Version reviewed: PS3 Versions Available: PS3, Xbox 360
Sega’s back catalogue is filled with classics, from Megadrive hits to Dreamcast gems. Jet Set Radio is the latest of these classic games to get the current gen treatment, but can the graffiti spraying skater hold up in today’s video game world?
As a fan of the original, it was with some trepidation that I approached this new game. Had Sega messed about with the controls, graphics or gameplay too much it may have ruined the game for me, but my concerns were without foundation. The Jet Set Radio which now sits comfortably on PSN or XBLA is, more or less, the same game that graced Sega’s small white console back in the space year 2000, albeit with a rather nifty HD shine.
But let’s rewind a little for those of you that have never had the pleasure of actually playing this gem. The plot centres around the GGs, a gang of kids who skate around Shibuya-cho, an area in the fictional city of Tokyo-to and, much to the annoyance of the local police, spray their graffiti tag on any wall they can find, all to the funky beats from DJ Professor K.
The tutorial level sees you playing as one of the kids, putting the gang together and learning how to skate and spray in style. Pretty soon you’ll meet the rather grumpy police captain Onishima and his squad, who seem to have made it their life’s work to stop your gang from tagging the area. There are also rival gangs to be defeated, each in their own area of Tokyo-to. The Poison Jam, Noise Tanks and Love Shockers, who all want to keep their district to themselves. Taking over a district means finding all the graffiti and tagging it with your own logo instead, all against a strict time limit.
The game’s mix of frantic chases from police or S.W.A.T. teams, tagging minigames where actions need to be followed in order to successfully get your tag on a wall, and inline skating-based stunts mean that aside from Jet Set Radio Future, Sega’s Xbox follow-up, there’s nothing quite like Jet Set Radio and that’s as true today as it was back in 2000.
So the focus is on how well Blit Software have managed to re-create that frantic fun on the new platforms. Since Jet Set Radio was one of the pioneers of Cell Shading in games, it was always going to be one of the features in the HD version that received the most scrutiny. As if knowing that any changes would upset fans, the developers have been careful enough to leave things as they were and concentrate on just increasing the resolution. While the graphics are now in HD, they manage to somehow look almost the same as the original, or at least that’s what my rose tinted reading glasses tell me.
Controls are a slightly different story. One of the criticisms of the original game was the camera, which has now been given a new lease of life thanks to current consoles sporting a second analogue stick. Although there are still occasional camera hiccups, the new system works well. All the other controls feel as if they were made for the Dualshock and once the game has held your hand through the tutorial they seem pretty intuitive.
It’s the game engine itself that might prove the downfall of some. Jet Set Radio was always a finicky game when it came to controlling the GGs and what was true then is true now. Jumps need to be timed just right, the analogue stick provides a twitchy response from your skater, often sending them in the wrong direction or round in circles if moved too far and those spray sequences take no prisoners. For some players this may put them off from the start, but learn the nuances of the game and they soon become your saviour, allowing for fast turns and twists as you’re hunted down by manic police teams who are out for your blood.
It’s not a long game, by any means, but replays will net you a better rating in the age old system that Sega gamers always loved. There are also new unlocks and graffiti designs for you to create. But where Jet Set Radio really excels is in the style it exudes from the graphics and the music and even if the gameplay doesn’t quite gel for some, the experience itself is well worth the entry price.