Published on April 11th, 2012 | by ~G~2
PAX East 2012: Jet Set Radio
The only question to ask is whether SEGA has done a decent job this time of porting the game across to the download stores? Unfortunately the previous Dreamcast ports haven’t all fared so well in the transition: Sonic Adventure was a port of the PC version – losing some of it’s charm, analogue controls and not supporting modern wide-screen TVs. Crazy Taxi also suffered from lack of the analogue controls and losing all of it’s original (and bloody awesome) soundtrack by The Offspring and Bad Religion – being replaced instead by some lacklustre and forgettable rock music.
For those that don’t know about Jet Set Radio, it was widely considered as one of big Dreamcast classics. Featuring a completely original idea, excellent gameplay, unique (at the time) visuals and a truly brilliant soundtrack.
In a nutshell, the game had you play as a member of a skater (roller bladers, not skateboarders) gang. You need to build up your gang and reclaim territory across the fictional city of Tokyo-to (a parody of Japan’s Tokyo). To reclaim territory you need to spray your graffiti tags over the tags of rival gangs across the city.
Each level has you playing in a small section of the city and you can skate and grind your way around, finding tags to spray over and (sometimes) rival gang members to scare off.
Trying to stop your gang’s influence across the city, other than rival gangs, is the police and its insane chief. The standard police officers will literally jump on you to take you down, while attack helicopters will fire rockets and the chief of police will chase you with a massive revolver.
The concept was simple, if not slightly insane, plus it also included a pretty interesting story to follow – plenty more than the brief description I just gave – the game was so well put together, it became one of the most beloved titles on the Dreamcast, and it’s long overdue for SEGA to bring this gem to modern systems.
Keeping it real:
Playable at PAX was the Xbox 360 version of JSR and thankfully the game has mostly been left as intact as I lovingly remember from the Dreamcast original.
I’m told that the majority (not all) of the game’s original soundtrack is still there (unlike Crazy Taxi) and it was good to hear some familiar tunes pumping out at the show. And fixing one of the issues of Sonic Adventure – JSR was playable in full wide-screen and, while they haven’t changed too much, the visuals were noticeably better than the original Dreamcast version – with all the pixelated edges smoothed out, the game is looking very crisp.
The actual gameplay doesn’t seem to have been tweaked too much, which should please fans of the original, the characters control in the same way and the button layout is identical to the Dreamcast version.
Spraying tags is very smooth with the Xbox controller, more so than I can recall on the Dreamcast – which makes it less frustrating when you are in an intense moment (like being hounded by the cops or attacked by a helicopter).
But one added feature to the game is having full control of the camera with the second analogue stick. The original Dreamcast title only really allowed you to change the camera so it flipped behind you (using the L trigger), that function is still available but now you can use the additional control stick to move the camera freely around you – which helps immensely in tight positions and looking for tags to spray over.
I only played one of the early levels in the game, but all the loving memories soon came back to me: the fun gameplay mechanics, the challenging level designs and the insane aggression the police have towards some petty street crime.
I wouldn’t want to jump to conclusions but, judging from the playtime I had at PAX East, Jet Set Radio looks set to be the best Dreamcast title ported to the download market places by far.
Let’s hope that the final product holds up and SEGA hasn’t removed anything too important or tried to add something that breaks the gameplay, because at PAX East my love for the good old SEGA innovation returned.
Hopefully SEGA will take note of this for all future titles. You don’t need lots of additional features – just make sure the game runs properly on modern systems/TVs and hasn’t lost any of it’s original playability.