Jet Set Radio
Jet Set Radio, (originally released in North America as Jet Grind Radio) is an action game developed by Smilebit and published by Sega. It was released for the Dreamcast on June 29, 2000 in Japan, October 31, 2000 in North America and November 24, 2000 in Europe, with the HD ports arriving initially in October 2012.
The game begins in 2000, Shibuya-Cho, and is introduced by Professor K, the DJ of a pirate radio station based in Tokyo-to, who explains the basics of life in Tokyo-to for a "rudie", the term he uses to refer to young people who roam the streets spraying and skating. The city is split into three parts—Shibuya-Cho, Benten-Cho, and Kogane-Cho, each of which corresponds to a different time of day. Shibuya is a shopping district full of blue skies and daylight, Benten a nocturnal entertainment spot that represents the night, and Kogane a mostly residential area, built on the water, where it is perpetually sunset. You'll spend most of the game tagging rival gang's graffiti artwork, and respraying it as your own artwork, whilst avoiding the police authorities led by Captain Onishima.
Why It Rocks
- The game as a whole was very unique for the time, and still is today, being a mix of both Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and Crazy Taxi in it's gameplay, whilst utilising cel-shading for it's graphics. Speaking of which...
- It popularised the cel-shading technique, and whilst it wasn't the first game to do so (Fear Effect was the first documented game to so, releasing in February 2000), it's usage inspired other games to apply this technique, leading to games such as The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus and Viewtiful Joe, whilst also inspiring indie games such as Hover: Revolt of Gamers and the upcoming Bomb Rush Cyberfunk.
- The soundtrack led by Hideki Naganuma (who went on to do the soundtrack for Sonic Rush), is considered to be one of the finest soundtracks ever made for a video game. Standouts tracks include "Humming The Bassline", "Let Mom Sleep" and "That's Enough".
- DJ Professor K is an entertaining character, who not only helps with broadcasting the game's plot to the game but also provides some witty phrases that fit this game's personality all too well.
- As a whole, the writing in this game provides a strong source of comedy. Below is possibly the best lines in the game:
- "Let's go to the mailbag. We got a letter from Mr Osaki. He asks "How do I get rid of these nasty roaches?" Easy, just burn your house down."
- "We have another letter from Osaki. He writes: "I burned my house down, now what do I do?" How should I know, fool?"
- The gameplay is fast-paced and fluid, complimented by the art style and soundtrack. This is helped even further by the added immersion created by the interactivity of the game's levels.
- The gameplay is split into 3 types of levels: Street, Rival Showdown and Trials
- Street levels are the most common and are split into two categories: one where you tag every graffiti point in a certain area whilst evading the authorities, and another is a boss battle where you must chase rival gang members and spray graffiti on them before the timer runs out.
- Rival Showdown levels allow the player to unlock more playable characters for their gang, either by matching the rival's movements in technique sections or by spraying graffiti before the rival in race sections.
- Lastly, trial levels are unlocked after both the streel and rival showdown levels have been completed in an area, and this is where most of the replayability of this game comes in.
- The game doesn't take itself too seriously, with the over-the-top police authorities led by Captain Onishima, to a plot point revolving around a 'haunted' record called the 'Devil's Contact', which can apparently summon a demon to communicate with.
- Speaking of the police authorities, they use a wide variety of ways to stop you from spraying graffiti, from simple reasonable methods like regular officers and police dogs to absurd and insane methods such as calling in attack helicopters, parachute squadrons, SWAT teams, and tanks. Even Captain Onishima himself appears often, willing to use lethal force if it means stopping the player.
- The three different parts of the city are all unique from each other. Not only that, but the time of day is also different in every single part (Daylight for Shibuya, Night for Benten, and Sunset for Kogane), allowing each part of Tokyo-to to have its own diverse feel to it.
- 15 Characters to choose from, including members of the rival gangs you defeat, as well as your gang's pet dog, Potts, to add to the variety.
- Not only that, each character has a different score in each of the 3 categories: Power, Technique and Graffiti, allowing the player to mix and match until they find their preferred character to play as.
- The HD ports support widescreen, as well as a new and improved camera system and achievements.
- Furthermore, the PlayStation Vita version was and still is the first truly accurate handheld port, since the GBA remake used an isometric perspective, similar to the Tony Hawk games on the GBA.
- The camera in the original Dreamcast release is awful, hindered by a lack of a second analogue stick on the Dreamcast controller. This was rectified in the HD Ports.
- Furthermore, in the original Dreamcast version, if you pressed the left trigger (usually reserved for spraying graffiti points) next to an aforementioned graffiti point, you would occasionally have it change the way your character is facing. This is but a slight annoyance though.
- The controls can be a bit off at times, with sections that require you to jump across platforms being the worst offender.
- Depending on your point of view, the gameplay hasn't necessarily aged the best.
- The iOS and Android Ports were not well-received, with criticism being shown towards the touchscreen controls and framerate issues. These were delisted in 2015.
Reviews for the original Dreamcast release were highly positive, with Jet Set Radio being the 4th highest rated Dreamcast game on Metacritic. It has a critic score of 94/100 ("Universal acclaim") and a user score of 8.2/10 ("Generally favourable reviews"). Reviewers gave acclaim to the gameplay, graphics and soundtrack, with some slight criticism directed at the camera system.
The HD Ports received mixed-to-positive reception with the PS3 and Xbox 360 ports having critic scores of 75/100 and 70/100 respectively, and user scores of 7.2/10 and 7.7/10 respectively. Reviewers called the visuals 'timeless', but felt the gameplay was more frustrating now.
- BlitWorks is responsible for the HD releases.