Radio has made its way to the GBA thanks to Vicarious Visions the
folks responsible for the Tony Hawks Pro Skater GBA games and it is
every bit as fun as its DC and Xbox brothers. To be more accurate, the
GBA Jet Grind Radio is actually a very ambitious port of the original
Dreamcast game. The graphics obviously arent as good, but the overall
visual style is still very much intact. In fact, this is one of the most
impressive GBA games that has come out in quite a while and is
definitely worth checking out.
In Jet Grind
Radio, rival skate gangs mark their territory by tagging buildings,
busses, and everything else with graffiti in the near-future city of
Tokyoto. Graffito-tagging everything in sight is looked down upon by
"the man", and the games police force, known as the keisatsu, will
chase you down and beat you with sticks if they catch you. Even worse is
the gun toting Chief Onishima who likes to shoot first and ask questions
later. With the help of the dreadlocked Professor K, the man behind the
microphone at pirate station Jet Set Radio, it is up to you to help the
GGs fend off rival gangs while avoiding the police.
gameplay in Jet Grind Radio is innovative yet eerily familiar. You skate
around the levels and spray your logo on various spots around the map
that are marked with arrows. There are various sizes of tags you are
required to make and all of them require slightly different manipulation
of the controls. Small tags require you to only press the A button when
you reach the spot and some of the most satisfying tags are those you
can make at high speed while grinding a rail. Larger tags can only be
completed by performing motions on the GBA d-pad or, better yet, the
analog stick on the GC controller if you are playing the game through a
GB Player. Some of these commands are as simple as holding straight down
or straight up, but a lot of the time they require quarter-circles or
even complete rotations that are petty hard to pull off if youre in a
hurry. In order to complete any of these tags, you have to collect spray
cans that are located throughout each level. The spray cans are
plentiful and they respawn after a while, so you will rarely run out of
the tools you need to complete your dirty work.
On top of
all of the spray-painting goodness going on, you can also grind on most
of the surfaces in the game. Grinding is much simpler than in the THPS
games as you dont have to worry about balance, but it is still fun.
Most of the spray cans are located along grind lines so it is pretty
easy to pick up more than enough cans on your way between tag locations.
In order to reach some of the tag locations you have to find the correct
grind line and ride it to where you need to go. All of this is pretty
easy to do and is definitely a lot of fun.
All is not so perfect in Tokyoto, however. The game is shown in an
isometric 2-D perspective rather than the full 3-D of the DC original
and Xbox versions. This is understandable since this is the GBA were
talking about, but it presents a few problems unique to the GBA version.
It is hard to tell just where some of the onscreen items are in relation
to your characters. Sometimes it is impossible to tell if a spray can is
right in front of you or fifteen feet in the air. Also, completing some
of the longer grind lines where you have to jump from one rail to
another is made more difficult because it is hard to tell where you are
in relation to everything. You learn how to better handle these
situations the more you play, but it is very tricky for beginners to
Another thing that may turn people away from Jet Grind Radio are the
funky controls. It uses a control scheme a lot like Resident Evil in
that your character moves like a tank. Pressing up moves your character
forward in whatever direction they are facing and pressing left or right
makes them turn left or right. For a slow game like RE, this is fine,
but for a game that blazes along as fast as JGR, you have to spend a lot
of time going slow so you can turn your character around. Again, you get
used to it, but beginners may become frustrated when they cant move the
way they want to because of the controls.
A surprising inclusion in the GBA version of Jet Grind Radio is the
graffiti editor. You can create your own 32x32 pixel, 7 color graffiti
tag and use it in the game. You can only save one custom tag on the cart
at a time, but the fact that this mode was included at all is
astounding. It is always nice to be able to include some of your own
custom things in games, and it is even better when you can do it on you
Once you do figure everything out, Jet Grind Radio on GBA is every
bit as fun as its console brethren. It is very challenging, though.
Finding all of the tag locations and completing some of the trickier
controller movements in order to finish the larger tags all while the
fuzz and Chief Onishima are breathing down your neck can get pretty
intense. On more than one occasion I finished a level with just a few
seconds to spare. The relatively simple gameplay combined with the
frantic pace is addictive and very enjoyable.
The graphics in Jet Grind Radio are very impressive. The environments
will remind you of the THPS games, but that is all right since they look
great already. The real highlights as far as the graphics are concerned
are the characters and other foreground objects. Spray cans and the
keisatsu are presented in a style that looks very much like cel-shading
and manage to capture the look of the console games very well. The
playable characters are nicely animated and, because of the cel-shaded
style, they look great. There is a hint of slowdown when a lot is going
on, but it doesnt affect the gameplay very much.
Just like the graphics, the sound is outstanding. There are lots of
voice clips in the game and the sound effects are perfect. More
impressive is the music. There are several tracks taken from the
Dreamcast version featured in the game. They were cut down to only about
45 seconds each, but this music has always been great and these tracks
are of amazingly high quality.
Overall, Jet Grind Radio on the GBA is an extremely impressive port
of the DC original. The story is the same and the levels are as close to
the same as possible, and the graphics do an amazing job of maintaining
the style of the JGR series. There are some issues that youll have to
work through in order to fully enjoy the game, but once you master the
controls it is hard not to have a good time. Jet Grind Radio is one of
the more impressive games available on the GBA and I highly recommend