The original Jet Set Radio will soon be re-released on the PC, PlayStation Vita, Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. But what about the sequel? Oh, I guess it happened. Is it any good, though?
The Jet Set Life is Gonna Kill You
I wasn’t wrapped up in the whole Xbox thing back when quality titles for the black monolith were scarce. I got into the system at least five years after it came out. Despite getting the Xbox around the time the 360 was a hot commodity, the first game I secured for the behemoth was actually a launch title known by the name Jet Set Radio Future. What kind of game is it? Now that is hard to explain.
JSRF takes some getting used to. The same can be said about another early Xbox title, Gunvalkyrie. Both were created by Smilebit, who went out of their way to invent very interesting but mind-muddling control schemes. You can’t pick up the controller and instantly play this or that. What’s worse, you cannot just jump into JSRF if you have played Jet Set Radio, because you will be expecting something completely different from what you actually get; the two are not really that similar to each other.
This is a peculiar beast, and must be treated as such, with time and care.
Not the Bee Gees, the GGs
You’re controlling the GGs. They are the most bad-ass skate gang and they live like they’re Burger King. They have it their way.
That pirate radio station the GGs listen to, Jet Set Radio it’s called, keeps blurting out their favorite songs. The same three or four songs, over and over, ad nauseum. DJ Professor K gives out orders over the airwaves and is your eyes and ears (and nostrils) on the streets.
You’re on a mission to take over the remaining territory by any means necessary, and that makes you in the right for some reason. To make your job harder, the city of Tokyo is being overrun by the Rokkaku Police, a new police force that is operated and paid for by an eccentric billionaire ex-Yakuza fellow named Goji Rokkaku. He has a thing against youths on skates and graffiti, too bad for him that the city is plagued by those two things. Goji is unleashing HELL in the city streets with the aim to take down all these skate gangs.
Kind of reasonable, really.
Each chunk of Tokyo is like its own miniature level. To call it miniature is a lie for stages such as The Skyscraper District, because they seem to go on for ever and ever. Why doesn’t it stop? Each stage has some graffiti to spray over and some tricks to do. Normally, you only need to spray the graffiti in order to progress, while the other stuff brings you closer to 100% completion.
As you complete areas, you will find you need to return to previous places in order to access the next area. JSRF utilizes a kind of free-roaming system as levels are interconnected (like they are in games such as Half-Life or Postal 2). The game is very much directed by the story, although you can bunk off at any time because the game will remember exactly what graffiti you’ve sprayed. Most of the time it’s easy enough to navigate back to the Garage, the small hub level.
From the Garage, you can access different areas of the city. There are some tutorials there too, and it is the only place in the game where you can change which graffiti styles you want to use. It isn’t really much of a garage though, to be blunt about it. Garages have doors, and contain cars or other vehicles. The Garage in JSRF is like something MC Escher would have built using the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater Park Editor tools.
You can change your character at the Garage, or at any one of the Graffitti Stop locations around the city. You can play as any of the returning Jet Set Radio cast, although some of them are sporting different names. They all look very different from before, no doubt to help differentiate one game from the other. There are a few extra gangs but they are hardly worth mentioning; you can eventually unlock them.
So you need to spray graffiti in order to progress. In the original Jet Set Radio, the player needed to perform complex moves in order to spray paint their artwork. All kinds of ↑ & ↓ & ↻ that just left me confused. In Future, the player can simply hold down the trigger to spray graffiti. As a result, the player can put large graffiti in many places they simply could not have in the previous game. The downside is that the graffiti is made easier and quicker to perform but in a game where a slow and meticulously precise approach suits you better.
You can do tricks. Once you get the pattern down, performing tricks becomes too easy. There are bonuses for completing tricks or skating on particular objects, but all these do is generate more “Graffiti Souls” to collect. These things are your key to 100% completion and unlocking all of the graffiti designs in the game.
Put Up Your ‘Fitti and Try This
The game is fairly long and as of yet I still have not beaten it. This is because the difficulty spikes tremendously. That said, there is always room for a challenge or two, so I remain ever vigilant and continue to play on. I’ve lost interest at times because this game just isn’t fair. The sewer is a cruel and heartless joke.
This game deserves far more attention than it receives, but not necessarily praise. For what it does, Jet Set Radio Future gives the player an alternate take on the first game but with a more expanded story and environment. I hope that players do not forget about Future over the ensuing months as they dig into the re-release of the original Jet Set Radio.
Perhaps this might interest Sega in re-releasing Jet Set Radio Future, too. I honestly doubt it though; Sega is in dire straits, and they’re not going to make any games unless they are guaranteed a profit.
And really, Future isn’t that good at all.