Developer(s) – Smilebit & Blitworks
Publisher(s) – Sega
Director – Masayoshi Kikuchi
Producer – Kawagoe Takayuki
PEGI – 12
Originally developed as a Dreamcast exclusive back in 2000, Jet Set Radio is a skating game and was the first game in history to make use of cel-shaded visuals, which have since been popularized by developers all over the mainstream being used within the likes of the Legend of Zelda series and being the staple visual style of franchises like Borderlands and No More Heroes. Though I was able to appreciate the origins of this now iconic graphical style, I was, however, a lot more disappointed with how this game plays out than what I was expecting having seen just how highly regarded it is. For how much innovation there was in terms of visuals, it’s quite flawed in terms of its style of play; especially compared to other games of its kind.
Graphics – 8/10
In terms of visual style, this game was groundbreaking at the time and would go on to influence the visual style of countless other games to come, such as XIII, Sly Cooper & the Thievius Raccoonus, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The character design is also very diverse with inspiration from street culture and hip hop music; it’s like if the movie The Warriors was set in the early 2000s. There are flaws with the technical aspects of the cel-shaded visuals, but this was to have been expected from the first game to use them.
Gameplay – 6/10
The gameplay, however, is not very satisfactory in my opinion. The story mode involves progressing through a series of courses whereby the player must rewrite graffiti spots to mark the gang’s territory; the scenario is completed when all the graffiti points have been marked. It’s really as simple as that; there is a scoring system for completing stunts (the logistics of which I will cover later on in this review), but the scoring system is only about as significant as the scoring system found in any old-school adventure game like the original Super Mario Bros or even Sonic Adventure to draw a closer comparison, as both that game and Jet Set Radio were released on the Dreamcast originally. There are additional characters to unlock, which give the game a little bit of additional incentive to play, but to me at least, it wasn’t enough to hold my attention for the full lifespan of the game.
Controls – 6/10
The true dealbreaker for me where this game is concerned, however, was the control scheme. Games with similar mechanics have frustrated me throughout the years, such as Sunset Overdrive, but this game takes that disappointment to a whole new level. I’ve read reviews whereby people have said the controls weren’t enough to hamper their experience of the game to too great an extent, but to me, the controls make this game almost unplayable at times. The layout of each scenario seemed paramount for me to be able to draw any pleasure from playing this game; they can range from simplistic to overly complicated with each level, and if you’re enough of a stickler where the controls are concerned, it can become a very serious issue.
Lifespan – 6/10
For those who are able to get past this game’s many flaws, it can be made to last there around 18 hours in total, which for a game of its kind, isn’t too bad a lifespan. But to my way of thinking, I don’t understand how a vast majority of games, especially newcomers, will be able to bear with it for any more than one hour. Short of what I’ve already described, there’s not a great deal more to do in this game and more content and objectives could’ve been added to hold the gamer’s attention better.
Storyline – 5/10
Although in terms of conceptual style I compared this game to the movie The Warriors, the plot is considerably more simple than that. It centers around a street gang named the GGs, who battle for street territory and credibility against various other gang members of the same ilk, all the while trying to avoid the police, who go to increasingly unnecessary lengths to apprehend them; all whilst under the commentary of a quirky DJ named Professor K. And when I say the police to ridiculous measures, I mean it; throughout the first level, they try to shoot the player with guns and use tear gas against them. But later on, they then make use of attack dogs as well as missile-mounted helicopters, all to try and catch a few kids on skates. I realize the developers did this as either comic relief or the purposes of gameplay mechanics (I’m not so dense as to not realize that), but it just doesn’t lend a great deal of integrity to the plot.
Originality – 7/10
Although this game disappointed me overall, the fact of the matter is that its visual style has gone on to become one of the most popularly utilized throughout the industry since the turn of the century. Many games have come and gone that have not only made use of cel-shading but have built on the idea of it exponentially, making for some of the most visually stunning games of all time. But this game provided the original template by which all cel-shaded games have followed since. That being said, there have been more influential skating games to have come and gone, such as those in the Tony Hawk series, and it’s in that respect whereby this game failed to show as much innovation as it should’ve done.
Overall, Jet Set Radio, whilst having gone on to influence a plethora of games since its release, was not the great game that I was expecting it to be; the controls are sketchy at best and the gameplay left a lot to be desired in my personal opinion.