simplistic take on how the game plays. You skate around the city tagging wherever you can and pulling off tricks as you grind all over the place. Tagging a wall with graffiti can be done with the press of a button, but bigger tags will need some finesse. This leads to a series of analog movements until your art is all sprayed on perfectly.

The controls are nowhere near perfect and are one of the most dated aspects of play. The controls can feel unresponsive at times, normally when it really matters and this can lead to an unnecessary moment of rage. After a few hours of playing you get used to it, but that doesn’t excuse the controls not being fixed when other aspects of the game, such as the camera, were greatly improved.

Presentation is where this game holds up the best and what keeps it a timeless classic. It is only too bad that the slowdown from the original game is still in this HD version and it really takes you out of the experience.

This is such a great visual style that is not used enough in today’s games. Art direction really shines in this just from looking at the city and all the different graffiti designs. The re-release also includes fan-submitted designs to use as your tags around town, which was a nice touch for diehard fans of the game.

Visuals don’t make this game alone, the other half of what made this game a classic is the soundtrack. Many different genres are represented here such as J-pop, rock, hip hop, acid jazz, funk, electronic dance music and Trip Hop. Playing this game with headphones on and turning background music up all the way makes you feel immersed in the experience. There are not enough good things to say about the wide variety of songs and even though they seem to be a mix of completely different genres,
it works.

The game is nowhere near expensive and it is extremely convenient to download and start playing. The $10 price point is a good fit for the amount of content in the game. The story mode will not take you more than a weekend to complete. There are a lot of side missions to complete and trophies and achievements to unlock when it is all said and done.

Sega truly did a great job by re-releasing this game for fans new and old to enjoy once again. Even with its few problems, the game holds up as the classic people talk about 10 years after its original release.

So if you are a fan you probably don’t need any more convincing to pick up this game. Thankfully there is a demo you can play to check out the game if you are still unsure if this will be the right fit for you.

Note: this game was played on PS3.

Contact Spencer Pressly, staff reporter, at spressl2@jccc.edu.

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