Jet Set Radio was originally released for the Dreamcast under the name Jet Grind Radio. It is one of those games that many many gamers are very nostalgic toward. So, when Sega announced that an HD remaster of the game was being released, there was excitement to be had by those who loved the game and those who had not played it before. Then the question begging to be asked is “how does each part of the game hold up today?”
In terms of the story, it has been the least affected by time, which can lead to some good things and some bad things. Jet Set Radio takes place in the city of Tokyo-To where gangs layout tags to take control of areas and be the top gang in town. The game will have players tagging it out while facing off with rival gangs, police officers, and an evil corporation with very awesome lackeys with afros. While parts of the story seem wacky and simple, which may be seen by some to be too simple or lack real depth. The game’s quirky characters and story actually give the game a strange appeal that gamers of any age can get into and enjoy.
The setting is what was really impressive when playing this game. A culture is created in the game that seeps through to the environments, music, characters, and art style of the game. Very few games show a strong identity and style but Jet Set Radio is able to do that by embracing its emphasis on being a game about art and music.
Speaking about style, the graphics in the game still sport are cell shaded and in HD they actually look really good. There are some textures that are rough around the edges here and there due to age but special effects are sweet looking, the menus look good, the characters are mostly good looking, and the graffiti looks good as well. For a game about style and art, Jet Set Radio benefits from HD combined with its cartoon-like cell shaded graphics.
The rich style not only presented in the graphics but also in the sounds and music in the game. Jet Set Radio has a soundtrack that varies from techno to rock to some hip hop. The music adds to the games feel and there is never a moment when a song feels like it has been over played. In terms of voice work, some of the voices sound stiff and some additional voice work would have been appreciated in this version but nonetheless it is a minor complaint that doesn’t take away from the game.
All this talk of style probably leaves you wondering, how does the game actually play? The game features a tutorial where all new players should start off to learn the mechanics of the game and get used to it before jumping into a new game. The bulk of the game takes place in the main mode of the game that has players see the story of the game and take on missions.
Most missions in the game fall into a few categories of tagging over rival gang’s tags, mimicking the moves of a rival character, racing against a rival character, or tagging the backs of a rival gang. Players will also have the ability to earn points, tag up the streets, or race with your gang after story based missions are completed. The fun lies in the ability to play through these modes, at the players leisure, that allow players to pull off wild and crazy tricks or spray tags all over the place.
Speaking about tags, players have the ability to use preset tags or work on creating their own tag to really put their mark on their turn. The tools allow for a ton of cool designs to be created for those with an artistic side and patience to create a fitting tag. Players will be able to create tags of varying size, zoom in, type in text, and two layers to draw on that will allow for some really unique tags.
The characters in the game have a technique, power, and graffiti stat that varies between the characters. Each character has different fields they excel at such as Beat being a balanced character compared to Tab, who is more focused on power and technique. This becomes important because certain characters will be better for certain mission types and areas than other characters.
While the gameplay is mostly fun, there are some issues with the game that are telling of the game’s age. The game controls can feel very clunky at times and may not feel the most responsive or you may find your self missing a grind because you couldn’t adjust in the air properly. The game camera is problematic at times providing angles where the player is unable to see what is around them. There are also times when the collision does not detect properly and players end up getting caught on certain parts of a level.
These issues would not be so bad if not compiled with the fact that the game can prove to be difficult at times. Some of the earlier stages of the game will take it easier on players and the tutorial is vital in getting used to the way the game plays quickly. Eventually as players get further into the game the difficulty level rises and some levels will require a few plays to get used to the area or find the right character to use. Enemies in the game range from mild to outright devastating, as some enemies do way more damage than others (here is looking at you helicopter missiles). All of this can become a bit frustrating at times when combined with the controls, camera, and collision.
I do personally wish that they took the time to add a mini-map to the game display, because having to pause to find where your targets are can be counter-intuitive at times. Also, the game does not require much time, with only a few sit downs to finish off the story of the game.
This remaster also rewards fans of the series with a look behind the development of Jet Set Radio and the ability to unlock some tracks from Jet Set Radio Future. The bonuses are a nice addition to the game as the music from this game and its sequel are quite excellent. For those interested in game development, the video on the behind the scenes give a look at the history of the game and how it came to be.
In the end, this game is all about its style and feel, but it is not perfect; it has some rough spots. The game is stylish and fun when the controls and mechanics of the game do not get in the way. Jet Set Radio‘s artistic side is what makes it shine from the strong soundtrack to the ability to create graffiti tags to spray all over the game’s city.
This is not going to be a friendly game in terms of difficulty, but you feel a real triumph completing missions, and the story is charming, even if it lacks depth. For an HD remaster, more polish could have been added to this game outside of its graphics and it is disappointing that Sega did not make a few improvements to the game’s interface. The additional bonuses are nice and give a great insight to the game’s development and what helped in making the game what it is.
Gamers and fans might want to not get too lost in nostalgia before playing the game as time has not been the fairest to the game. Those that are able to get over these flaws of the game will definitely want to give this game a go as it is a fun game with a unique style that many of today’s games lack.