Game News Why Jet Set Radio was a mythical game?
It’s been too long since we’ve been able to put on our rollerblades to cover Shibuya with improbable tags. Indeed, although rumors suggest its hypothetical return, the Jet Set Radio series has disappeared from circulation for almost twenty years. Twenty years ! Neither the episode released on Xbox in 2002, nor the more unknown Game Boy Advance version that arrived in 2003 allowed Beat and his entire clique to come back to bother the police. It’s time to put on the most colorful outfit hidden in your closet, today we’re going to talk about heroes who don’t wear capes, but who are capable of everything.
A story of perspective
This article is an opinion piece, it is by nature subjective. The opinion of the author is personal and is not representative of that of the rest of the editorial staff of JV.
- A graphic (and sound) slap
- The rebellious spirit, the light heart
- Learn from mistakes to embrace the future
A graphic (and sound) slap
“Hey there! This is Tokyo’s number one pirate powerhouse, Jet Set Radio!“. These few words uttered by the voluble DJ Professor K during the first moments of the adventure imagined by Smilebit are anchored in my brain like graffiti on an old subway train. Before continuing this post, I must admit that I loves Jet Set Radio since my eyes landed on his screenshots broadcast in magazines of the time such as The Official Dreamcast Magazine, Joypad or Dreamzone. “We had never seen this before” could we read on the pages evoking the software concocted by Sega. It’s true that we had never seen such visuals before despite a few tests ranging from ZPC to The Misadventures of Tron Bonne in the late 1990s.
The technique used, Cel Shading, is making a name for itself in the video game industry. It allows to give an aspect2d cartoon” in a 3D universe where the characters burst the screen thanks to their black outlines that seem to be penciled. At the beginning of the 2000s, we thought we had already seen everything with the arrival of the democratization of 3D. Jet Set Radio came to surprise its world by using the power of new technologies not to achieve more realism, but on the contrary to afford visual delusions out of nowhere. At the time, the specialized press did not hesitate to speak of “revolution”. Backed by a high-quality soundtrack composed by Hideki Naganuma, the GG’s epic was a feast for the eyes as well as the ears.
The rebellious spirit, the light heart
Unrivaled art direction is good, but it doesn’t make a game “mythical” however. Fortunately, Jet Set Radio has more than one spray can in its backpack. The graphics and music that come out of the nails are at the service of a resolutely non-conformist message which was far from common in the early 2000s. It is perhaps this element that struck me the most with the Sega title. Like Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey which succeeds in raising awareness – in homeopathic doses – on certain issues related to ultra-industrialization, Jet Set Radio is an ode to freedom, in all its forms. That of dressing as you wish, of going everywhere as long as it is as complicated as it is forbidden, or even of practicing an art deemed dangerous by the local police and mafia. Sure, tagging the streets of a city can be akin to vandalism, which has caused some problems for Smilebit’s app in the US and Japan, by the way, but in Jet Set Radio, the graffiti is as much a means of expression as of struggle in the face of draconian laws. The army, which does not hesitate to send heavily equipped helicopters to put an end to all this mayhem, speaks volumes. A true compendium of Japanese eccentricity, Sega’s work does not take itself seriously… and that’s good.
Learn from mistakes to embrace the future
Like I said earlier in the article, yes, I’m a fan of Jet Set Radio. I own all three games on Dreamcast, Xbox and Game Boy Advance, and the OSTs sit on my shelves, not far from a 35cm Beat figurine designed by First 4 Figures, equipped with a few LED lights to impress in the evening. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when Anagund asked me to write a little post about this famous Sega creation. Nevertheless, I found myself very annoyed when I realized that all that was reproached to its gameplay was justified. I experienced relaunching Jet Set Radio thanks to its remaster (available on consoles / PC) and it is clear that the gameplay took rubber bullets in the legs. Camera that regularly collides with the decor, handling generally imprecise, difficulty in sawtooth… The defects are very present and are all the more obvious today. Losing a second from the end because the character struggles to snap onto a ramp or gets caught in a projectile that knocks them down two floors is always terribly frustrating.
Jet Set Radio Future, on Xbox, will soften this difficulty (and approximations) by removing the limited time, simplifying the realization of the tags and compartmentalizing the fights with the police. Choices which were strongly criticized by the fans at the time, but which integrated rather well in levels with a surface area much larger than what we had on Dreamcast. Unfortunately, it is not easy today to realize how much better Jet Set Radio Future has aged than its predecessor, the Xbox exclusive having known neither reissue, nor remaster, nor addition to the backward compatibility program. Shame !
Visual nugget when it was released in the early 2000s, musically stunning, cheeky in what it tells, fun, varied both in its environments and in the opponents it offers to meet, Jet Set Radio is a game that has brought his stone to the building of the video game. A stone on which lies graffiti composed of thousands of colors.