SEGA Retrospective: The Music of JSRF – Singing a Tune that’s both Unique and Familiar

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Jet Set Radio and Jet Set Radio Future were two incredibly different games, each with a style all its own.
Considered by some to be a sequel and by others to be a reboot of the original, Jet Set Radio Future set itself apart from its Dreamcast predecessor in a variety of ways, one of which being its incredible soundtrack.

In celebration of Smilebit month, I sat down and listened to the Jet Set Radio Future soundtrack in its entirety, taking it all in and really trying to gauge why it seems both so alike, and yet so different, from the tunes that made up the music of its predecessor.

Classic SEGA Magazine Corner: GameFan says SEGA’s Jet Grind Radio is “the next BIG THING”

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As Smilebit Month comes to an end, we crack open one more classic magazine for a look at what gaming journalists thought of a SEGA classic. GameFan magazine was quite a unique publication at the time. From 1992 to 2000, GameFan not only covered general gaming news, but also anime, manga, and featured extensive import coverage. It really was the perfect magazine for gaming fans who were also steeped in anime and importing the latest and greatest RPGs and generally more off the wall titles. So, of course, it was only fitting that SEGA’s Jet Grind Radio received the GameFan cover treatment for their August 2000 issue and had a four page preview and interview with the then unknown Smilebit team.

A look back at Smilebit’s Gunvalkyrie – an underappreciated SEGA classic

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In the West, SEGA’s Smilebit has become synonymous with the Jet Set Radio games, and for good reason. Like Sonic The Hedgehog to the Genesis and NiGHTS into Dreams to the Saturn, the original Jet Set Radio became one of the Dreamcast’s defining games, showcasing unique graphics and reinventing a video game genre. As SEGA left the hardware market in 2001, internal developers announced which consoles they would favor and Smilebit fittingly ended up with Microsoft’s Xbox.

I say “fittingly” because it only made sense that a developer known for pushing the graphical envelope would choose the Xbox, given Smilebit members’ propensities for expansive worlds in past titles like Team Andromeda’s Panzer Dragoon Saga and the first Jet Set Radio. While Jet Set Radio tried to conceal the fact that the game actually consisted of several small areas linked by clever tricks allowing the Dreamcast to load the next area as the player skated to the another section of the map, on the Xbox Smilebit could truly create expansive and detailed worlds. Utilizing the Xbox’s power, Smilebit did just that with Jet Set Radio Future, Panzer Dragoon Orta, and Gunvalkyrie.

SEGA Retrospective: Jet Set Radio Future and The Latch Brothers

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Jet Set Radio and its sequel Jet Set Radio Future are often cited as having some of the best music to come from SEGA thanks in a large part to Hideki Naganuma and Richard Jacques. While in-house talent played a large role in creating such memorable soundtracks, the soundtracks also consisted of licensed music from artists that included Guitar Vader, Cibo Matto, Deavid Soul and others. This week on SEGA Tunes (the feature formerly known as Tuesday Tunes) we’re focusing on a third type of Jet Set Radio music contributor: The Latch Brothers.

Classic SEGA Magazine Corner: Xbox Nation interviews Smilebit’s Panzer Dragoon Orta artists

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As evidenced last month, the unofficial Microsoft Xbox magazine Xbox Nation (XBN) really liked Smilebit. Their premiere issue featured Smilebit’s Jet Set Radio Future, which is surprising given Halo‘s dominance at the time, and their third issue featured a Panzer Dragoon Orta cover and an eight page preview and interview with former Team Andromeda staff. As the magazine continued, XBN kept up on various SEGA and Smilebit titles. In the magazine’s sixth issue they returned to Japan for another Smilebit interview, this time with Panzer Dragoon Orta artists Takashi Iwade and Kentaro Yoshida. Let’s crack open this issue to see what these legends had to say!

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The SEGA Five: Places to Go for an Awesome Day in Tokyo-to

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Well, you may have overslept, but there’s still time to catch what looks like a gorgeous day.

The sun, positioned high in a cloudless blue sky, beams down upon the bustling metropolis, its light casting a slight shimmer on the horizon. On most days your schedule’s packed; from time spent racing through the city streets, fighting off the Rokkaku Police and rival gangs, and doing everything in your power to recruit newbies, those in the GG’s rarely have time to slow down and appreciate the scenery.

Today was different, though. Today was your day off, and you figured you’d make the most of it and visit some of your favorite locales in the great city of Tokyo-to for a very different type of adventure from your typical day-to-day craziness.

The merchandise of SEGA’s Jet Set Radio: Collecting that Uki-Uki-Waku-Waku feeling

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Unless you’re a Sonic The Hedgehog fan, collecting merchandise from SEGA franchises can be a difficult venture. Some games simply have little to no merchandise. Bug!, for example, only has a windup figure from SEGA’s Jack in the Box kid’s meal and a few Saturn era promotional pieces. Ecco the Dolphin and Toejam and Earl merchandise is almost non-existent; the former also had a Jack in the Box kid’s meal toy and the latter is just now getting products thanks to the recently funded Kickstarter campaign. Japanese franchises, like Phantasy Star Online, have quite a lot of collectibles but much of it is Japan only and requires importing and ebay hunting. Other franchises, like Shenmue, have had quite a bit of merchandise in the past and in recent years, but good luck finding any of it for a low price point.

Jet Set Radio, meanwhile, has quite a bit to offer fans when it comes to collectibles with several items releasing outside of Japan and many of them being surprisingly affordable. Seeing as Jet Set Radio is one of my favorite franchises, I’ve amassed a small collection over the years which I wanted to show off both because I am incredibly conceited and because I thought it would serve as a nice guide for those wondering what sort of Jet Set Radio merchandise is out there.

Classic SEGA Ads: Jet Grind Radio’s crazy BIG GO! commercial

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Jet Set Radio had a bit of an identity crisis when it reached the West. When the game was first revealed in Japan, few media outlets knew exactly what to make of the game. Was it rhythm game? Was it a Japanese take on Tony Hawk Pro Skater? From the teases we got, it appeared to be a bit of both. The first real concrete explanation of the game came from America’s Official Dreamcast Magazine, which featured an in-depth interview with Smilebit and a preview of the game. While ODCM did a fantastic job with explaining the game and selling many Dreamcast owners on it, myself included, SEGA of America did a less than fantastic job of letting the general public know what the game was all about.

Developer Retrospective: The wonderfully unique games of SEGA’s Smilebit

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SEGA’s development team Smilebit existed in the public eye for only four short years, yet in that time they managed to create one of the company’s most unique franchises, revived a classic Saturn franchise, contributed to a long running series of popular Japanese sports titles, and managed to create a few new franchises that have gone on to become true hidden gems. It’s fitting that we follow Team Andromeda Month with Smilebit, as Smilebit was actually the bringing together of the SEGA AM6’s Team Aquila, Team Andromeda, and G9 Team (though some staff ended up moving to United Game Artists). This mix of talent lead to Smilebit being primarily tasked with the Let’s Make series of sports titles, franchises that were largely confined to Japan. Utilizing former Team Andromeda staff, the team spearheaded the latest (and thus far last) Panzer Dragoon game. But what really made Smilebit unique were their new franchises including the Jet Set Radio games, Gunvalkyrie, and Hundred Swords.

All month long we’ll be celebrating Smilebit’s eclectic mix of games, celebrating the classics, the lesser known titles, and the ones that never left Japan. Ready to look back? Let’s go!

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