Jet Set Radio HD
Coming off as an amalgamation of ‘Marc Eckō's Getting Up’ and
‘Aggressive Inline’, despite preceding both of those games, Jet Set
Radio is a surreal beast. I was never fortunate enough to have played it
during its original Dreamcast release, so I came to the game with
entirely fresh eyes.
Of course it’s ridiculous to expect a game that uses an anachronistic
engine to be comparable in terms of technical aspects to current
standards, but it must be said that Jet Set Radio holds up rather well.
I don’t know if it’s just the giddy atmosphere and hyperkinetic visuals,
but each time I picked up the controller, I found myself grinning from
ear to ear as I sped around Tokyo-To, avoiding Riot Police and chucking
up pieces with my spray can to the boppy, underground electronic music.
The game can be pretty much boiled down to those three aspects:
Rollerblading, Spray painting and avoiding authority, with a rather
loose story providing a framework to tie all of these elements together.
Tokyo-To consists of three areas, each with their own unique visual
styles. Initially you’ll be confined to a small section, but as you
progress you’ll have access to an entire area of the city, using
interconnected tunnels and passageways to get around (And mask loading
Gameplay is pretty much composed of skating around these areas and
hitting up marked sections with your ‘tags’; this is achieved by
collecting spray cans and using the analogue stick to perform on-screen
prompts. In order to receive the highest ranking for a level, you’re
required to memorise the best order in which to spray different areas,
as the more you tag in a level, the more obstacles are added to disrupt
your process, such as the police calling in attack dogs, helicopters and
Jet Set radio has a gentle learning curve and simplistic controls, so
it’s easy to pick up but takes dedication to master.
The controls are also an area where some of the cracks start to show; at
its heart, Jet Set Radio is a platformer, and many of the ubiquitous
issues associated with the genre raise their ugly heads. The shiny
graphical overhaul doesn’t disguise the fact that you’re playing a game
engine that’s over twelve years old, with issues with the physics and
controller precision making the game much more frustrating than it
For example, attempting a jump from grinding one rail to another, you
may sometimes perform the task perfectly, whilst another time the exact
same button input will jettison your character across the screen.
Collision detection is also slightly off, so sometimes you’ll get
snagged on the scenery and come to a complete stop. For a game built
around maintaining momentum to reach some of later areas, this can get
extremely tiresome and really dampen your enjoyment of the game.
The much maligned camera system is now controlled by the user, but this
fails to alleviate certain issues. The most prominent is the fact that
the ‘realign camera’ button is also the button used to tag, so if you’re
hitting a series of tags in quick succession, you mash the left trigger,
which sends the camera into a tizzy, effectively disorienting the
The game has a nice selection of achievements, thirty for a total of 400
GS, and leaderboards are also included for online play.
The first thing you’ll notice about Jet Set Radio’s graphics is how
dazzlingly bright and crisp they are. Sega’s high definition overhaul of
the graphics is nothing short of superb – The game practically makes
sweet, sweet love to your eyes. Due to its pioneering use of cel shaded
graphics, the graphics have aged astoundingly well. Jet Set Radio was
always more focused on creating a unique aesthetic rather than trying to
replicate reality and this lends the visuals a certain ageless quality
many other games from the same era would struggle to have. Even when
held up against more recent cel shaded games, the exuberant presentation
of the graffiti influenced visuals lends the game a unique quality that
makes it stand head and shoulders above other games.
The real highlight of the game though is the brilliant soundtrack. As
someone who generally has no time for anything outside of the Rock and
Metal genres, I found myself bopping about the house singing many of the
catchy tunes from the game and having to sheepishly pull myself up, lest
my ‘Metal-Head’ credibility be tarnished. Despite being predominately
electronic, the music covers a wide spectrum of styles, with chirpy
J-Pop, rocking guitars and rap being encompassed. A varied selection of
artists such as Rob zombie, Mixmaster Mike, Jurassic 5 and more ensure
that people aren’t put off by the more esoteric foreign tunes.
Despite the flaws with the control system and camera, I couldn’t put Jet
Set Radio down and finished it within three days of sporadic gaming
sessions, totalling just under six hours. Once the main storyline is
completed, there are races, stages where you tag enemy gang members, a
myriad of characters to unlock and the challenge of receiving the best
ranking for each level to prolong the experience. Unfortunately, to
achieve the latter you have to replay through the entire game as there
is no retry level option, which is rather strange.
Free of nostalgia blinkers, Jet Set Radio is a good game but certain
aspects haven’t aged as well as the graphical style. It can be an
extremely difficult experience when hampered by the control issues, and
some occasions of frustrating level design, plus a distinct lack of
gameplay variety, can drive you to pull your hair out. That being said,
it’s also extremely fun, addictive and stylish as all heck, and I for
one am willing to take a little bit of bad in order to experience the
cornucopia of excellence that comes with the game.