Jet Set Radio Box Art

Retrospective: Jet Set Radio

Every now and then I like to dig out older video games to quench my nostalgia, in this new series I plan to look back, talk about and review these old gems. Hopefully you, as the readers, will enjoy.

Developer: Smilebit

Platform: Dreamcast

I don’t know about you, but I like old things. In fact, not just like – I love old things; bare in mind I use the word “old” quite affectionately. Old music, old films and, especially, old videogames – you name it, and I probably prefer it to the modern day equivalent. I am quite the advocate of nostalgia.

Every now and then nostalgia gets the better of me and I get the urge to play something old. Most recently, it made me dig out my Dreamcast and stick in Jet Set Radio – as the title of this post probably suggested – and it got me wanting to not just play the game but even talk about it too. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Jet Set Radio (JSR from here on out) is fantastic; there is simply no other way to describe it. It demonstrates the originality of the old (there’s that word again) Sega and how great they used to be.

The premise of the game is simple; it’s essentially a turf war between 3 gangs. JSR sees the player take control of a member of The GGs – one of those gangs I just mentioned – as they fight to gain control of Tokyo-to, a heavily fictionalised version of Tokyo. You traverse the city on a pair of roller-skates, grinding, performing tricks and ultimately spray-painting your gang’s logos over those of the other gangs – essentially marking your territory. As you play, local police may also chase you and if you are too slow they will shoot you, reducing your health a little.

It is also a game with great replay value. If you don’t fancy completing the actual task of tagging locations with your graffiti, you can always – and this is usually what I end up doing – find one of the many half-pipes in the levels and just bust out a few tricks. Even if the timer ends, nothing much happens, and you can always restart the level there and thenn.

JSR was one of the first cell-shaded videogames released, with the style becoming synonymous with the game from there on out. The popularity of JSR, and ultimately the art style would go on to inspire countless future videogames such as The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and its many “sequels”, the Crackdown series and many of Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei games. That’s pretty darn cool when you think about it.

JSR also has an awesome soundtrack, featuring a mixture of some original songs and many licensed songs from an array of artists. They are all pretty upbeat songs and match the gameplay perfectly.

JSR received a sequel, Jet Set Radio Future, released early on in the original Xbox’s life which was ultimately more of the same – albeit with simplified gameplay; players were no longer restricted to a time limit and no longer had to complete specific movements with the analogue stick to tag locations. However since then, minus the occasional re-release of the original, the series has received little love from Sega, despite constant pleas for a third entry from the many, many fans.

If you own a Dreamcast, or one of the many modern platforms it has been re-released on, you definitely need to play this game. In some places you can even still buy it factory sealed, although possibly at a more premium price. If you own an original Xbox I’d also recommend trying to get your hands on a copy of the sequel, although it usually sells for an extortionate price.


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