Jet Set Radio review: Sweet Soul Brothers

It feels very weird that it's 2012 and I'm writing up a review for Jet Set Radio as of course it graced the Dreamcast just under 12 years ago. I was glued to it when I first got a Dreamcast and must admit that I found it considerably hard, but then it was something completely new to grace consoles as I can't say I'd played much previously that plays the same. Well SEGA have re-released Jet Set Radio in a HD format for fans and newcomers to enjoy.

Jet Set Radio for anyone unaware is a delve into the Japanese culture of the 90s full of J-Pop tunes, J-Rock beats and Fruits style fashion. Mixed with the mysterious yet beautiful art of graffiti, oh and of course you move around on jet powered rollerblades too to add a little more of a futuristic feel to it. There isn't really much out there that you can compare it to, it's a one of a kind franchise and it's a must buy for any SEGA fan or Japanophile out there.

The aim of the game is take back your turf which is being encroached on by other gangs from Tokyo-to. Your territory has been tagged up by the Noise Tanks, Love Shockers, Poison Jam and a mysterious other party. You start the game playing as Beat who is offered to join the GGs as long as you can match Gum and Tab?s skills in a quick test, from then on you are swept up into the story.

The rules of the game are pretty simple on paper but can be a bit tough to master. You'll have a timer in the corner, a number of locations you have to tag with your graffiti, collectables scattered around, an oncoming and evolving enemy along with a whole district at your fingertips. Of course the faster you tag the rival graffiti, perform tricks and collect Graffiti Souls the better your final score and result which ranges from Pedal (super slow) to Jet (uber fast). Previously on the Dreamcast version these scores acted as a local challenge for yourself. However with the HD release there has been an addition of online leaderboards which are great because then you see how bad or good you actually are, giving you the chance to beat a friend's score or see if you can reach number one. With this addition that was never in the original release you can notice that it's new as the music that plays in the GG's hub stops when you enter the leaderboards.

Instead of a straight HD port out of SEGA they've done a small tweak on the controls, not only of course because of the difference in control layout between a Dreamcast controller and those on current platforms. But they've also made the game feel a lot easier to control by including camera control on the right stick. However other than the addition of complete control over the camera the other button commands are the same. The original controls work well although with a combination of snapping the camera behind the player and graffiti on the Left Trigger it can still causes annoyances during play while chasing and tagging opposing gangs. This is just in my personal opinion annoying as it feels like it detracts from the game while you?re spamming the left trigger in the chance that you spray some graffiti on Poison Jam's backs.

They've also transformed Jet Set Radio out of the depths of 4:3 into the glorious world of 16:9 so that you won't have to play it in it's native format which on a nice shiny TV would mean you would be forced to play with black borders around the game like previous HD releases of old games.

The cel-shaded look of Jet Set Radio in other games has evolved over the years with more memory for detailed texture maps, when you look at Borderlands 2 you can see that cel-shaded technique is now purely an artistic choice as opposed to a clever way to ignore the limitations of hardware. However with Jet Set Radio if it didn't have the cel-shaded look not only would it not of aged well it just wouldn't be the same game in any aspects. Not that SEGA would have changed this for the HD release, but it must have made it a lot easier to bring it over to the current generation of consoles.

Along with the art and the style of gameplay the music is what pulls everything together into an enjoyable package, and from picking up the HD re-release you'll be treated to songs that you may not have heard before dependant on what version of the game you played on Dreamcast. As the HD release features the soundtrack from De La Jet Set Radio which comprised of all songs but two from the full UK/US/JP soundtrack.

Also as an extra addition the HD release features a short piece on the making of Jet Set Radio, talking to multiple people who took part in the development and creation of all aspects of Jet Set Radio. Which even taught me a thing or two so I recommend watching it when you have the time from the bonus menu as it?s unlocked straight after purchasing the game.

Overall it's hard for me to say a bad thing about Jet Set Radio, it was a brilliant game when released back in 2000 and SEGA's HD re-release helps you relive it's total uniqueness once again. You'll be signing along to the soundtrack when you're not playing and have a want to go back and play more, if you're like me anyway. The gameplay has aged slightly but even if you've never heard of it before, or only played Jet Set Radio Future on the Xbox you may want to try this out. Just keep at it even if you get frustrated as it's all a learning experience and it all pays off in the end.

five stars

Jet Set Radio is available now on Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network and Steam for 800MS Points/6.49/5.99 plus it'll be shortly available on Playstation Vita on October 16th.

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