|Jet Set Radio Future|
|MtAMinutes to Action||1|
|Buy from Amazon|
Cel-shaded graphics, fast action gameplay, and a rocking soundtrack? Sounds like the perfect game for me, and maybe a few of you readers too. That game would be Jet Set Radio Future, a 2002 inline skating action game released just for the Xbox. With the Dreamcast done, Sega was looking to branch out and become just a third-party publisher and I suppose the original Jet Set Radio must have been popular enough to warrant a sequel. I found it a bit surprising that Sega chose the Xbox, as that pretty much threw out the Japanese audience for a game that feels very... Japanese. Microsoft must have made a deal though, as the game was eventually bundled with Sega GT 2002 and thrown in free with an Xbox.
This was definitely a big time for cel-shaded games, with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, XIII, Dark Cloud 2, and Viewtiful Joe all released within the next year. When executed well, I believe the game's can rise far above in terms of style than any realistic looking video game. Jet Set Radio Future definitely has style, but does it actually play well? Well, let's find out; and no, I won't be splitting time with Sega GT 2002, I hate realistic racers.
(minutes are in bold)
00 - I select New Game and the first hour of Jet Set Radio Future begins. Some guy named Corn is hip-hopping on some roller blades and asking where his pizza is. I get control, skate to Corn, and press the R button to talk. Corn tells me to talk with someone named Gum. Why doesn't the right control stick move the camera?!
01 - I find Gum and she mentions that I'm the one who wants to join them. Everyone is always moving to the beat of the background music. Gum asks me to perform some basic moves to get a hang of everything.
03 - A jumps, and you can grind on rails just like in Tony Hawk. Wow, I just about grinded straight up into the air! Now I'm tasked with finding some spray paint cans, they're our soul. I also tag my first graffiti by holding the R button.
04 - You can also use ten spray cans at once to do a boost dash. Seems like a waste. I'm introduced to Roboy, a dancing robot, I guess he can save my game. The camera switches over to Corn who calls me a noob.
05 - Jet Set Radio is an underground pirate radio station headed by some Professor. DJ Professor K that is. The game switches over to him and he raps a bit about Tokyo and his radio station.
06 - Tokyo is being repressed by the Rokkaku Group. The evil corporation strikes again! Rokkaku Gouji has been paying off the cops and the only ones that can fight back are the Rudies, young kids on roller blades.
07 - Gum and Corn make up the most powerful group of skaters at the moment, and I guess I'm joining them.
08 - I regain control and save my game with Roboy, then talk with Gum. She says that some headphone wearing freak is invading the GG territory.
10 - I spend a few minutes just riding around, testing out the controls. The game is very leniant about flying into walls, I haven't even fallen down yet!
11 - The game keeps pushing me back from entering different areas, but I finally wander into Dogenzaka Hill. The DJ starts talking again, and tasks me with evicting the scum bags. The game then tells me to cover the area in paint.
13 - Now this place is busy, cars and people all over. I find some icon of a spinning head with headphones not, not sure what it's for though. I get hit by a car and finally take some damage, so you can get hurt.
14 - Not really sure where to go here so I press start and open up the map. There's a few orange dots around, and one right by the entrance so I head back there. The DJ teaches me about Graffiti Stops. You can save there or switch characters.
16 - The game feels a bit like Crazy Taxi the way everyone gets out of my way. I finally find some spray cans and then some tag spots and get to work. 1 out of 16 spots done.
18 - Just realized how much I love the cel-shaded graphics! 14 out of 16 tag spots nailed.
20 - I complete my tagging assignment, and the headphone punk appears, his name is Beat. He grinds through some glass and wants me to follow him. I got to break the glass again, fun!
23 - Looks like he wants to race now! It's going to be all around the map, if I lose, he gets to lay claim to Dogenzaka hill! I must protect it for the GG's. "Which is Chosen? Yes? No?" YES!
25 - Seems like you can actually spray him while racing and he gets disoriented a bit. Nasty.
26 - I lost sight of him pretty early on and win easily. I did use boost twice near the end just to ensure victory, but near constant grinding made for a pretty easy race.
27 - Beat has joined me! Oh oh, the police have gotten word of us and are sent after us. Beat recommends we both head back to the garage. A whole squadron of pigs rolls up, but instead of running, the DJ tells me to tag them with paint!
29 - First you knock them over by rolling into them, and then you tag then with the paint while they're on the ground. One cop managed to grab onto my shoulders but I shook him off by jumping.
30 - The DJ tells me I should head to Shibuya Terminal and paint over some ugly graffiti. It's to the north from where I am now. I wish you could grab onto cars and let them carry you like in Back to the Future! I also wish you could boost without wasting so much paint. I can only carry 30 cans at a time.
32 - Poison Jam are the ones responsible for the ugly tags, time to fix their lack of artistic skills.
33 - Wow, it's everywhere! 7 out of 35 done. It's nice how you can just fly by them holding the R button to tag the spot, nothing fancy necessary.
37 - You really need to use the map if you want to have a chance at finding all the spots. I just have a few left, but I'm out of paint, need to search for that too.
38 - Oh oh, got all the spots, but the Poison Jam gang is here! Guess they just want to talk though...
40 - Never mind, they skate off to some upper decks surronding the square and I need to find my own way up there.
41 - I reach them and they take off again across Shibuya. And repeat again.
43 - I guess they just needed a bit of intimidation as they leave the square. Some guy named Combo appears holding a big boom box and says that someone has been spraying tags on his turf! Maybe it wasn't the Poison Jam all along? He wants a race I believe. "Which is chosen?" Yes!
44 - All right, not actually a race, but a Horse game on skates. I skate where he skated.
45 - Dang, the game doesn't actually show you the path he followed, you have to remember. I ask Combo to show me again and he happily obliges.
47 - Okay... I'm pretty sure I did it, but when I talk to Combo he just does his route again. Maybe because I kept grinding at the end instead of stopping on the ground?
48 - I guess that was exactly it as I clear the challenge. The Poison Jam return though, and Omega says it was really them that drew all the ugly tags all along. And Omega joins me!
49 - And the Tokyo Police are on their way again, Omega heads off for the garage leaving me alone to fry the bacon.
51 - This time there was a "boss" who I had to spray multiple times to defeat him, maybe he was wearing a really big trenchcoat that took a long time to tag completely.
52 - The DJ is back, ohh man, the Poison Jam graffiti had real poision in it that makes people laugh themselves to death! That's serious.
53 - The boss was Hayashi, some baddie on the Rokkaku payroll, I guess he's pretty crazy and even his police partners are afraid of him. Now I get the opportunity to pick which skater I'd like to control: Yoyo, the guy I've been using, Gum, Corn, Beat, and Combo. Guess I'll try Gum. They all have seven stats: stamina, G-stamina, spray, grafitti, acceleration, cornering, and grind.
54 - Gum does a little dance after I select her and the camera dips a little too low for digital comfort.
55 - Time to start hitting the Poison Jam head on, Corn recommends I skate to Chuo Street first. Well, I accidentally skate to Rokkakudai Heights, there's still Poison Jam precense here though. And police!
59 - Most of the tags here are up the outer walls of second story buildings so I have to gring along the power lines, that's pretty sweet.
60 - I approach some gates that I believe lead me to more tag locations, but the DJ says I need to do something else first... Oh well, that's the end of the first hour of Jet Set Radio Future!
Minutes to Action: 1
What was awesome: The game is everything that I expected it to be: fast, fun, and a bit rebellious. Jet Set Radio Future thankfully does not follow the extreme sports genre too closely: you won't fall over every three seconds while trying to learn the controls. I can appreciate that from a game that lets you skate fast and fly high. It looks a bit weird to simply float against a wall that you just sailed into at 50 miles per hour, but it's better than lying flat on the asphalt waiting for the stand up animation to complete.
Jet Set Radio Future also features a great soundtrack, I'm not much of a J-Pop connisseur, but my finger was tapping my controller the whole time. The game is all about the beat, all the characters sway to the music and it's almost the centerpoint of the game, if it weren't for the graphics...
If you can't tell that I love cel-shaded graphics, well, I do. The game's palette is mostly blue and green and it looks very impressive while illustrating downtown Tokyo. I really can't imagine seeing the game any other way, just check out all the screenshots.
What I liked: The game feels pretty fast, but I believe it's all a great illusion. I always felt like I had enough time to react to anything and I often reacted too quickly because I felt like I was going to reach something quicker than I thought. It took the hour to get used to, but it feels pretty natural. I just wish there were ways to skate faster than using the expensive Boost which drains ten spray paint cans.
Speaking of the spray paint, it was great how flexible its controls were, you don't need to be right next to the tag spot and you can do drive-by graffiti tagging and nail all them all without worry. Well, actually I did miss them quite a bit because I was afraid of using too much of my spray paint, but as long as you're feeling a bit liberal with the R button, you'll have no worries and the game's flow will continue nicely.
What I didn't like: Whenever I hanging in the air for seconds at a time, I want to pull off some tricks! There's like 8 buttons on the Xbox controller that aren't being used, why don't any of them allow me to do 360's or tail grabs? I know that pulling tricks isn't the point of the game... but it seems like an obvious inclusion.
The camera could also use a makeover, the right stick is useless and I never got used to that fact. There's an unwritten rule that the right stick controls the camera! Maybe it hadn't sunk in yet in 2002.
Gameplay: Great flow, feels quick but gives you enough time to react, and the learning curve is a little less steep than other extreme sports games.
Fun Factor: I like how the game just gets down to business and doesn't make you jump through a bunch of hoops just to learn the controls (of course, the game is pretty light on controls). There was also a pretty nice variety in Jet Set Radio Future's first hour, tons of tagging which could get old, but also racing and inline skating Horse.
Graphics and Sound: Some of the best cel-shaded graphics I've ever seen, while it can look a little glitchy at times, overall the presentation is more than impressive. Plus it has a great soundtrack of a bunch of unknown songs you can enjoy.
Story: Well, it seems a bit like Mirror's Edge with the clean dystopian look, but in my opinion, this is one of those games where a story would just get in the way.
Would I keep playing? Great graphics, great music, great gameplay - it's a no brainer. Keep playing Jet Set Radio Future until it's done!