Jet Set Radio ReviewIan Nathanson
Skate or Die + Anime + Hiphop + Crazy Taxi + Japan + Civil Disobedience = Destruction of Civilization
Well, the seventh sign is upon us fair readersâ€¦Japan has officially gone Hip-Hop. Some say it started with Dance Groove, others protest it was the introduction of Charlie in Shemnue (You will see him soon promises Sega), and then the lastest attack, the Street Fighter 3: Third Strike rap song. These events have all been leading up to something highly explosive. The most powerfully laden "MTV JAMS" style game to ever be seen since Parappa The Rapper. A game that needs less of an introduction than Elvis, I speak of none other thanâ€¦â€¦ Jet Set Radiooooooooooooooo!
For those of you, who know not what I speak of, listen closely to what I have to say. Jet Set Radio is game in which rival rollerblading street gangs in a place similar to Tokyo fight over the rights to spray paint certain areas. This does not set well with the suits that want to clean up the city so in turn they send their pitbull after them, the police. The police which feel these gangs of spray painters are public enemy number 1 may use any force they feel necessary to stop this kids, so expect police brutality at its best. You are one of the many gangs of spray painters called the GGs by far the tamest of the gangs.
The Game plays much like a cross between Crazy Taxi and Skate or Die. You roll around grinding on bridges and jumping over moving cars while picking up spray paint cans and spray painting over rival gangs "Tags" or signature graffiti. While this task of finding all the spray points and dodging obstacles with a time limit wasn't enough they through in some more stuff for good measure. To find the spray points you have to use the map, which is inconveniently located at the pause screen. I often found myself pausing the game over and over again to reassure myself I was going the right way. The rival gangs, who's tags you are spraying over, are there too and they are not happy customers. The gangs often get in your way and you have to knock them down. There are special times when you have to have a face off with another gang where you ride around and try to spray paint each other, like some sort of bizzaro version of "Family Double Dare". The police are also there to stop you from you're simple task. They feel it's their duty to stop you at all cost. Therefore, they bring out the riot squad with billy clubs to stop you and the head detective who happens to have an itchy trigger finger. As you, progress through the game these obstacles, become increasingly outrageous and outlandish. At one point in the game you have to face a riot squad with tear gas and machine guns, a helicopter with homing missiles, and the detective who decided that a simple revolver wasn't enough to stop those darn meddling kids so he picked up mr. happy shotgun which he tells he isn't afraid to use by firing it repeatedly at you. As you can tell the game however extremely exciting and fun is deathly hard in the latter levels, although you do get extra help from training annoying training secessions and extra characters that want to join your mega cool gang.
The Button Configuration is so simple a baby could play it accidentally by teething on it but I would dare say that baby would even pass the first level. Silly baby Jet Set Radio is for kids. There is one button for jumping and one button for spray painting and one button for acceleration. The joystick part of the Dreamcast controller is used to move your punk-raver rollerblader (hey that's pretty catchy!). Now when it comes down to spray painting it gets slightly more advanced. Some Tags are easy because of the small size, which can simply be sprayed with just one press of the button. Others take more time to spray paint because of size. When the Tag is bigger the player must stop and hold down the spray paint button while moving the joystick in the motion dictated by the arrows. If a mistake is made then you will lose the points you get for combo spraying and have to start from where you left off. This costs you major time and a precious spray paint can. Now another problem with spray painting occurs when one of the many obstacles either it be police or cars is present during spray painting mode. They most often mess you up by knocking you down and destroy the spray paint combo. If you are ever in a time-pressured situation like this in the game just pause the game and take a chill break otherwise you will spaz out. Also, make sure when you play the game that you won't be disturbed by the outside world. So lock the door or do whatever you have to because if someone interrupts you during one of these points in a game you will freak out on them. Just like the time when you freaked out on your parent when they walked in on you while you were facing Final Bowser in Super Mario Bros. just to tell you that you had to go to bed cause you had school tommorow. Ha! School? This is Bowser, Mom!
The animation is top-notch taken straight out of Japanese Anime sometimes you will feel like your watching a show rather than playing a game much like Dragon's Lair or Space Ace but much more interactive. Everything is nicely rendered in 3d from the huge city you play in to the golden yen necklace around a character's neck. It will seem like you are in Tokyo and you could go anywhere your heart desires but this is just a trick put in by the level programmers. When you pass a certain point it will tell you that you are about to exit the level and that you had better turn around. The music is also quite good if you like hardcore techno with the occasional J-pop sound even though it tends to get repetitive when you're stuck on the same level or training session which happens way too much.
I think this game is fun and exciting but overall is way too hard and frustrating. They had great ideas but they put an excessive amount of them into it. I also had a problem with some options that were noticeably left out. Options like a 2-player mode and being able to skip through training secession welcome message of "Yo-Yo!" or "Hey!" which you have to watch each time you attempt to pass that secession. My assumption was this game was not play tested enough by real gamers other than the programmers who know the levels and the tricks. Maybe if and when the sequel comes out it will consider such things but I consider this one strictly laissez-faire. If you really want this game, go for it and if you actually beat it, write me an email and tell me I was wrong but I am pretty sure that that will never happen.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.