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GamesFirst! Magazine

JetGrindRadioTMsmall.gif (11751 bytes)
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by Sega

jetset3-01.jpg (6294 bytes)Very rarely does a game come along that just blows us away. Sure, we get great titles all the time, and we have a lot of fun doing what we do here at the old GF!, but Jet Grind Radio has really taken the cake. C’mon, what could be cooler than a cartoon that you control where you roll around the city on jet-powered in-line skates throwin’ up graffiti? That’s right: Nothing! In spite of the lack of a multiplayer game, an obvious oversight, we’re still slapping the GF! trophy on this one and calling it one of the greatest games ever made. If you haven’t played JGR, go get it. If you still think there are no good games out for the Dreamcast, in spite of the obvious prowess of JGR, crawl back under the rock you call home.

2_1_3001.jpg (4278 bytes)Utilizing a brand new technology in 3D rendering, JGR creates a visually catchy blend of 3D landscapes and 2D characters. Tokyo-to, the future city where JGR takes place, is rendered in beautiful 3D, complete with all kinds of little details that make it feel like a bustling metropolis. The characters you play are also rendered in 3D, but they are shaded to look like cel-animated figures. This doesn’t give you the 2D "paper" look like in UmJammer Lammy or PaRappa. Rather, the characters can be seen at any angle, and regardless of which angle you view them from they look like two dimensional drawings. The overall effect is the feeling that you are looking at a splendidly rendered cartoon. Add in a contemporary, graffiti aesthetic and you’ve got one heck of a beautiful game experience. This is more than "good" or even "great" graphics – these visuals are entirely original and exciting, dare we say "artistic?" Yeah, I’ll dare to say that.

jet60-01.jpg (4120 bytes)So JGR has a lot going for it even if it weren’t such a dang fun game, but it is. The basic premise is pretty simple: Sometime in the near future, in a city called Tokyo-to (which is very much like Tokyo, but not), rival gangs of skate punks vie for the best graffiti spots, pumped up by the soundtrack of the omnipresent Jet Set Radio, a pirate station that specializes in superdope breakbeats. Of course, it all starts out nice and simple – throw up your tag over rivals’ tags – but soon it becomes clear that it isn’t just about the graf. Indeed, there’s something rotten in Tokyo-to, and it isn’t just the dumpsters behind the Shibuya soaplands.

BACKSLID.jpg (5217 bytes)You begin the game playing Beat, the flyglasses wearing lead character and founder of the GGs, a Shibuya skate gang. You can jump into the tutorial mode, where you hone your skating and graf skills, but the real fun starts when you get into the story mode. Right off the bat, you meet two challengers – Tab and Gum. You must follow their path and pull off their best tricks in order to get them to join you. Once you’ve got your crew, you proceed to the main body of the game. The Clubhouse is your base of operations, and from there you can edit graffiti, get on the Internet, listen to the radio, or just head to the streets.

CARGRAFF.jpg (4348 bytes)The graffiti editor is one of the most impressive parts of JGR. You can spell your tag in either English or Japanese (using Katakana), warp the letters, apply one of over 70 different color schemes, paint a background, and use it in the game. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as throwing up your own custom tag or favorite bit of propoganda. If that’s not satisfying enough, you can make your own graffiti in any computer program, upload it to a website in JPG format, and then download it back into your DC. The Internet function also allows you to browse the JGR homepage, and you can upload graf you’ve created with the game editor, complete with information about who created it and email address.

GRAGRAFF.jpg (4745 bytes)The radio function allows you to use JGR as a music CD in your Dreamcast. While that’s not worth much with most games, JGR sports a truly outstanding soundtrack. The original songs, such as "Super Brother" are really great, but the best tracks are the Rob Zombie (yeah, believe it or not, it’s good), Jurassic 5, and MixMaster Mike songs. These not only fit beautifully into the game, but they are worth listening to anytime.

SOUL2GUM.jpg (5151 bytes)But most of the time, you’ll just head straight to the streets for some hardcore skate action. There are three main areas in Tokyo-to, ruled by the Love Shockers, Poison Jam, and Noise Tank. These rival gangs are totally unique. The Love Shockers are punk-rock gals with bright pink hair. Poison Jam wears Godzilla outfits and love horror films. Noise Tank are techno-junkies who emit odd bleeps and squeals as you take over their turf. There are several missions in each area, during which you eliminate the other gangs by tagging over their graffiti. There are also cool missions where you have to chase down each of the rival gang members and tag them. And every one in awhile a new challenger shows up at your clubhouse, offering to join the GGs if you can beat him or her. These challenges are incredibly tough, but a lot of fun.

WALLGRAF.jpg (3956 bytes)The levels are pretty big. You skate everywhere from outdoor malls, to bus stations, to the sewers and canals. Everything is thoroughly grind-able, and there are plenty of huge jumps to conquer. Of course, as soon as you start spraying, the cops start to show up. And this isn’t your run-of-the-mill fuzz here. These guys attack you with tear gas, missles, roadblocks, attack dogs, helicopters, and anything else they can muster. Of course, you can tag the chief of police, too, just to make him extra mad. Avoiding bullets and the rest of the melee is only part of the challenge – your primary goal is to paint those walls.

YUKAGRA2.jpg (4592 bytes)Control is fairly simple and very intuitive. You basically have a jump button, a speed burst button, and a graffiti button. The focus is not so much on mastering a plethora of tricks, as in THPS, but on figuring out how to transfer between grinds and maintain your speed. When you spray large or extra large graffiti, you must complete a series of control stick movements. This adds another element to the graffiti spraying, forcing you to really use some strategy when deciding what places to tag first. The big graffiti will take longer, so it’s usually a good idea to get them out of the way first, before all of the cops arrive.

ZOU_04.jpg (4700 bytes)The only real criticism of JGR that I can muster is the notable lack of a multiplayer mode. Granted, in a split-screen mode the graffiti would lose its resolution and not look so nice, but ultimately the graffiti is only a small part of what makes this game so fun. It would be a blast to be able to race a friend to a tag spot, or to play tag by painting on each other. JGR is also begging for a "HORSE" mode, where you had to complete as many tricks as your opponent on the same obstacle. The really obvious multiplayer mode is a simple "graffiti" mode where you try to tag more objects than your rival. Still, in spite of this incredible oversight, JGR is a phenomenal game, and remains highly playable, even in groups.

jet19-01.jpg (5773 bytes)What’s left to say? If Sega keeps cranking out thoroughly amazing titles like JGR, the Dreamcast could remain on top for years. While the other next-gen systems stumble through their first generation titles, the Dreamcast drives into new territory with incredibly innovative titles. Jet Grind Radio is an excellent example of what video games could be – artistic, insanely fun, and original.

Shawn Rider

Snapshot

Ups: Incredible aesthetic; great action; excellent soundtrack; innovative gameplay; graffiti editor; Internet connection to d/l or u/l graf.

Downs: No multiplayer.

System Reqs:
Sega Dreamcast

 

 

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