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Jet Grind Radio
Due Fall 2000 for Dreamcast.

jet57-01.jpg (4499 bytes)As Sarah pointed out in her "Best of Dreamcast" list, Jet Grind Radio (that was the title they were using at E3, you’ve probably heard it as Jet Set Radio) is a title that certainly looks to change the face of gaming. Using a new program they’re calling "Celshader" the game’s developers came up with a really effective (and as you may have heard, stunning) way to render 2D cartoon-style animation into seamless polygons by drawing back outlines along their borders. Character and background animations take full advantage of Sega’s color palette, as well as every other conceivable graphical advantage of the second gen Dreamcast development tools. You really do have to just stare at this game in awe for awhile before you can force yourself to move and start playing.

jet60-01.jpg (4120 bytes)But when you do start to play, you immediately realize that graphics are only a small part of this game. If at first a "twenty-first century in-line skating" game sounds like a smaller part of a larger cliché, I can assure you that JGR is not simply another in this year’s slew of Tony Hawk clones. Rather, it is a fast-paced, plot and action based cartoon set in four massive semi-futuristic cities (a new one was added for the American release).

jetset19-01.jpg (2947 bytes)As a member of an "Overdrive Magnetic-Motor Skating Shoes" gang, your primary job is to mark your turf by means of that twentieth century standby, spraypaint. Each of the ten characters (unlockable through a tutorial-type first mission) has their own set of three different sized graffiti designs, as well as skate tricks. If you have a yearning for the art of the can yourself, there is an edit mode in which they can be customized. The size of your tag corresponds to the length of time it takes you to complete it, a fact that becomes increasingly relevant as the level goes on since the more items you manage to deface, the more police the game sends after you. On early levels, the police don’t pose much of a threat, but as you progress paratroopers, SWAT teams, and some surprise enemies make it their business to put an end to your little spree.

jetset3-01.jpg (6294 bytes)The trick system isn’t nearly as complex as a skateboard simulator, and there really isn’t any reason it should be. The basic compliment of flips, twists, and jumps are pretty straightforward, but can be worked into combos in and out of grinds. Grinding is automatic when you jump onto a rail, so you don’t need to worry about tricky balance issues when being run down by half the town’s police force. Basically, the trick system’s relative simplicity keeps the game moving at a pretty quick clip, and makes the action almost non-stop. Even while being chased by an entire swat team I managed to pull a grind-flip-paint-grind combo without loosing a beat—a fact that, after only minutes of gameplay, was extremely gratifying.

The level designs are interesting, and feature a nice variety of environments (parks, residential areas, rooftops) as well as a number of nice perks: interactive pedestrians, cars, and strategic and time-saving shortcuts. If you are looking for a super-playable, dazzlingly beautiful thrill-ride come this fall, look no further than Jet Grind Radio.

  --Brandon Hall