September 18, 2012

Review – Jet Set Radio

Review Jet Set Radio
Sega plays the funky dealer for another revisit to the golden age of Dreamcast with Jet Set Radio, which like Space Channel 5, remains one of the most romanticized titles from those gaming days gone by, now back by popular demand with an HD makeover.

Players are once again invited to strap-on their magnetically driven in-line skates to hit the chaotic streets of Tokyo-To, while listening to what scientists largely agree is the greatest soundtrack for a videogame, ever.

If however, you weren’t a card carrying member of the Dreamcast faithful and find yourself new to the graffiti tagging play mechanic, let’s get scratchin.

Review Jet Set Radio
For those not in the know, Jet Set Radio is about recruiting the youth of Tokyo-To into your gang to help spread your graffiti all over the city whilst pushing out rival gangs and invading their turf in-turn. To do this, you’ll be avoiding special police units and one very determined police captain as everything from riot police to tanks hit the streets to put down your colorful revolution of self expression.

The original formula remains intact, tasking players to find all the spots needing a makeover within the time allotted, and using the analog sticks in key moves to mimic the act of tagging being seen on screen. It’s not an easy task, and was immensely toned down for the sequel, Jet Set Radio Future, on the original Xbox, but for my money the game does better with the challenge alive to thrive and sometimes frustrate as you desperately hunt down the last red arrow before time runs out.

The new coat of paint doesn’t quite make the game as vibrant as that sequel, but does go a long way in brightening and smoothing the streets of Tokyo-To to make the return to a game from 2000 a great deal easier on the eyes – not that the original looks all that bad for its age with the vibrant color palette and quick-natured play.

Review Jet Set Radio
Jet Set Radio’s biggest challenge to leap is the nature of its original design, which proves a bit bumpy while riding along this nostalgia trip. The game originally released during a period when 3D environments were certainly smoothing over the hiccups of the first shaky steps into that arena of play, and you’ll find the camera proving your greatest adversary while dodging the blocky soldiers and vehicles meant to provide the real danger.

Players are able to rail grind in order to pick up speed, from power lines to the edge of just about anything, and leaping between these points and landing successfully still largely works. But often times you’ll feel the camera struggling to keep pace with the speed of the game and throwing off your mojo just enough to aggravate – and then occasionally you’ll wander into a tight corner or staircase and the aggravation morphs into a bloodthirsty beast.

The trouble spots are at the core of the original design, and short of creating an entirely fresh release for a new era, said blemishes are here to stay. While such moments never make the game unplayable or make any level overly challenging in an extremely negative way, they do often throw off the slick momentum the core of the play is working to achieve too often to be ignored.

Review Jet Set Radio
This seems to setup Jet Set Radio as a purely nostalgic pursuit for those of us still hugging our Dreamcast while falling asleep at night, but the concept of love powering the game still finds plenty of reason for the revisit, or to check into Tokyo-To for the first time.

It’s purely an opinion of course, so grain of salt and all that, but you’re just not going to find very many games today that pop with the energy and sincerity of Jet Set Radio.

Whether focusing on the incredible accomplishment of the soundtrack, or the vibrancy of color that set a benchmark over ten years ago that is still largely unchallenged today, Jet Set Radio remains one of the few games that stands without an easy comparison, floating in some mystery genre of risk, innovation, and fun that I still like to think defined what the Dreamcast was bringing to the table so long ago now.

There are plenty of more cohesive titles out this year with far greater levels of polish for your buck, but even the roughest edges can’t undermine the amount of soul that still sparks within Jet Set Radio, and I figure that’s still worth quite a bit in this medium.

Smilebit, Blit Software


PlayStation 3 (PlayStation Network), Xbox 360 (Xbox LIVE Arcade), Windows PC (PlayStation Network Reviewed)


Release Date
September 18, 2012 PlayStation Network / September 19, 2012 Xbox LIVE Arcade, Windows PC

$9.99, 800 Microsoft Points

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

1 Comment »

  1. I’m holding out for a possible Sega Dreamcast Collection Volume 2. :)

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — September 20, 2012 @ 3:33 pm

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