Review by miffo

"Jet Set RADIOOOOO!!!!!"

Note: This is a review of the Japanese version of Jet Set Radio, or Jet Grind Radio as the US version is called. Understand that this is missing some features that are present in the US version including one new level, so I'm assuming the US version is better even though I haven't played it...then again, the import doesn't have that god-awful Rob Zombie song, so it might not be so bad.

When I first heard of Jet Set Radio, it was just a little tidbit in EGM with three accompanying screenshots. At first glance they looked more like a hand-drawn painting than a 3D videogame. After studying them for some time they still didn't look like anything I've seen before, on any system, so I just had to see the game in action. I was quite surprised at how the effect worked and looked during gameplay, and seeing that only intrigued me more! When it became the cover story of the Dreamcast Magazine, I had read all I needed to know before I decided that I had to own this game, and I had to own it now.

So I went ahead and imported, and soon enough I was playing one of the coolest, freshest new games ever.

Jet Set Radio is unique in every aspect of the game: the premise, the controls, the graphics, and even some of the music made its innovation stand out in the videogame industry full of the same ''me too'' games of the same genres. For the uninformed, JSR warps skating into a new genre by using a futuristic theme and giving gamers the opportunity to vandalize the streets without being arrested! By taking control of a gang called the GGs, your goal is to spray certain areas with your own graffiti ''tag'' to mark your territory from rival gangs. This is all done on electric powered roller skates, while evading the law enforcement officers at the same time. Unique, eh? Read on...

A new technique in computer art called cel-shading is used, which shades the outlines of the characters to give them a hand-drawn look-in a way, 2D if you look at a still image. Needless to say, the game is anything but 2D, and the rest of the 3D world is amazingly huge when combined all together. When starting a game, you'll first go through a few tutorial segments and are given simple tasks that you must accomplish before moving on. If you pass, then you finally gain access to the main hangout where you choose your destination from there. A map of the main city is shown, where you can begin your quest.

When you first start, you'll learn the basics through the opening cinema. You are in the city of Tokyoto and must begin spraying your tags! The city is divided into three sections, each with their own qualities. One is during daylight, and is just like any other big city. Another section takes place in the evening, and is surrounded by water; while the other part takes place at night. The route you take is predetermined, but you earn the privilege of choosing after you play through the story at least once.

Your first task takes place in the daylight section, and is fairly easy compared to the later ones. You only have a few things to spray, but as you go through the story they get harder. In the end, you must fight a boss and after that you have the option to play through it again, or free skate in any section of town. As you play, other skaters will give you a challenge, and they become playable if you beat it. But understand that there isn't exactly a strong storyline, and beating the game only takes a matter of hours-replaying it over and over again doesn't grow stale though, and JSR gives a basic arcade feel.

The controls are simple enough: the joystick moves you, A jumps, R gives a speed boost, and the L button sprays, as well as centers the camera. In each level, there are arrows that mark the areas you're supposed to spray. Once you get close enough to it, an icon will appear and you can then press L and begin spraying. My only noteworthy complaint has to do with the fact that the L button acts as both the spray and camera button-often times I'll find myself trying to adjust the camera (which is also an occasional issue) and I'll end up spraying a wall accidentally. This is annoying and could have easily been fixed, but I guess you'll get used to it. The tags come in three different sizes, and some take more skill to spray than others. By using the joystick you can move it according to how the screen prompts you, and will hopefully accomplish a successful spray. Whether you do it right or wrong, each spray uses up one spray can, which can be collected throughout each level. If you run out, you'll have to skate around and find some more!

Spraying graffiti isn't the challenge in the game though, if you haven't figured that out yet. It IS illegal, and the cops won't let that happen! The military will use all kinds of dramatic forces to stop you, which can range from attack dogs to huge, unstoppable tanks. So in order to maintain your health and finish the mission, you'll have to dodge their fire and keep on the run, which can make for some interesting moments.

And all the while, you can marvel at some of the best-looking graphics you've ever seen. The cel-shaded characters are quite a treat, and you'll have to see the game in action to truly appreciate it. Tokyoto itself is also pretty, and the environments look good thanks to some great texture work. Don't forget to crank up the volume on your TV too, because the music is pretty cool, and the songs are fun to listen to!

The gameplay and graphics are enough to keep the game going, but there are still some added things to make the package seem more complete.

If the games tags seem boring to you, try to find some better ones! There are hundreds hidden throughout the game, and it's pretty hard to find them all. And if that's not enough to float your boat, use the in-game editor to design the perfect tag. But the real attraction is the fact that you can go online and download your own JPEG, which can be pretty much anything-a picture of yourself, your friend, a movie screen-you find it, and it's yours to spray!

- Bottom Line -
Even after spraying my friend's face across the thousandth police car, I still find the game fun and the added extras only make it better. With revolutionary graphics, simple controls, and great music, Jet Set Radio delivers an experience that is unique and exhilarating. There are a few minor complaints, and it does grow old at times, but I still think it's worth owning and something everyone should play at least once.

Final Scores:
Gameplay: 9
Graphics: 10
Sound: 9
Replay: 8
Overall: 9

Jet Set RADIOOOOO!!!!!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 08/20/01, Updated 08/20/01

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