On your marks, Jet Set…
One of the things I love about iOS gaming is that each time a developer decides to resurrect a classic game for our tablets and mobiles, it makes reminiscing so much easier. I mean think about it, who’s got the time to go rummaging around a musty attic for their old Dreamcast just to play ‘Jet Set Radio’, when you can download it in under ten minutes? I certainly don’t. I’m much too lazy.
‘Jet Set Radio’ was a bonafide classic on the Dreamcast. I remember having great fun running round Japan tagging rival gang’s turf with graffiti while a funky mix of punk and hip-hop blasted in the background. I remember having great fun playing ‘Jet Set Radio’. Haha. See what I did there? I made you think I was talking about the game when actually I was talking about doing it for real. Hahaha, I’m so smart. Hahaha. Hello.
Anyway, the game follows you as a member of the GG’s skater gang as you battle it out in a fictional city of Tokyo-to (which I might add, sounds suspiciously like ‘Tokyo’, but clearly can’t be the same place because it has a ‘to’ on the end), as you attempt to dominate rival gang’s turf by spraying graffiti over their tags across town. But soon enough the Police show up and attempt to overthrow all the gangs by employing heavy-handed tactics such as riot gear, SWAT teams and helicopters. Hey, Tokyo-to Police, here’s a newsflash: rapists and murderers are out there too.
Two things immediately stand out about ‘Jet Set Radio’, the crazy cell-shaded graphics, and the even crazier soundtrack. Visually this could be the most colourful game in existence. I think every hue in the spectrum has been used here; combined with updated retina-sharpness, and humorously smooth animations (check out the synchronised dances for each crew), it makes for a truly refreshing game. So refreshing you could drink it. Note: you cannot drink this game.
It was always a great-looking title. Back in 2000 it was arguably groundbreaking. Today it’s still very impressive, although certain elements such as the dated fonts and slight overall blockiness betray it’s roots. Still a good-looking game though, even by today’s standards.
That ‘s until you encounter the hideous pop-up. It’s more technical than visual, but ‘Ouch’ is all I can say about this. Well, that and we’re talking about it being so bad that objects often don’t appear until they’re right in front of your face. If that happened while skating in real life…well, people wouldn’t skate. ‘Try doing some freestyle skating without bumping into anything’, the tutorial instructs. You almost wonder if that’s meant to be a joke. Although it doesn’t totally cripple the game, it’s certainly disappointing to see.
The game’s soundtrack is fantastic however. It’s a blend of rap, pop, rock, punk, ska, ma and pa. Er, right. It’s eclectic, cool and in some places, totally bonkers. Listen out for ‘Super Brother’ – or at least I think it’s called that. Mental.
The in-game radio station is manned by DJ Professor K, who gifts you new tracks after certain levels, who looks like a shaman witch doctor freak of your worst nightmares and who spouts absolute nonsense like ‘Get to the bathroom boys and girls and brush your teeth, because there’s trouble ahead’. Genius.
The thing that knocks a few points off the score for ‘Jet Set’ is the controls. Now they’re not horrible (I’ve played a lot worse), but because the game requires a sometimes insane level of precision, and often doesn’t let you to veer off track from the exact path it wants you to take, the controls need to allow you to reach that precision 99 times out of 100 at least.
Unfortunately although you have a pretty standard layout of a thumbstick for movement plus jump, boost and graffiti spray buttons as well as a button to reposition the camera, they just can’t provide the level of intricacy necessary to be as precise as the game wants you to be. You’ll be skating, platform jumping, grinding on rails and performing tricks all round the levels, and sometimes pulling all this off smoothly can be a challenge.
Yeah, it’s one of those games where you’ll really ache for a control pad. The new touch controls for spraying graffiti are nice, but be prepared for a fair dose of frustration at certain points of the main game as you know exactly what you want to do, but fail to do it. The voice acting is great though. Yep, that was relevant.
To it’s credit, ‘Jet Set Radio’ is so cool, funky and still very fresh that you could easily mistake it for a brand new iOS IP. It’s just unfortunate that the controls can’t elevate a good game to a great one; although to be fair, that’s not the sole fault of the game itself. Let’s face it: When you want to reminisce properly, sometimes you’re better off rooting around a dusty loft for a 20 year old Dreamcast and hoping it still works.
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