JET SET RADIO / Sega / PC
 
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Jet Set Radio (released as Jet Grind originally in North America on the Dreamcast) is one of those games you really want to like, because it's so gorgeous. The hard fact is that it's a pain in the nuts to play, though. It eventually gets to a point where it seems like every design decision was made specifically to irritate the player.
 


So we're in the near future on the streets of Tokio-to, playing as a gang of street vandals who go around tagging all day using skates powered by a new super-battery. They're really a bunch of little assholes who go around causing all sorts of property damage to businesses and vehicles at random for no good reason, but I guess we're supposed to sympathize with them because the local government responds inappropriately with stormtrooper squads who try to kill them. There's also all these different rival gangs with themes and uniforms, so it's kinda like The Warriors except with no actual fighting.
 
 


This is one of those games that gets so many things wrong in terms of gameplay and level design that I feel like it's actually a better format to use bullet points rather than fully articulated paragraphs. So that's what I'm gonna do.

* It starts with the alleged "tutorial" mode, which doesn't actually bother explaining how to do the advanced moves, just keeps yelling at you to do them.

* There's some limited in-game "training" at the outset but it involves obnoxiously memorizing long sequences that a CPU player does and then repeating them dead-on-balls or arbitrarily dying and having to restart. It also doesn't cover all the stuff you need to know later, like grinding on walls.

* You're often asked to jump onto thin rails, and gauging the depth accurately is almost impossible sometimes. Falling just causes damage and maybe forces you to flee the police, but it's often a long-ass sequence to get back up to where you fell from.

* When tagging, you're asked to do sometimes ridiculously long sequences of twists of the imprecise analog stick that are way too easy to screw up. There's also nothing ever fun about it even though it's one of the game's central mechanics.

* The system of doing tricks while grinding (and what constitutes a "trick") is just completely bizarre and unintuitive.

* Saw some bonus stuff in a level, but figured "I'll come back to get this once I have a better handle on the controls, or maybe I need a new move or something to get it"? Lol Nope. Once you complete a level you never get to go back, and it's hard to tell when you're about to complete them as there's no running indicator of how many more spots you have to tag.

* The camera is terrible to the point of clipping through walls when trying to follow you. Corners followed by sudden jumps were also not well placed in some levels considering the camera limitations.

* While the in-level cutaways to what the police are doing can be stylistically cool, they are also often not well-placed, sometimes happening right in the middle of a difficult grind or jump sequence.

* The music is corny as hell and always was. Of everything I've said in this review, this is the one thing that will probably get me shitpoasted comments somewhere and hate mail. I know it's beloved among fans, but it's beloved in that ironic, hipster-adjacent, honestly maybe a little mean-spirited way because it's so tryhard terrible. It's a Japanese composer struggling to ape a variety of popular Western genres and not totally grasping how they work, which comes across as charmingly awkward in its futility .. but as to actually listening to it? Welcome to the hell of "SHEEEEEE'S MUCH BETTER NOOOOOOW" / "DON'TWANNOTROUBLE" / "STOP PLAYING WIT DAT RADIO O'YOURS" / "SWEET SWEET SOUL BRUDDA" blared in your ear for hours. It's admittedly not bad when there aren't lyrics ... but there's usually lyrics.





Unfortunately, this HD remaster has done nothing but make the graphics more eye-popping and colorful than they were in the original game. So we're at the same place we were with the original release, just with an even wider gulf between appearance and gameplay.



The fanboy counter-argument will be the usual tired ol' "git gud", and I'm sure you can find the usual savant videos on Youtube that make every level look like a piece of cake. As always, it takes a ridiculous amount of time and throwing yourself at the same levels over and over and over to git that gud, and the question is whether the game gives you anything to make that time investment worthwhile. It does not. Kids in 2000 who spent months of saved allowance did it because they didn't really have a choice. Now, there's plenty of better options to move right along to.



I think I've used the term "pretty, clunky monster" to describe a couple of games before. I don't think it fits any other game better than this one. The visual style is unparalleled, and it might be worth a few bucks just for eye candy, but it's not the turn of the millenium any more and that's no longer enough to win the game points all by itself like it did back in 2000. I actually bought this with my first Dreamcast back in 2001, and back then I got frustrated with it and gave up on it fairly quickly. 2001 Me was notoriously more impatient, and also not committed to typing out long-form reviews, so I thought the game might fare better on this replay ... unfortunately it seems 2016 Me actually feels exactly the same way about it. Lovely to look at, but I was already fully sick of it by the second set of levels.
 
 
 
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