Review by SneakTheSnake
"To be DJ Professor K for a day..."
"Jet Set (or is it Grind?) Radio!"
I look back on this game with a great fondness. While this is not the first game to use cell-shading, contrary to popular belief, Jet Grind Radio is still an excellent game released early in the Dreamcast's life by Sega and developer Smilebit. Everything in this game, from the title screen, to the wacky graphics, to the outrageous sense of style, screams personality.
In a dark and bleak future, the streets of Tokyo-to are in a tense struggle. Rival gangs are rampant on the streets, and gang territory has been tagged by several different rival gangs, each with their own background and motives. Beat and his gang, however, have the power to refresh the streets and paint Tokyo-to with a fresh coat of peace and love, and their own graffitti, too. With the help of friendly kids on the streets and the exuberant beats of the underground radio station, Jet Set Radio, Beat and his gang can go out on the streets freely, and maybe take care of those nasty cops.
Jet Grind Radio has often been touted as the first game to use a graphical technique called cel shading, but that honor actually goes to a lesser-known Playstation title called Fear Effect. Cel-shading is a technique that allows graphics to look more vibrant and cartoon-like in appearance. This is done by brightly coloring certain polygon models and elminiating shading gradients. This makes polygons simply one color, and shadows or shades are either simple black polygons or darker shades of the object's color. Other games to use this technique are the newer Bomberman games, and most recently, Ultimate Spider-Man.
The graphics of this game are, in a word, loud. Beat and co. hit the streets to bright yellows, intense reds, peaceful blues, and bleak concrete greys. Characters and environments flow with very little lag inbetween, and everything is overall very distinguishable. The game's cutscenes are also done with the game's engine, which makes the cinematics shine.
Is this game a sports title, since the characters move on magnetic skates? Not quite. Is this an action title, since the kids are constantly on the run from the cops? No, not really. The game also contains collective team-building and graffitti spraying. Perhaps it's best described as a fusion of multiple genres.
The selected character is thrust into a mission that takes place in any given region of Tokyo-to. The objective of the mission varies, but it usually entails skating around and spray painting over the rival gang's ugly graffitti. While this is going on, the cops and other forms of law enforcement try their best to get on these teens' tails. Other mission objectives include spraying the actual gang members or defeating a central boss character. After each mission, a cutscene follows, with DJ Professor K explaining what's up on the streets.
These missions can, unfortunately, be hampered by the game's controls. The Dreamcast's limited amount of buttons have lead to several functions being set to the L-Trigger. Beginning to spray graffitti and centering the behind-the-back camera have both been mapped to the L-Trigger. This could lead to some frustrating situations. For example, the cops are on Beat's tail, and there's a large mural Beat will have to spray over. As you skate toward the mural, the player presses L-Trigger to begin spraying. However, Beat hasn't yet reached the mural, and the player moves the camera instead. The skater finally gets to the mural and begins to spray, but the cops tackle the poor kid, and and he has to get up as soon as possible before he dies. When Beat finishes this mural, the level is over. Instead of spraying again, the camera may center away from the mural, and Beat has to turn around and begin spraying again. By the time the kid's facing the mural again, he's tackled a second time, or shot, or gassed.
These shortcomings can be easily forgiven by the sounds and music. There is an overall great selection of music on this GD. While the majority of these songs have been done by Japanese or in-studio bands, the music still rocks nonetheless. There is a good deal of voice work here, and it is definitely excellent. There are very few duds in the musical selection, and for the American release, new songs by different bands are there to listen to. The character of DJ Professor K has been injected with a great sense of confidence and charisma.
There is no multiplayer to speak of, but regardless, Jet Grind Radio is a game that any Dreamcast owner should have. It is still rather common, and can be found for as little as five dollars. The action is fun, the music is catchy, and there is a great chemistry fused into a very modern and slick presentation. Additionally, there is a graffitti editor, which allows creation of new tags that can be saved on a VMU. Get this game and just rock on.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/21/05, Updated 12/01/05
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