Review by Mysterious M
"JET SET RADIOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO"
JET SET RADIO! As I sit here, listening to the droning stereo beats of my own sibling playing the game beside me, I cannot help but to smile as the strobing dreadlocks of Professor K warp in and out of my TV screen. Yes, this is what Sega meant when they promised fresh new games for their premiere system the Sega Dreamcast. With Jet Grind Radio they have MORE than delivered on their promise and, with only a few small discrepancies, I can whole heartedly say that this is one of the freshest games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.
Let’s go through a basic rundown shall we? Jet Grind Radio in concept is as original as any game. It involves your gang, the GGs, in a turf war with other rival gangs. However you don’t fight in street brawls or anything, oh no, that would be far to “traditional”. No, instead you mark your territory with GRAFFITI! Eventually the game progresses through an odd little story involving demons and stuff, but that’s beside the point. How could anyone not like a game where you GRAFFITI a city!? That would be just wrong. It always cracks me up to see the “warning graffiti is art, but also vandalism” when the game starts up… brings back memories of Grand Theft Auto…
Jet Grind Radio makes use of a new (soon to be emulated by oh so many other games ala-the Matrix effects) Cell shading technology which gives the entire game a very fresh hand-drawn look. Using dark outlines and smooth as butter animation, the game is almost completely seamless. The graphics are colorful and everything is easily distinguishable. The animation is also top notch, nice and smooth with a nice array of tricks which your characters can perform on command.
The characters are an interesting cast of street hoods, from Beat and his ludicrously oversized glasses, to Tab and his ludicrously oversized hat, to Combo and his ludicrously oversized Ghetto-Blaster! (did I get my point across?). The characters all have their own assortment of tricks which are derived from their personality meaning that choosing one over the other isn’t simply a matter of who you want to see on the game screen.
If I had one problem with the graphics, it’s the ever warping camera. Through most of the game it stays behind you, which is just fine, but sometimes when you get stuck into a corner it starts moving overhead or twirling around your character or other weird assortments of craziness which becomes very, VERRY annoying… especially when you’re trying to time that grind just perfectly. This is hampered further by the fact that the “spray” button is also the “view change” meaning when you spray something, the camera changes positions throwing off your next move. While this can get very annoying, its not enough to really detract from the game too strongly.
The sounds of Jet Grind Radio fit the motif ever so well, but just fall short of perfect. In the music department, everything seems pretty well off. The bouncing tracks have some nice beats and are mixed up with some strange alternatives (Super Brother..??)… but I really can’t stand Rob Zombie. In any case, the music fairs well instill that whole “urban” atmosphere which the game tries so hard to display… and it works well.
Sound effect wise, there’s a lot of good things to be said. The screeching of cars, the infamous grinding sounds, and the pedestrians who scream “Nanio” (“What?”) and “Yamate” (“Stop!”) are a nice touch. Cops also scream (and swear… or at least that’s what I hear them doing!) and the constant updates from your police scanner is a nice touch. The characters’ themselves also have limited speech. It’s nice how they yell out catch phrases and stuff when you do a good trick (or a bad one, subsequently)… but I find it kind of lame that they don’t speak during the story sequences. Special mention needs to be made about Professor K though, as he has the PERFECT voice actor and a high amount of speech… and I just love the way he screams “JET SET RADIO!!!!!!!!”. Its also kinda funny how he says “Rokkoku”… = )
A strange tale about rival gangs, a record from hell and a… business man? Hmm, not really my stuff… although the story does keep you guessing a bit. The story is told nicely with some cool characters (the way they come together… especially Combo and Cube) but it just isn’t long enough.
The controls in Jet Grind Radio are pretty simple. Steer to move, hit L2 to speed up, A to jump and L1 to spray. Tapping A gives you a small hop (ideal for starting grinds) while holding it down will make your character jump nice and high. Everything is pretty easy, you can easily grind on objects, steer towards walls (and subsequently jump off them) and avoid police. So why only an 8? Well, there are a few problems with the control scheme. First of all, of ALL THE BUTTONS on the DC controller, Sega decided to put “Spray” and “View Change” on the SAME BUTTON! I don’t know how they justified this, but it’s horrible. Imagine grinding along a railing, a board to spray is in front of you and then an open street with another railing on the other side. You get ready to jump for the next railing, but then you decide quickly “Hmm, I’ll spray that board”. Suddenly the view changes, you get disorientated and BOOM, you get hit by a car which carries you out of the level! ARGH! Okay… this is probably the worst case scenario possible, but it’s still very annoying. Slightly lower on the scale is the fact that sometimes when you grind and then jump, your character will decide on his/her own that she wants to go sideways. This can be very annoying, especially on those levels where you are higher up (oh how I’ve plummeted to my doom so many times).
Ah, this is where Sega always delivers the goods. Jet Grind Radio is a truly wondrous game, which is a blast to play. Where can I start? First of all, I must warn you people who are looking for a “Tony Hawk” clone will be sadly disappointed here. The tricks you can do seem more determinant on how fast you’re going and how you hit a jump rather than how you wiggle the little joystick. However I believe it a good move to scale down the tricks so that the player can concentrate more on the grinds. Ah the grinds, basically, if it has an edge, you can grind it. Mastering grinding is essential for finishing levels with any grade worth spit, and it can look so stylish when you spray paint objects while grinding past them on a railing. More to the point, it has been speculated that there is a way to get through every area in a single grind, a feat which I have yet to test (I can do the first GG area in one grind, that’s it though). By combining tricks, grinds and wall rides, the whole aim of the game suddenly changes to keeping your momentum.
In terms of the game itself, the story is a strange one which involves rival gangs, a record from hell and one screwy DJ. Not to make fun of Sega, but I didn’t really get into the whole thing, although it is admittedly a good effort. The levels have a nice variation. First there are the typical “spray paint the city before time runs out” levels. These levels start out as “sub-areas” at first, then after playing all 3 “sub-areas” of a city, you get to play a single level which connects them together. Next is the “spray paint the rival gangs” levels. These are my favorites as it involves you chasing around rival gang members and painting your own symbol on their backs. It’s really very fun to tuck in nice and cozy behind a “Poison Jam” and tag him 10 times in a row, then watch him dance around as he tries to get the paint off his back. Finally, intermittently between levels you will be challenged by a “Rival”. The Rival matches can be one of two things. First, they may want you to imitate them. First they perform what seems to be an insane trick, and you must follow and do the same. Believe me, the tricks they do aren’t that hard, just hang in there and you’ll be fine. Secondly, a rival may want to race you through an entire area. First one to tag the wall at the end wins. These are a tad harder and may take you a bit longer to do, but they aren’t really that difficult either.
And this is where the game falters a bit. While the levels are interesting and easily replayable, there simply aren’t enough of them. The story is EXTREMELY short and I hate it when game companies do this to us gamers. After only taking maybe a grand total of 6 hours to beat the game on my first try, I was stunned and surprised when I found that there were no more levels in wait. Sure, once you’ve defeated the game you can go back to the past levels for “races”, “painting competitions” and “trick competitions”, and sure the American version of Jet Grind has 2 extra levels (both in the new Grind City), but lets face it, you can only play the same levels over and over oh so many times, and the two new levels aren’t anywhere near as large as normal ones. This being said, the game loses a lot once you’ve gone though it once, and even more once you’ve gone through it twice. Even then, I suppose one can occupy oneself by setting personal challenges (ONE GRIND) but that can only last so long. In all, I’d have to say the games BIGGEST fault is the fact that its just so short.
All I can say is that Jet Grind Radio is simply one of those “Must Have” games, even if its for its sheer “coolness”. Being mainly a fighting/RPG fan, Sega’s recent slew of “Arcade” style originality games (Crazy Taxi also comes to mind) have pulled me into new realms of gaming bliss. In short, go buy the game, enjoy it, try not to pay attention to the fact that it’s so short… because you know what they say, good things come in short packages… or something like that.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/07/00, Updated 12/07/00
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