for pushing the boundry of what a videogame
can be reaches a head with the release of
its...well, what is JSRF?
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
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
Your mission, should you choose to accept
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
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
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
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
Daniel "monk" Pelfrey
Would get arrested for doing 1/10th of the things in the game.
Jet Set Radio Future: The Scores
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.