Sometimes I feel sad that I missed out on the whole Dreamcast experience. I mean, I have played one, friends had them, but I never owned one. The Dreamcast was ambitious and it presented all these crazy new ideas for home gaming. I just wanted to get caught up in that movement, to be part of the future of SEGA. But, I didn't get that chance and maybe for the best because even with SEGA's attempt to revolutionize consoles, they failed in the end.
A funny thing happens, though, in recent years, where old games are being brought back again in high definition so that we can relive those early games. Sometimes it’s still the same great game but most times, the game is hindered by ancient mechanics. Like I talked about with ICO, the games can still be amazing, but most times, they will end up being more frustrating.
Jet Grind Radio (which was changed to Jet Set Radio for the re-release) was a game I never played. I did enjoy the sequel, Jet Set Radio Future on the Xbox quite a bit, but I never played the one that started it all. People use to go crazy for Jet Grind Radio because of its punk-rock attitude and bizarre soundtrack. The game looked amazing for its time with cel-shaded graphics and colorful environments, but control issues ruined this arcade experience. Well, turns out those issues have yet to be fixed.
SEGA has initiated the “Heritage Program” where they bring back games from their old systems that were critically, well received. Jet Set Radio, I believe, is the first game they are doing this for, and I feel that anyone going into this re-release should have a little warning first.
Controlling your character in Jet Set Radio might be the most frustrating thing I have done all year. I played on my PS3 and my controller felt like it was responding like a Dreamcast controller, or in other words, very bulky. Precision, speed, and technique are needed to get through each level and those controlling issues that people use to whine about are about 8x worse now. Your character feels like a tank as you try to get them to jump from rail to rail or move around a corner. To make matter worse, the camera is constantly fighting against you as you move in narrow alleys and try to see where the next tag area is. This becomes infuriating as enemies, missiles, and dogs come barreling at you and you are unable to get away because of the lack of proper response from the controls.
Now let’s talk about the music. I know there are MANY people who go nuts over the soundtrack to the Jet Set Radio games but now, at the sparkling age of 23, the repeating, deafening music drives me insane. Most of the songs that play are mixes or samples thrown together for one track, and it gets irritating rather quickly when you hear the same sample over and over again. The Tutorial is a good example of this, as the only song they play in the tutorial is on repeat, and that level can take close to an hour to complete if you don’t know what you’re doing. Maybe I am just becoming grumpier, but it wore thin on me.
BUT, if you really want to dive into this classic, there are some positives. The graphics have been HD-ed and still look stunning. You feel as if you are playing a cartoon, even if the cartoon is a few years old. There are trophies/achievements, and leaderboard support. They say that the camera has been re-worked but it still sucks to me, so take that, SEGA! Aside from its glaring irritations, Jet Set Radio is fun to play when it wants to work with you. It reminds me of the Tony Hawk days with its timed levels and sense of urgency to beat the clock. The attitude is still cool, and nothing beats adding style to vandalism. Unfortunately, Jet Set Radio Future is still a better game, so I hope they re-release that sometime in the near future.
Jet Set Radio should only be played by those who do love the original Dreamcast title, or those who have fond memories of it. Gamers of this generation will find little to appreciate because the game feels antiquated at this point. The problems that were in the Dreamcast version are still here, so know that going in. Memory lane only costs $9.99, and that’s a decent price for what you get. But, sometimes it is better to stay off memory lane for awhile, things are not always as you remember them.