JSR Past (Jet Set Radio PC)

Jet Set Radio for PC is a HD re-release of an old Dreamcast favorite by now defunct Smilebit. Paired with a good controller you can jump back to 2000, this time with high definition graphics and widescreen. There are further additions of achievements, leaderboards, and an updated camera system. The new Jet Set Radio could be a new release, if you weren’t familiar with it’s history and accolades of E3 Best Console Game and GDC Game of the Year nominee.

Starring Beat, Gum and Tab as the first members, and playable characters, of the GGs you must take on rival gangs in Tokyo themed levels by covering designated spots with your own customizable graffiti. Narrating the adventure is the pirate radio DJ of Jet Set Radio: Professor K. You’ll get the opportunity to gain more members in challenges that involve copying their moves and the occasional race. You can ignore them if you want, but the characters have different tricks along with more importantly, stats. If you’re having a tough time surviving a level and don’t care about a low score, you can pick a character with high health. On the other hand if you’re doing well, taking a character that gets more points for tricks and graffiti may be for you.

In Jet Set Radio the main plot follows taking on the rival gangs. Starting with the all-female Love Shockers moving in on your home territory of Shibuya-cho, you have to cover up the graffiti they’ve already left. Also to contend with are the cyberpunk themed Noise Tanks in the night level Benton-Cho and the monster mask wearing Poison Jam in Kogane-cho. Eventually you’ll be asked for help from some out of town taggers. This opens up play in some New York themed levels with different enemies.

All of the original soundtracks are in place to keep your groove when running away from the local police chief. He does get a bit zealous with his enforcement of the law bringing tanks and attack helicopters to the field. Calling in the military to take on local graffiti artists does seem like a waste of taxes.

The controls feel almost as good as the original. I played with a steam controller and several of the control locations are similar to the Dreamcast. The bumpers don’t feel as smooth for dash and spray compared to the original. Not sure why they bothered with additional camera controls as the default system tracks well and I had no issues my entire playthrough. Controller calibration was a little bit of a headache, and required individually binding each key, though the Steam controller has always been hit or miss for me.

Graphics are very stylized cel-shading that remains fresh. They could have gone the extra mile with the textures, but these kinds of thoughts disappear quickly once you start playing the game. It was disappointing that they diden’t include the glowing effect on the end of the skates that activated at high speeds. It was like an overexposed sensor in an older camera leaving an awesome transparent ghost trail when bombing the steep hills of Shibuya-Cho.

Although steam achievements are added, you’ll be plenty occupied trying to collect all of the tags. They’re floating icons in either a hidden or hard to reach locations. Upon collecting them you’ll have additional options when selecting one of your three tag sizes for use in future levels. Career mode doesn’t end things as you can continue to free play levels purely in search of the tags. This allows an additional exploration element without the constant pressure of enemies and racing the clock.

There’s few other examples that have so much going for them in so many categories. Cool look, funky sound, great controls and solid gameplay. The only thing missing really is additional levels to expand the experience, especially since you only get a taste of the Grind City levels. Overall Jet Set Radio feels like a solid $20 game, but it’s a steal at $7.99 for a Dreamcast classic.

Written by Stephen Crane

Crescent Isle - Chief Content Officer - @whoiscrane

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