About two weeks ago I found myself standing outside a movie theater, looking up at all the films listed under “Now Playing”. I had the choice to see any one of the many new movies, and yet in the end I went with “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. Despite owning the film on DVD and on blu-ray, and having seen it a number of times, I still enjoyed it as much (if not more than) any new release. About a week later I found myself downloading Jet Set Radio on XBLA, and feeling the same sense of excitement as I did with “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. It wasn’t so much the game itself, I’ve already played through it about eight times on the Dreamcast. It was the promise that I was about to see a crisp, clean, widescreen, HD, enhanced port of one of my favorite games. Sure SEGA promised this with the Dreamcast Collection, but they largely failed to deliver. Games were lacking crucial content, such as soundtracks or fishing controllers, or failed to offer up widescreen support. So how does Jet Set Radio fare, does SEGA’s Heritage Collection promise a bright future for HD SEGA ports? Find out after the break in our review of Jet Set Radiooooo!
I’d assume every SEGA fan has played Jet Set Radio, or at the very least knows how the game plays. But for the sake of those who know next to nothing of Jet Set Radio, I’ll briefly describe the game. You play as one of ten inline skaters who are members of a gang called the GG’s. The GG’s, as well as a number of rival gangs, are fighting for control of territory in a fictional futuristic Tokyo referred to as Tokyo-to. In addition to rival gangs, the GG’s must contend with the police and the shady business conglomerate known as the Rokkaku Group. How do they do this? By skating and tricking their way around Tokyo-to and painting their graffiti, avoiding police and occasionally racing down and tagging the backs of rival gangs. As the game progresses, characters join your gang via challenges, and in the end you must defeat the head of the Rokkaku group. Each stage of the game is timed, giving it that signature SEGA arcade feel. What more, there are various modes that allow you to revisit old stages to perfect your graffiti and tricking skills. At the time, Jet Set Radio was a revolutionary game for the Dreamcast. Some might equate it to what Sonic was to the Genesis or NiGHTS was to the Saturn. So it very much makes sense to have Jet Set Radio the first of SEGA’s Heritage Collection, with Sonic and NiGHTS soon to follow.
So how well did SEGA handle the port of a title that is both a Dreamcast classic and a title deemed an important part of SEGA’s history? Amazingly well! As Sonic CD has shown us, if SEGA has the opportunity to fix past issues, they should do it. And thankfully, Jet Set Radio HD remedies a few issues that players of the original game had. Slowdown has been all but eliminated. In fact, I can’t think of any moment slowdown occurred. Perhaps the biggest addition was mapping the camera to the right stick. This has made a world of difference, as players can now move the camera about while playing, making it much easier to see your surroundings.
The graphics are beautiful and sharp in HD, although textures are not as sharp as those found in modern games. Thankfully, since a lot of the textures are flat colors, you don’t notice it as much as you might in the upcoming Sonic Adventure 2 or NiGHTS rereleases. I have encountered occasional flickering of some graphical elements, like a fence in Shibuya-Cho going crazy when I approached it. Also, pop-up still exists in that if you approach a new area. You might see a whole section of the city pop into existence as you near the area’s entrance. But at least you don’t have to hear the Dreamcast’s grinding noises as a new area loads. Overall, graphics are a huge step up, and things like pop-up and flickering are in no way game breaking or excessive.
Perhaps the greatest addition SEGA made, which really went above and beyond what was required for a port, was the addition of a 14 minute behind the scenes video entitled “Jet Set Radio: The Rude Awakening”. The short documentary includes interviews with the developers as well as the graffiti artist Eric Haze and composer Hideki Naganuma. Most exciting to fans are glimpses at rare concept art and the reveal of bits of trivia. For example, I didn’t know that Eric Haze designed the game’s iconic logo. Also included are a sampling of tunes Naganuma composed for the sequel Jet Set Radio Future, which can be listened to in a jukebox format. I only wish they added the option to let us skate to the JSRF tunes in a free play mode.
If you have never played Jet Set Radio, I really suggest you download the demo and give the game a try. It is one of my favorite SEGA titles, and the care SEGA gave to this HD port deserves our attention. Sure the rerelease can’t fix every issue of the game, lest they change the game itself, but as a port it is an impressive one. For newbies, I will warn you that the game’s controls take time to master, but if you take the time to acclimate yourself to the game, Jet Set Radio more than rewards you with unique characters, a crazy story, a number of unlockables and play modes, as well as one of gaming’s greatest soundtracks. For Jet Set radio veterans, trust me when I say that this is an excellent port. Playing the game in HD and discovering all the new features really makes this the equivalent to watching your favorite 90’s movie on blu-ray. It’s old, yet new at the same time. Kudos to SEGA for this release and I cannot wait for additional SEGA Heritage releases.
• Jet Set Radio in true widescreen and HD
• Camera is now assigned to the right stick
• Soundtrack combines both US and PAL exclusives, making this the biggest track list in JSR history
• Bonuses like a documentary and JSRF tunes
• Pop up is still present
• Occasional flickering of some graphic elements
• Yappie Feet and Many Styles are excluded from the soundtrack
• No online trading of tags or ability to capture photos for tagging use