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Jet Set Radio Future




1 - 4


Sega's penchant for pushing the boundry of what a videogame can be reaches a head with the release of its...well, what is JSRF?

Sega's track record for bringing games that would otherwise never see the light of day speaks for itself. No other major publisher has the history of releasing some flat out quirky titles, nor pushing the boundaries of what a videogame can be. A few examples of Sega's breaking new ground and pushing the envelope are Segaga (too quirky for the company to release outside of Japan even), Nights, Phantasy Star Online (first online RPG for a console), and Jet Grind Radio.

Jet Grind Radio came out for Dreamcast and broke new ground in both gameplay and graphics. Visually, the game utilized a new technique known as cel shading, exaggerating the appearance of animation cels, giving the game a very unique visual style, that influenced many games to come (EA's Cel Damage, and Namco's Klonoa 2 for example). Stylistically, the game had no peer. No game before or since has blended so many "niche" gaming styles - until now.

While Jet Grind Radio sold respectably, it wasn't the breakout hit that Sega had hoped for. It did achieve a cult following, and imitators of the style began to appear. Talk of a sequel had begun shortly after the game's release, but with sales not meeting expectations, and the Dreamcast languishing, it appeared as if all hope was lost. Then Sega fell in with Microsoft, and announced support in a big way at the Tokyo Game Show Spring 2001. There, several titles were announced, Jet Set Radio Future being one of them.


"This is easily one game that will be in contention for game of the year..."

Jet Set Radio Future takes place 10 years after the events of Jet Grind Radio, but the game shouldn't necessarily be considered a sequel. Nor should it be considered a port. This is more like a remake, along the lines of Shaft, a film that not only acts as a remake, it can also play out as a sequel as well. The original game had the premise of Beat and a few other skaters vying for territory in Tokyoto (a futuristic high concept vision of Tokyo that only Smilebit could conceive). Territory was marked with graffiti, and rival gangs would move in on each other and tag the heck out of an area, then the cops would arrive, and boy would it get messy.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it..."

Jet Set Radio Future fleshes out the story - and dispenses with ordinary Tokyo police. Instead, we have a megacorporation looking to steal the soul of the city. It is the player's job (as one of several hip young residents on jet powered skates) to restore that soul.

The rival gangs return, but the police have been replaced with a private security force in the employ of the megacorporation. The security forces instead of providing you with an obstacle as in the original now impede any progress. No tagging can be done while the forces are around - similar to a boss battle. This can be rather frustrating at times, but you get used to it.

Tagging is only one of the aspects that you will employ with JSRF. The game comes with a graffiti creator, with which to make your own tags of various sizes to employ throughout the game. Sega held a contest at one point, and several of the winning designs have made their way into the game. Smilebit also created a nice array of sprayed art, so if you're not feeling satisfied with any of your creations, rest assured, there are plenty of proper tags with which to adorn the city.

The original JGR had players stopping in front of a specific taggable area and spraying paint and rotating the thumbstick in a certain directional sequence (to emulate the "strokes" of spraying). Here, players are able to skate by and press the right trigger and spray a large mural in less time than it took to spray small piece in the original game. There have been mixed feelings about this - obviously, Smilebit wanted to "pick up the pace" and not have a start and stop approach to the gameplay, and this works quite nicely. There is a contingent that does miss the "spray simulation" and would have liked to have seen a difficulty setting - one for basic tagging, and another for a more involved approach.

Gameplay is one of the hardest things to pin down in JSRF - the title utilizes so many styles, it's almost impossible to pinpoint them. There is first off, the tagging in the various environments. Getting around the massive environments sometimes feels like a dungeon crawl, not knowing where you're headed. Occasionally, there will be the boss battles, which will have either the security forces, or rival gangs involved. Rival gangs usually wish to battle using one of the mini games that JSRF has incorporated (more on those later).

Also as you progress through the game's story, other young hip street youths on skates will challenge you. Sometimes a specific series of stunts will be required to be performed, or simply following them for a few minutes through the maze like level will achieve your goal - having the story unfold, and the character unlocked and available to play with.

One major misconception about the game that it plays out simlarly to one of the Tony Hawk titles that we've all come to love, and that performing tricks is how you progress, opening levels as you attain a certain point level. This couldn't be further from the truth. As you tag and clear an area (at least initially) the story unfolds, and a new area opens. Performing tricks is secondary, but will need to be done in order to complete the game.

As you progress through the game, more and more areas open up for you to clear and explore.

The trick system in JSRF is streamlined enough so that it really comes down to pressing a single button. Most of the time, grinding and jumping will be all that is required to reach most areas. After a time, there will be areas where certain tricks are necessary (doing the handplant, for example, in order to pick up speed to clear a certain jump) but this was clearly not an attempt to emulate other extreme sports games that are out now.

"Other games are jealous, and rightfully so."

Also in the game are Graffiti Souls, which you will need to collect as you progress through the levels. These will come in handy not only in completing the game 100%, but also a certain number is needed to progress the story at a certain point.

On each level, is a mystery tape that will reveal all of the requirements to completely clear a level (so many tricks in a row, perform specific stunts, etc.) in addition to the tagging. This will unlock more within the game, but is not completely necessary to finish the game.

Primarily, the game is action based, with extreme sport and platforming elements. But that's just an easy explanation of the gameplay. There are areas where you will race around trying to tag other characters, or race, or perhaps you'll do all of this at the same time.

Take down the cops - a boss battle to the extreme.

The audio in JSRF is a mixed bag, because what there is in the game will astound you. The music is absolutely slammin', and the sound effects are top notch. Unfortunately, I got sick of hearing certain songs a few hours into the game. There is no custom soundtrack option in the game, which is understandable. The songs that are included are stellar, and since the story does involve an underground radio station, you aren't really in control of the songs that the station plays. I would still have preferred the option.

Voices are rarely used, except for a few characters. One thing that is missing is the credits, because I swear Inspector Hayashi sounds like one of the guys from The Kids In The Hall (the one that I can never remember his name….the one with curly dark hair….). Everything is subtitled, which is fine, but every once in a while a voice comes up, startling you. I wish that the game was either completely voiced or not.

The game has new multiplayer options that weren't available in the original, extending the shelf life, and possibly winning a few new converts. Now you can invite some friends over to show off just what Sega can really do. There are various mini-games that, due to the rather large environments, feel like a game unto themselves. Playable characters are unlocked as you progress through the game, as are various environments. While not quite deep enough to warrant a purchase in itself, the multiplayer aspects of JSRF really serve to enhance the gameplay, and share the love.

This is easily one game that will be in contention for game of the year, come time for those awards to be handed out. Smilebit really poured their collective heart and soul into the game, and it shows. After taking in a multitude of influences, ranging from animation & magna to hip hop and funk music and everything in-between, it passes through the frosty Smilebit lens and comes out looking like a game that no other developer could ever have thought of.

"No other major publisher has the history of releasing some flat out quirky titles, nor pushing the boundaries of what a videogame can be. "

While obviously not everybody's cup of tea, the game at least deserves a rental to see what all the fuss is about. Smilebit and Sega have delivered (once again) one of the most visually stunning, and unique games since… well, the original. Fans of the original game will want to pick this up and see what should have been on the Dreamcast, and those that missed out on the original won't be lost due to the different story line.

Daniel "monk" Pelfrey
Would get arrested for doing 1/10th of the things in the game.

Jet Set Radio Future: The Scores













The Final Word:  The game is one of the best on Xbox - even though it doesn't have that "visual showcase" look to it. While there are a few problems with the game (not being able to customize the soundtrack or having level goals occasionally unclear) it doesn't detract from the overall enjoyment. JSRF is hipper and cooler than any game on the market. Other games are jealous, and rightfully so.

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