REVIEW – Jet Set Radio (PSN)

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JetSetRadio

Originally released on the Dreamcast in 2000, Jet Set Radio joins the ranks of Sonic Adventure and Sega Bass Fishing as a digital download on both PSN and XBLA.  Unfortunately, like many early 3D games, this graffiti rollerblading sim is better kept in your memory banks as opposed to reliving the past.

Updated to support high def displays, the highlight of the game are the cel shaded graphics and unique soundtrack.  Like Wind Waker, cel shading stands the test of time more often than not and the game looks better than ever thanks to the high def support. There are, however, still some textures that retain their pixilation but this can be overlooked thanks to the fluid and charismatic animations.  And unlike Crazy Taxi, the entire soundtrack found in the DC original has returned in this re-release.

But no matter how entertaining the graphics are, the gameplay suffers from clunky controls and just overall bad design.  Managing the camera is always a chore despite the new option to rotate the camera with the right analog stick, controlling your character feels too tankish, the magnetic rollerblades are often too magnetic, the graffiti analog movements sometimes do not register, and using the trigger button boost of speed never seems to go fast and far enough.  The game is a bear to control and completing even the early missions will require a big learning curve.  Even the tutorial suffers from poor game design; tasking the player to constantly string together a slowly increasing trick counter just isn’t fun.  Instead, it comes across as tedious busy work.

The entire premise of the game is also ridiculous but fit right in line with the Dreamcast age of the time.  The objective is to tag a quasi-Tokyo with your gang’s graffiti while avoiding the police and opposing gangs.  The main enemy, a scruffy cop, constantly chases the player and shoots at you with a hand gun.  It is a bit of an extreme punishment for the crime being committed but this element gives the game its charm and humor even though the tear-gas shooting cops are frustratingly cheap and unfair.

Level design always puts the player in busy locals with traffic and grind rails aplenty.  Each stage also has hidden and often hard-to-reach collectables, but when controlling your character is never easy, grabbing these hidden icons, let alone finishing a level, is a lesson in tenacity.  Even the built-in graffiti generator tool is cumbersome and not intuitive.

While the new HD coat of paint makes the game look prettier than ever, Dreamcast players are better off keeping this game as a memory.  The bad controls and poor game design might have been tolerable over a decade ago but it just isn’t that fun today.

6/10

Also Check Out: the GBA version

Worse Than: you remember

Wait For It: Chu Chu Rocket on XBLA and PSN with online support

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