Jet Set Radio was developed by Smilebit and published by SEGA in 2000, after 12 years it returns as Jet Set Radio HD. This downloadable title is available on PSN for $9.99.
In the glorious good ol’ days of the SEGA Dreamcast console, Jet Set Radio became something of an underground favorite – even spawning a sequel in 2002 on Xbox as Jet Set Radio Future. As one of the first cell-shaded graphic art games, Jet Set Grind – as it was originally known – had left an impression on an entire gaming generation for its revolutionizing visuals, groovy soundtrack and quirky story.
There have been other recent re-releases of SEGA “hits” that have garnered varying levels of graphical and integral upgrades that have removed the nostalgic glow. As the next part of SEGA’s recent High Definition line-up, Jet Set Radio HD learns from the mistakes of their earlier HD attempts, but is it enough to match memories’ rose-tinted haze?
Set in the dystopian future of Toyko to where the obvious stand-in for Toyko has been split into three warring districts: Shibuya-cho, Benten-cho, and Kogane-cho. With each area representing different style of locals and eternally stuck in a corresponding time of day. Each area brings its own style and challengers. Rivaling gangs of teenagers fight for control of the districts through graffi tagging on rollerblades. These kids are affectionally known as “rudies”.
Starting as Beat, the first two members of the team are Gum and Tab. They don’t join easily, requiring Beat to pass three challenges apiece to gain their trust and prove his ability. With three members, the “Graffiti Gangsters” are formed – gaining new members along the way, each requiring their own challenges. Each member of the gang offers a different skill set and tag which are used to claim territory.
The DJ of the titular Jet Set Radio program serves to introduce rival gangs and their attempts of territorial incursion. The DJ adds some comical moments and keeps the story moving. At every turn, the authoritarian police force attempts to stop these gang fights with escalating levels of violence. The head of this task force even takes deadly action in his efforts to stop the gangs. As the timer inches closer to the deadline, the police force increase its presence, adding a sense of urgency and incentive to possibly exit the level before the timer runs low in order to bank the gathered points. These points are specific to each battle and are calculated at the end of the mission.
Territorial fights essentially boil down to tagging sites or spray-painting over opponents artwork in order to gain score within a time period. Score is gained through the standard skating system of tricks but mainly through tagging. Each person has a specific tagging sign they also have corresponding left stick movements, the more elaborate the tag - the more signs and score. Replaying each level to increase the tags and lowering the time will raise the overall score. These higher scores contribute to the new leaderboards and bonus material unlocks.
Here’s what we liked:
Looks as good as you remember – SEGA learned from prior HD attempts and created a great visual update for Jet Set Radio. While time tends to create a memory greater than the reality, Jet Set Radio is one of the rare instances where the HD remake looks as good if not better. There are occasional flaws, but the overall effect is well done. The cell-shaded art style lends itself well to the re-texturing and smoothing required to increased the resolution.
True bonus materials – The bonus materials add great value to Jet Set Radio to fans of the original and those new to the series as well. One of the most informative of the additions is a documentary filmed with many of the original developers who discuss making the game, music and even how many of the graffiti tags were created. This material adds value to old-time fans and newbies alike for its insights.
Original Soundtrack - The soundtrack was well suited to the game at the time and many older fans will love that almost the entire original soundtrack – all but one of the original US tracks – has made its way onto the HD remake. Fans of the original and many new players will be pleased.
Here’s what we didn’t like:
Old Soundtrack -The music is showing its age and can grate on nerves when playing a level for the tenth time. Additional musical options would have helped to spread out the older tracks.
Playing on a Dreamcast? – It’s not just the soundtrack showing its age. Back in 2000, the camera and controls were generally bemoaned. Now, those same controls are nearly game-breaking. Even after some updating the camera still occasionally clips through buildings or sets at such an angle as to hide hazards. The controls feel flighty and inaccurate – aiming for a railing and falling off a bridge to be forced to circle around the map again can become very frustrating. It’s a shame that in all the care taken to update the graphics and add bonus materials it feels like the mechanics left for last. While it plays better then the original Dreamcast version, the controls still retain some of their issues.
For fans of the original the HD remake pays proper homage to their memories and offers enough improvements and additional content to make replaying it on their modern console worth it. To those new to the Jet Set Radio series, there are a few bumps, especially with the controls, but the overall package is worth a look if you’re interested in this cult classic. Beyond just the improved visuals and bonus materials, Jet Set Radio HD proves to be a solid update to a 12 year old game.
Score: Try it!