Jet Set Radio originally launched on SEGA’s ill-fated Dreamcast console to overwhelming critical acclaim. Considered one of the console’s true gems, a cult classic title that received a Game Boy Advance rendition and a sequel on the original Xbox, it’s been ten years since SEGA last offered gamers the chance to experience a Jet Set Radio title. Of course, for those fans of the series, this high-definition (HD) makeover couldn’t have come soon enough.
Jet Set Radio’s plot is somewhat nonsensical, involving rebellious gangs of youths fighting against an oppressive society through the use of graffiti. This is all lead by Professor K’s command of a pirate radio station, acting as narrator and instigator of the gang’s criminal behaviour. It’s undeniably a focussed effort to be cool in that quirky, aloof manner that videogame designers often strive for – especially at the true dawn of the 3D era in the late ‘90s – but more importantly it reinforces the groundbreaking visual design and enviable soundtrack. Jet Set Radio’s socio-political commentary is tired and ham-fisted, but as a channel for unique style and inventive 3D gameplay design it’s second to none.
And that 3D gameplay itself is something to marvel over; as with many of the best SEGA titles of the time, its simple arcade-influenced premise makes for some addictive adrenaline based gameplay. As a ‘rudie’ the player must tag certain locations throughout each of the many free roaming levels. In order to do so, they must collect spray cans littered through the maps and travel to the highlighted destinations before beginning the graffiti sequence. Smaller placements are automatic, but more complicated designed demand the player takes part in a sequence of analogue movements: a QTE sequence without a time limit. Instead, the pressure is added by enemies within the locations.
Throughout the levels the player is chased by Onishima, a cop trying to crack down on gang activity by any means necessary. In addition, the player will have to avoid cops patrolling the areas that make a dash to arrest you within you move within range and a S.W.A.T. team equipped with tear gas canisters. Jet Set Radio may not provide much of a challenge once a level of skill has been developed, but to begin with it can seem a little overwhelming.
The campaign tutorial is somewhat half-baked too; asking player to watch and remember short sequences of action before repeating them yourself. More illuminating is the separate tutorial option on the main menu, but even this fails to prepare you for the pressure you’ll be placed under as you try to make your way through the main campaign.
Despite the acclaim that was given to Jet Set Radio upon its initial release, there’s no denying that the videogame has dated. That said, as this Jet Set Radio repackaging is literally just the same videogame in HD, the visuals do clean up far better than previous digital Dreamcast releases including Sonic Adventure and Crazy Taxi, almost to the point where you could believe that Jet Set Radio had been developed specifically for the Xbox LIVE Arcade and PlayStation Network. The sound quality remains fantastic, with some perfectly pitched licensed music accompanying the original creations.
This HD revision of Jet Set Radio does of course come packaged with plenty of extras, documentaries and such, and given it’s comparatively low price tag there’s no reason for fans not to revisit the classic experience. In that respect, it’s a surprise that it’s taken SEGA so long to bring Jet Set Radio to HD systems. On the other hand however, things have moved on considerably in the last decade, and any gamer who’s expecting a rival to Skate or Tony Hawk’s will find themselves feeling like a fish out of water. Jet Set Radio is the exact same Jet Set Radio now that it was in 2000, warts and all.