Are you ready for a wave of nostalgia to wash you away with catchy tunes and colorful visuals? Better hope so, because Jet Set Radio is here. Don’t worry if you’re too young to have Jet Set Radio hold any meaning for you; this review will certainly help clear things up. Jet Set Radio was originally made back in 2000 on the Dreamcast. There was a sequel, as well: Jet Set Radio Future, made for the Xbox. This game is simply a remake of the original Jet Set Radio, available for download on the PS3, Xbox 360, PC, and, eventually, the Vita. So, on to the question on everyone’s mind: is the remake worth getting, or should Jet Set be left in the past?
First, a quick synopsis for those that don’t know what Jet Set Radio is all about. In a fictional city called Tokyo-to, which mirrors Tokyo itself, there is a pirate radio station called Jet Set Radio run by DJ Professor K. Along with the pirate radio fighting back against the oppressive government, there are gangs of rollerbladers that run the streets. They have territory that they control by tagging (spraying graffiti) on walls and objects. You are in a gang, the GG’s, and must protect your home turf, as well as advance into other gang’s territory. Not only do you have to worry about other gangs, but also the police, led by Captain Onishima, a man who holds graffiti as the worst crime in humanity. There is absolutely no exaggeration in that previous statement; he will use everything in his power to stop you, including attack dogs, tanks, and even helicopters.
The main gameplay itself has a simple premise. You select a level from a map that displays the city of Toyko-to in three districts (Benten-cho, Shibuya-cho, and Kogane-cho). You are given a certain amount of time to tag every designated zone in the level. You need to collect spray-cans before you can tag an object. There are three levels of graffiti; the smallest will only take one can, while the larger graffiti will take more. Most likely, each level will take more than one go, since finding the areas to tag can be quite challenging.
The gameplay does change slightly at given moments. For example, a rival will personally challenge you to complete certain moves, and if you succeed, they join your gang. Other times, an enemy gang will be on its last legs, and you must chase them down to tag their bodies, officially beating their gang. However, at its core, Jet Set Radio is a platformer. Many spots you need to tag are in hard to reach places that require extremely precise jumping. You get points for tagging a location and for how well you do it, since the larger graffiti will take well-timed strokes of the joystick to complete in one go. You also get points for doing tricks, which happen automatically when your character gets enough air time, or when you grind. Grinding isn’t only for tricks, however; it will often help you reach a designated tagging area. At the end of each level you are given a rank based on your score.
This game has many charming features, with one particularly nice touch being the ability to create your own graffiti that your character can then use to tag objects. Without a doubt, though, the two most incredible aspects of this game are the visuals and the soundtrack. This game is rather cartoony, but it works amazingly well with the bright, vibrant, cel-shaded colors that really shine in high definition. This was one of the most anticipated features of the remake, and, fortunately, it does not disappoint: what was incredible back on the Dreamcast is still equally amazing today with the updated visuals.
The soundtrack may be reason enough to purchase this game, and could arguably be the reason why Jet Set Radio has such a cult following. Almost every track from the original has been included in this remake. It has catchy high tempo beats, with genres ranging from electronic, to rock, to hip-hop. It’s hard to play this game without bobbing your head or tapping your foot. The wonderful visual setup and the amazing music playing in the background gives a fantastic feeling while playing this game.
As great as it would be to say that Jet Set Radio is perfect in every way, it would not be true. It has some pretty serious flaws that really hold it back from being perfect. First and foremost, the camera is hard to control, and whenever you’re near a wall, it gets even worse. This game is all about precision and being able to get to certain areas on the map. Not being able to see where you’re going adds an unnecessary challenge to the game. That isn’t the only problem with precision this game has, though. The controls of the skater are mediocre at best. Back in 2000, they were acceptable, but now-a-days they are too slow and clunky. Simple things, like turning, lining up jumps, or lining up rails to grind on, are far more difficult than they should be. The controls needed to be upgraded along with the graphics, but they were left alone, giving this game a very dated feel. These two problems combined will make for some very frustrating gameplay at certain points in the game.
Another small complaint, and this could be considered nitpicking, is that there could be a little more stickiness to grind-able rails. It’s difficult enough to jump onto a rail from far away, so it’s even more frustrating when you see your character hit the rail and stumble, rather than attaching to it with a grind. Even with it’s flaws, though, this is still an excellent game. People who played the original should definitely check out this remake; it has everything you love and more. For people who haven’t played the original, it’s still highly suggested you get this game. Maybe if it was more expensive it wouldn’t be worth it, but for 10 USD / 800 MP, it’s a steal. The amazing visuals and the soundtrack are reason enough to experience this game. Yes, there are flaws and some frustrating moments that will have you slinging curses at the TV. However, you’ll easily be able to push those flaws aside when everything in the game comes together perfectly. You’ll feel the music pumping inside you as you skate, jump, and grind your way into colorful nirvana.
Final Verdict: For the cheap price, this game is completely worth the purchase. It will keep you entertained for a few hours of leisurely play, but there are things to collect on each level, giving completionists satisfaction as well. The remake has leader-boards and trophies to give even more incentive to replay the game. The few flaws may be frustrating, but they can easily be overlooked in the grand scheme of things.
This review is based off a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of Jet Set Radio developed by Smilebit and distributed by SEGA.