December 14, 2000
There has been a lot of hype surrounding Jet Set Radio, or Jet Grind Radio as it is known in America for legal reasons. Not only has the game been receiving rave reviews around the world, but there has been a lot of debate about some of the games content. However for once, it's not excessive violence that is in question, in fact there is absolutely no blood or killing. The controversy surrounds the games skaters who "tag" or graffiti buildings around the city to mark their gangs territory.
Jet Set Radio sees you take control of a gang of young skaters in a city called Tokyo-to. The city contains several rival gangs who are out to steal your turf by "tagging" the buildings to claim the district for themselves. Your task is to skate around an area tagging (graffiting) the walls to overwrite the opponents' tags. Naturally you will face some opposition, not only from the rival gangs, but also the police who frown upon the gangs and will do anything from tear gas to shooting the skaters to put a stop to the graffiti. Through the course of the level you will loose energy from the opposition attacking you but thankfully red spray cans around the level will rejuvenate your energy.
Although you only begin the game with a couple of skaters during the game you can challenge different skaters and if you complete their tasks, some of which require a fair amount of skill, they will join your gang. Each skater has his/her own abilities, which are strength, skating technique or graffiti skill. In reality the skaters in the game have little to differentiate themselves, apart from their looks. Controlling the characters is via the analogue stick while the other major buttons control the jump, speed up while skating and spraying graffiti. Managing to spray the graffiti will first require you to pick up some spray cans lying around and then use the analogue stick to control the direction of the spray. The more accurate you are with the directions the less cans of paint you will use to complete each tag.
As you can probably tell this is no ordinary looking game. The developers have used a unique cell rendering technique, which gives the skaters a very cartoony look. The colours are bold and the levels are surprisingly detailed. To say that I am impressed with the result would be an understatement. The levels are also populated with pedestrians, traffic and opposing gangs populating each level.
One of the best things about Jet Set Radio is the sound. The music is a variety of hip-hop, drum n' bass and dance while the game levels are split up by a rapping DJ who describes what's happening through the city. Sure, he may become a little repetitive after a while but he is very cool. The sound effects throughout the game are very clear and as you slide along a railing you could swear it was actually happening next to you.
Being a game reviewer means you get to play a lot of titles, and a lot of the time it can become a chore to play a game. When the review is done, most games get shelved. That won't be the case with Jet Set Radio. This game is very enjoyable and definately has that replayability which so many games seem to lack these days. With a great soundtrack and some of the coolest characters ever this game will keep you playing for weeks. If you are a parent be warned that there is a lot of "tagging" required throughout the game, as it really is the main theme of the game. If you don't want your kids to think this is a cool idea at a young age you may want to steer clear. For others, the graphics, sound and gameplay will blow you away.