Sunday 19 April 2020

Jet Set Radio (Sega Dreamcast review)

Developer: Smilebit
Publisher: Sega
Released: 2000

Jet Set Radio is an extreme sports game that was released in North America as Jet Grind Radio.

You're part of the GGs who compete for turf against three rival gangs in the streets of Tokyo-to. Completing missions usually involves collecting spray cans, locating spots to graffiti and then inputting specific movements using the analog stick, all the while being chased by the police or enemies. While the world isn't technically free roaming (each mission takes place in bite-sized areas), everything is beautifully designed and impeccably stylised; the locales are varied and interesting, and there are many cleverly arranged sections where you can link grinds and tricks together for some impressive combos. The main issue with the gameplay though is the repetitive nature of the missions, as simply running around tagging graffiti spots and attacking enemies isn't engaging enough; while the ability to unlock playable characters by repeating their combos is a neat idea, there's nothing else to break up the monotonous action. Also, the controls are sloppy and the erratic sensitivity of the inputs results in lots of unnecessary anxiety; the automatic grinding is a huge issue and you'll often try to leap towards the ground, only to latch on to a rail and end up facing the wrong way. Another problem is the camera, as without a second analog stick you need to press the L trigger to reset the current angle; in the heat of trying to avoid incoming enemies and finding a missing graffiti spot it can prove to be a very imprecise method of viewing the surrounding area. On a plus note, the cell-shaded graphics feature sharp lines and eye-popping colours, and the catchy music perfectly encapsulates the underground nature of the gameplay.

Jet Set Radio has its moments and can be mildly fun in short bursts, but it takes a very patient gamer to endure its temperamental controls and relentlessly dull mission objectives. While there's no doubting the top-tier level design and gorgeous art style, the rest of the game is unable to maintain similar high standards.

Random trivia: The game has many unused assets including alternate music and different voiceover takes from Professor K.

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