Jet Set Radio (Sega Heritage)

Music, photos, and videos that take you back to a certain place in your life are things to be treasured. The fact that I just found Jet Set Radio on iPad has temporarily put any concerns over short-attention span technology destroying our lives to one side, in favour of replaying one of the greatest contributions to the animation and gaming worlds ever done.

Let’s remember that prior to the Sony Playstation the gaming market was Sega and Nintendo, with the Sega Dreamcast being the final ill-fated offering from the Hedgehog branded company before they finally bowed out. Nintendo almost went the same way in the same generation, seems a long time ago now.

Anyway, despite it’s short run, Sega produced some STUNNING games for the Dreamcast, not just superior graphics or gameplay but some of the concepts alone we’re so stupidly off the wall that we’re still surprised they worked. It was Sega’s launch of the Dreamcast that definitively acknowledged within the company that games were being created for young adults to get lost in, not just entertain kids. Unfortunately it was too little too late.

Check a list (no matter how incorrect – it’s missing Dreamcast’s eight-player version of Bomberman) of twenty-five games here:

Jet Set Radio (also known as Jet Grind Radio) centres around your gang of rollerblading spray-painting ‘rudies’, the good guys trying to gain control of a futuristic version of Tokyo. Hosted by Professor K. (the ‘Jet Set Radio’ station deejay), the story doesn’t take it self very seriously, but is ridiculously engaging. It’s part Wanderers, part WildStyle, part Akira and part Tony Hawk; skating around the city avoiding the police, battling rival gangs and spray painting murals along the way. Building your crew with new playable characters can become obsessive, and shows that the re-release of this game is a faithful reproduction not a watered down version.

Unhealthy attachment to vintage gaming aside, Jet Set Radio has stood the test of time better than pretty much anything else I’ve played. Jet Set Radio was released in 2000, and broke severe ground at the time. Although commonplace now, the cell-shading style of the game was like something we’d not seen before on a home-console. To be honest, it was an intimidating step for the developers to put on the gamers, but it worked, and created one of the most engaging offerings in video game history. This 3D rendering had NEVER been done before, I can’t emphasise that enough.

On release, Jet Set Radio was equally praised for it’s soundtrack, contributing to the redefinition of what ‘urban’ could mean. David Soul and Hideki Naganuma are the main composers, pulling the majority of short looped tracks together with David Holmes styled beat-funk clashing with downtempo nu-soul instrumentals and that bizzarre hip-hop jazz feeling that existed for a brief time. Mix Master Mike, Jurassic 5 and Cold are among the few artist contributors in the same vein, but the soundtrack also featured minimal amounts of pop-punk and even a bit of metal with Rob Zombie’s classic ‘Dragula‘ joint.

The fact that the game never takes itself too seriously definitely worked in it’s favour with reception, with Marc Ecko’s Gettin’ Up being the next notable graffiti based game to come along and being banned in Australia. That said, the graff in the game was contributed by the most part from iconic street artist Eric Haze, and is of the sort that’s nice to look at.

Only two years later (once the Dreamcast had ceased support I believe), a sequel of sorts came out with Jet Set Radio Future, which offered free-roaming of levels, built for the Xbox generation and representing a changing of the guard. The conversion to tablet here is of the original, and is perfect in every way (including soundtrack) but one, and that’s the controls. The strange touch-pad skating takes more than a minute to get used to, but Jet Set Radio is so damn fun and easy to play that it never gets frustrating. And once you’ve got it down, you’re sorted. Additionally, I’ve played it on iPhone too, and it’s just not the same. It’s such a beautifully sculpted game that the experience should be had on as a big a screen as possible.

Really happy to have found this. If you’ve got a tablet I definitely recommend spending $2 on the iTunes store and picking it up. Apparently there’s also HD versions kicking around for Xbox and Playstation users online, for which we pulled the very brief trailer from below.