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Chronological Game Challenge Review – Jet Set Radio

Hello everyone! Here’s another Chronological Challenge review, as I intend to try and shift towards a daily update schedule so I can catch up a lot faster to where I am now. Theoretically, I can get back on track within a month. Let’s see how I do!

Now would you stop playing with that radio of yours? I’m trying to get to sleep!

Jet Set Radio
Publisher: Sega | Developer: Smilebit | Released: June 29, 2000 (Japan)
Original System: Sega Dreamcast
Played on: PS3 (PSN release)

Goal: Beat the game

Actual Outcome: Took down the big bad guy threatening Tokyo-to’s streets

Yo, it’s your boy here, coming at you with the hottest reviews of old video games around, and today I’ll be looking at the phattest game from the Dreamcast, Jet Set Radioooooooo.

Now I’ve proven how not cool I am, time for some background. Due to never owning a Dreamcast, I never played Jet Set Radio on release, but something about its cartoony dopeness always appealed to me. But when it finally released on PSN, allowing me to play it on a system I actually own, it slipped under my radar, and it wasn’t until I started this challenge that I bought it while considering picking up games I’d had a vague interest in.

It’s a game with simple concepts. You’re a skater boy and/or girl, and you spray graffiti everywhere so your gang can gain dominance of Tokyo’s streets. While doing this you have to avoid police attention while simultaneously being able to perform some sweet-ass tricks. It has a funky soundtrack to boot. It’s basically the definition of “cool” in video game form.

And to begin with, it’s a lot of fun. The mechanics are fairly easy to pick up, and it’s incredibly satisfying to tag a wall and then skate off, holding up a middle finger to the police that have just barely caught up with you. The soundtrack kicks ass and the design of the world and the characters is impressive, employing a cel-shading technique that’s prevented the game from looking dated.

But sadly, the experience does get frustrating at times. Jumping can be a little floaty, meaning grind rails can often be missed if you’re not precisely lined up, and it can become very easy to jump into walls or other blockades. Not to mention the trick system isn’t the most refined, often leading to a chain of the same tricks over and over as you struggle to make the game do anything else.

The chase mechanic also gets pretty old pretty fast. There are plenty of times when it would be preferable to have free rein of the area so you could trick and tag to your heart’s content, but instead you often find yourself having to scramble around in ways that get tiresome. Having to loop around an area four times just to get a dude with a whip out of your hair for all of five seconds isn’t the greatest game design, it has to be said.

Yet, Jet Set Radio is far from a bad game. When it works, it really works. The aesthetics are finely tuned, and when you can get a good trick chain going, it’s a lot of fun. But it frequently bogs this down in frustration. In summary, Jet Set Radio is a fine product with a lot going for it, but it does struggle with some noticeable issues.

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