Ever since the death of thier final console the Dreamcast Sega have been rebuilding themselves as one of the top dogs in publishing bringing out a plethora of new IPs but also bringing back old titles that we gamers had once thought of as long dead. XBLA and PSN releases are one thing but more recently our old friends have been breathing life back into old classics on various mobile devices. One game I never expected Sega to resurect was the Jet Set Radio (Jet Grind Radio in the US) series, a quirky, design heavy, fast paced and unique title though it was I had never realised just what a huge following this game had gathered over the years.
If you don’t like bright colours, this game is not for you
Having picked up (with great difficulty) a Japanese imported version of the original Dreamcast title in Y2K I instantly fell for this game. A cell-shaded style which was at the time totally unique and an insane J-pop/Hip-hop soundtrack (some of the tracks still get stuck in my head to this day) for some reason really drew me in despite the fact I had no idea what I was doing or what was going on due to being unable to understand a word of Japanese. As a result I could never really get that far with the original title due to the objectives of later levels being something of a mystery to me. Later I picked up the sequel Jet Set Radio future for the original Xbox and that is where my love affair with this series really began.
Imagine my delight then to find out mere days ago that I would be able to rock out to ‘Oldie but a Goodie’ once more while covering the walls, cars and buses of Tokyo-To with tags all the while being able to actually understand what was going on ….. all this for the bargain price of £2.99 for my android device… yes please Sega … gimmie!
Installing this game plus the initial game set up is a bit of a monumental effort for my little HTC but it made it eventually and the results are something delightful. Sega America have managed to pack pretty much everything from the original into our little devices and that is an achievement to be respected. Imagine the future possibilities, a Dreamcast in my pocket? God yes give me that right now. How does it stack up against the original? Fairly well really, it does have a slightly laggier nature due to a heavily lowered framerate (something that might be less obvious on a tablet rather than a smartphone) and the directional stick leaves a little to be desired but I find this to be the case in almost all smartphone games. Apart from these very minor flaws this game is well worth the price tag. A full on gang battle/adventure through the neo-Tokyo streets avoiding the fuzz while raising the fame and increasing the territories of your in-line skating punk gang the “GG’s” is still a lot of fun and the tunes are easily as catchy as ever.
You start out as Beat guided by Professor K (the host of the pirate radio broadcast station Jet Set Radio) who keeps the plot ticking over with little interludes not unlike D.J from the movie the Warriors. You must first defend your own turf from rival gangs before sweeping into their side of town and taking your revenge by leaving your mark on any flat surface you can find and avoiding the cities increasingly psychotic police force led by the bumbling Captain Onishima. Seriously these guys are nutjobs who take real pleasure in harming innocent young inline skaters, they’ll run you over doing wheelies on police bikes, they’ll chase you with machine guns and tear gas they even call in the attack helicopters at one point. Luckily for you they are about as well trained as the henchmen in an Arnie movie.
Playing the game on a phone screen isn’t ideal, comboing tricks and grinds was never easy in JSR but the small size mixed with the lack of responsiveness from the control stick and some mammoth lag makes things trickier than ever here but it never renders things unplayable. The games mechanic for spraying your graffiti translates pretty well onto a touch screen however I cant help but feel they could have done a little more to integrate this input method into the game, the responsiveness is often not quite what you would hope for and you end up having to try your tags more than once before achieving painted perfection. That said it isn’t too far removed from the original stick input so you shouldn’t have any real trouble painting the town red or blue or whatever. All in all JSR is still great fun and it’s style still looks great Tokyo-To feels alive and vibrant and getting to those difficult to reach tag spots is as frustrating and rewarding as ever. Sega it seems are finally realising just how much love people still have for their old DC titles and I for one am hoping for many more revivals, if they ever manage to get Shenmue onto a phone I think i might just cry with delight. So get over to the google play/ App store now and pick it up it’s not a featured game and needs to have as much support as possible folks if the Dreamcast is going to continue to have the respect it deserves.
Break out your roller blades, get out your headphones crank up your volume and roll with the GG’s.