Review by matt91486

"A new idea? In the words of the great Stuart Scott, booyah!"

As some of you know, I have not been reviewing a lot of late. And now I’ll be starting again. And, better yet, now I’ll actually be starting this review.

When I first saw previews for Jet Set Radio (it was still called that at the time) I was skeptical at best. The graphics looked a bit to quirky, and while the lack of morality in spray painting graffiti all over the place would be interesting, I just could not see how that could translate into a good game. The previews got more and more numerous, more and more detailed. The game seemed more and more interesting, but I decided to save my cash, and buy it on a product that I was positive that I’d like. So I bought Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. While I know this story may bore some to tears, just stick with me a bit longer, I’m almost done. Then came the end of January. Target was having a blow-out sale on Dreamcast games, as the rumor of the death of the Dreamcast (it was still a rumor then) was making them nervous. And, when Jet Grind Radio was twenty dollars, I thought “What could it hurt? It’s only twenty dollars.” And I bought it. And now you can read the seeds that the purchase sowed.

As I mentioned before, I was worried about how Sega would carry out an art form that warrants you a misdemeanor into video games. Keep in mind, though, that I was worried how Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater would turn out, so never take my pre-playing-a-game worries to seriously. So anyway, the first thing that I noticed was how well that Sega made the game work on my horrific Dreamcast controller. Jet Grind Radio truly is a Dreamcast specific title. The destinations have a nice variety in their locales, so you will never get too bored painting your logo on thirty spots within five feet. The most that you will ever get with in a fifteen feet radius of one tag point is five.

The object in Jet Grind Radio is really to spray paint over all of the rival gang’s logos in the level that you are currently on. Of course it is not as simple as just strolling up on your high-powered roller skates. You have many horrible obstacles in your path. For example, you need to deal with traffic, mad pedestrians, police dogs, police soldiers, police cars, gunfire, and copters. But worst of all you have to deal with the horrific problem of (gasp!) running out of spray paint. But through all of this, you must paint over all opposing symbols within the time limit. Or else, your gang, the GGs, will lose respect in Tokyo-To.

I believe the best word to describe Jet Grind Radio’s graphics is ‘innovative.’ I also believe that the best phrase to describe Jet Grind Radio is that ‘the pictures really do not do it justice.’ And they don’t. The screenshots of Jet Grind Radio truly make the game look horrible. They make the game look so horrible I almost did not buy it. You’ve already read the story in the opening statement of why I bought the game.

But, once you see the heralded ‘cell-shading animation’ in action, it truly is an impressive experience. The most impressive thing about cell-shading animation though, is the abstraction looking so realistic. That sentence really probably does not make a lot of sense, and but I really can think of no better way to say what I mean. Everything is abstract, modern and high tech looking. However, Sega did a wonderful job making the modern-looking abstraction realistic as well. So everything is realistic, it is just a bit more abstract than in real-life. I sincerely hope I never have to stumble through a paragraph like that again.

The other thing that impressed me graphically in Jet Grind Radio was the lighting. The lighting is really the graphical focal point in Jet Grind Radio, and I’m glad that Sega focused on this often neglected section of graphical development in such a graphically focused game. First of all, the three regions in Tokyo-To are all graphically themed. There is the city of day, the city of night, and the city of the evening. And you can distinctly see a difference in each of the cities, not only in the color of the sky, but in the shadows that form in each building, and the varying colors in each building. Even the glare off the water varies. The lighting truly is difficult to describe.


I cannot stand the music in Jet Grind Radio. If I here that stupid ‘The music just turns me on-on-on-on-on!’ verse again I am going to smash my television set. While a couple of the game’s tunes are rather good, the tunes that are good are the ones that you never hear, while the horrible ones you are forced to listen to constantly. And all of the bad songs sound basically the same, all a really horrible blend of hip-hop and techno.

The sound effects, however, are nearly flawless. The voice acting is superb, and the police voices truly sound like they are coming through a microphone. The soldiers marching, the skaters skating, the dogs barking, the brakes screeching, all add up to an atmosphere like no other. My only problem with the sound effects, actually, was the sound for Captain Onimusha (I believe that is his name) firing his rubber bullets. With the sound effects that they have now it sounds like an odd blend of the menu noises from Twisted Metal 2 and the sound of a bazooka launching.

Even more than I was worried about the gameplay, I was worried about the control in Jet Grind Radio. I knew that steering would be fine, as the Dreamcast’s analog stick has yet to fail me in that regard, but it were the other aspects of control that were making me worry. Well, my worries, for the most part, were for no reason at all. First of all, using the analog stick alone, you will move very slowly. Pressing ‘R’ allows your skater to speed up. ‘A’ allows them to jump, and ‘L’ is the most important button of all.

‘L’ allows your character to spray paint. You may think it odd that I have allotted an entire paragraph to discussing the art of controlling a spray paint can, but bear with me. First of all, there are three sizes of logos, ‘Small,’ ‘Large,’ and ‘Extra Large.’ Each of these sizes take a different amount of paint cans, or painting strokes, depending on how good you are at moving the analog stick in different directions fast. The smallest logos require just pressing ‘L’ once. The bigger logos require pressing ‘L’ in and pressing various directions that are shown at the bottom of the screen within a time limit. If you are really good, you can almost get even the biggest of logos out of one tiny paint can.

Now, instead of subjecting you to my usual argument of why a game like this should have multiplayer capabilities, I am just going to tell you that Jet Grind Radio does not. And in a game like this, with such fast-paced, and frantic action, it really should, as it would be quite fun. Instead, all of you have is a Single-Player Mode.

Since the Single-Player Mode, although it is great fun, is not enough to get all of the possible fun out of Jet Grind Radio, you are going to need to create your own logos for each size, too. Sadly, though, each of the logos takes up so much space on your Visual Memory Unit, that you are going to need to have two of those memory cards solely devoted to Jet Grind Radio to get the most out of your spray painting experience.

On top of it all, Jet Grind Radio is one of the most difficult Dreamcast games around. Especially when painting the ‘Large’ and ‘Extra-Large’ sized logos you will often get run over by cars, shot at with rubber bullets, attacked by foot soldiers, swooped at by helicopters, and bitten in the butt by police attack dogs. This makes getting all of the logos in every level, even the first level, very difficult. The only way I can ever get through levels in Jet Grind Radio is to paint all of the largest logos on the lowest level of the arena and then get all of the easy low level ones and high level ones later. (I forgot to mention that the arenas consist of multiple levels, or stories, did I not? Really, all you need to do is jump from ledge to ledge, and grind up some rails, and you are back at the top one again from the bottom.) The only opponents that can nail you when you are not on high levels are the helicopters, and they are the rarest of all of your opponents.

For such a fun and innovative game, you would think it would score higher in the important category of replay value. But, since there are no multiplayer capabilities, and you cannot replay any levels after you have completed them, really the only thing you can do in Jet Grind Radio after you have beaten it is create new logos. But, luckily, with the insanely high difficulty level, you probably will not be beating it anytime soon. Plus, creating new logos is fun!

*Graphics are innovative and very well done.
*Sound effects greatly enhance the atmosphere.
*Graffiti concept perhaps will get children’s ‘breaking-the-law’ urges out of their system.

*Music selection is terrible.
*No multiplayer capabilities whatsoever.
*Cannot replay levels once you have beaten them.

Jet Grind Radio may not be a very serious game, but it will entertain you for hours and hours, even if you are more stoic than a rock. Make sure to look around carefully at the graphics and get the animated cartoon feeling. But, most importantly of all, make sure to take heed of Sega’s kind warning and do not paint graffiti in real life. The city of San Fransisco got mad enough at Sega for getting people to spray paint on canvases. Imagine what they would do to you if they saw you spray painting on overpasses.


Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 02/14/01, Updated 07/18/01

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