Jet Set Radio Review (XBLA HD Version)

Jet Set Radio Review (XBLA HD Version)

Developer(s):

Smilebit, Blit Software (HD Version)

Publisher(s):

Sega

Console(s):

Sega Dreamcast, PS3 (PSN), Xbox 360 (XBLA), PC (Steam), PlayStation Vita

Release Dates:

Dreamcast: October 30, 2000 (NA)/ June 29, 2000 (JP)/ November 24, 2000 (EU)

Steam: September 19, 2012

PSN: September 18, 2012

PlayStation Vita: October 16, 2012

XBLA: September 19, 2012

Genre:

Action-Platformer

Player(s):

Single

Rating:

T (Lyrics & Mild Violence)

-Marcus Lawrence

When I heard that Sega planned on releasing the HD version of the cult classic Jet Set Radio for the Xbox 360, I was ecstatic! While I never played the original, Jet Set Radio Future was my go to game for when I was bored or just looking for a good time. Grinding on rails and tagging locations in Shibuya-Cho definitely made the game for me. Add in the funky soundtrack and you’re liable to have a good time. As I did my research and found out that Jet Set Radio had those very same elements, I knew it would be a day one purchase. Throughout my playthrough, I came to the conclusion that Jet Set Radio and Jet Set Radio Future were two very different games. The basic elements are the same but the way it is delivered greatly changes how these two play.

Hidden within Tokyo is a place where young kids go to skate around and mark up territories with their graffiti. This place is called Tokyo-to and the city is split into three sections. Shibuya-Cho, Benten-Cho and Kogane-Cho are constantly being fought over by four gangs. Residing in Shibuya is the Love Shockers, the Noise Tanks have taking up residence in Benten and the costume wearing Poison Jam’s turf is in Kogane. The player takes control of the newest gang called the GG’s and the goal is to move in on the other territories and claim them as your own. Along the way, players will have to deal with Onishima and his police force as they try to stop you from spreading graffiti across the city. The real question is… who is truly running the streets of Tokyo-to?

As I stated before, this was my first time playing Jet Set Radio in full. I assumed it would play out just like JSRF, which turned out to be both right and wrong. While the basics remain similar, the small differences I noticed added up to be a big issue for me. Had I not realized to play this game as JSR rather than JSRF, this review probably would have gone in a different direction. One day while I was playing, I experienced one of those “eureka” moments and everything began to make sense to me. Pulling off trick combos while tagging really makes you feel like a pro. Thanks to the soundtrack, playing this game is definitely an experience because the music draws you into the world. I spent hours doing nothing but just skating around, trying to nail my technique while listening to the funky beats. Those who can overlook the game’s shortcomings will be rewarded with a hidden gem of the game industry.

The purpose of the game is to take over territories by covering rival gangs’ graffiti with your own. To do this, the player must select a stage in one of the three areas to begin. Once the mission has started, you have a limited amount of time to tag all the graffiti locations. Of course, time isn’t your only enemy here; Onishima and the police force will try to stand in the way. The only thing you can do is avoid the policemen since you can’t actually do damage to them. For some laughs, there is an achievement/trophy for spray painting Onishima’s back 5 times. If you ever get hurt, there are always recovery spray cans which act like health boosts scattered across the level. In order to beat each mission, players must learn how to effectively pull off trick combos. Utilizing trick combos is a great way to explore levels faster and to reach previously inaccessible places. Mostly likely, players will have to become accustomed to the game’s controls and god awfully camera before executing well-placed combos.

At the end of each mission, players are graded with how fast they completed the mission and how many points were scored. By returning to the garage which serves as your home base, a couple of options become available. You can choose to go on another mission but depending on how many you completed, a rival may appear and challenge you. Multiple rivals will appear over the course of time and will join your crew if you can best them. Boiling down to two types of challenges, one tests your trick combo skills by having you mimic the rival’s moves. The other test is a simple race to see who can tag a location first. Once they join the GG’s, that rival becomes a playable character. Other than completing levels, the artist in you can explore the graffiti section. Here is where players can edit which graffiti they use or get creative to make their own. For those of you that just want to sit back and listen to music, the radio section is for you. Compiling all the music into one spot, players can shift through to find their favorite or just listen to the entire thing.

There is even a section for players to compare scores with friends and the rest of the online community via online leaderboards. While Jet Set Radio doesn’t offer much in regards to substance, it makes up for it in style. Known for spearheading the use of cel-shaded graphics in games, the beauty of Jet Set Radio still shines just as brightly as it did back in 2000. The art style is quite unique and a real treat for the eyes; even compared to today’s games. For those of you that haven’t seen the HD version of Jet Set Radio in action, I can assure you the HD facelift is a welcomed addition. The smooth and crisp graphics flow well in motion with little to no lag time. To this day, the soundtrack still manages to have me bumping and grooving in my chair as I skate around town. Artist names like Guitar Vader, Deavid Soul and Hideki Naganuma meant nothing to me until I played JSR. Now? Now, the entire soundtrack has been downloaded onto my iPod along with the soundtrack from JSRF. Games like Jet Set Radio are few and far apart; I’m just glad I had the opportunity to experience it.

I understand the game isn’t for everyone because I encountered some issues that could be considered “gamebreaking” to others. For example, the biggest issue I have with JSR is the camera. Considering how the game requires players to make skillful jumps and grinds, not having a camera that works properly can become annoying to say the least. Controlling your character feels stiff and at times, the controls don’t response so well. Also, players might have to redo a level two and three times before they figure out what to do. Jet Set Radio has some issues but if players can look past those ugly points, they’ll discover a simply beautiful and funky adventure.

Pros:

  • Simple pick up and play game
  • Gorgeous graphics made better thanks to HD
  • Amazing soundtrack

Cons:

  • The learning curve might discourage some people
  • Terrible camera
  • Stiff controls

JSR may just be one of those wacky Japanese titles but it certainly has charm to it. While everyone may not see it, those of us who do have come to appreciate the game and accept it. Now all we have to do is wait and see if Sega will release an HD version of Jet Set Radio Future one day. Remember to keep those fingers crossed!

Verdict: 80%

Value Verdict: Test the trail first. If you enjoyed the demo then the 10 bucks is worth it. If you didn’t like, obviously wait for a price reduction.

Jet Set Radio Hands-on Gameplay

Fans of Jet Set Radio, do you feel the HD version stayed true to the original? And for those of you who haven’t played JSR, would you be willing to give it a shot?

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Downloadable Roundup for September 30, 2012