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. Cmon, 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? Thats
right: Nothing! In spite of the lack of a multiplayer game, an obvious oversight,
were still slapping the GF! trophy on this one and calling it one of the greatest
games ever made. If you havent 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.
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 doesnt 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 youve 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, Ill dare to say that.
has a lot going for it even if it werent 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
isnt just about the graf. Indeed, theres something rotten in Tokyo-to, and it
isnt just the dumpsters behind the Shibuya soaplands.
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 youve 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.
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. Theres nothing
quite as satisfying as throwing up your own custom tag or favorite bit of propoganda. If
thats 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 youve
created with the game editor, complete with information about who created it and email
radio function allows you to use JGR as a music CD in your Dreamcast. While thats
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, its good), Jurassic 5, and MixMaster Mike songs.
These not only fit beautifully into the game, but they are worth listening to anytime.
most of the time, youll 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.
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
isnt 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
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 its usually a good idea to get them out of the way first, before all of the cops
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.
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.