Jet Set Radio Future

Gamestyle Archive intro: Firstly this review is incomplete and I wanted to avoid posting incomplete pieces. However it is probably 85% intact and provides an insight into how many reviews were online at Gamestyle when it was published.

There are many incomplete reviews some ranging from a couple of lines or even just a handful of words right through to this example. For instance Halo was a Gamestyle 10 scoring game but currently within the archive its just a few lines. JSRF is still a distinctive experience and deserves its place here.

Ok, a slight lie as the review is actually complete now. This shows how the archive can work to piece together reviews and restore former content. On the old excel back up files this review abruptly stops at ‘won’ towards the end of the 4th paragraph. Another folder discovery offers the complete review turning ‘won’ on its head, becoming ‘won’t’ and the t is in bold so you can see where the break originally was. This complete version of the review did not have the overall score, which comes from the spreadsheet; now that’s team work and a lovely piece of restoration. 

Writer: JJ

Format: Xbox

Published: March 2002

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At the time of writing we have around 120 reviews here at Gamestyle, not a bad achievement for such a small and dedicated team.   Yet there is one glaring omission from the list of games that we have reviewed.   Think Dreamcast.  Think originality.  Think of a game that would feature on most of the Gamestyle writers top 5 games for system.   Jet Set Radio.     Now with Jet Set Radio Future we can put this wrong to right as Smilebit attempts to reach a wider audience.

Whether the game is sequel or revamp isn’t the issue as many Xbox owners will be interested to know about the first Sega title to grace their machine and how good it is.   The story, style and structure will be familiar to those who played the original but there is nothing else quite like it.    The game is set in Tokyo, which is home to various skating gangs intent on spraying their tags and marking out their turf.   At the centre of the whole scene lies the pirate radio station; Jet Set Radio, which apart from playing the latest cool tunes keeps everyone, updated on the latest happenings.   All it seems is not well in downtown Tokyo as the Rokkaku Group is abusing its position as one of the main companies in Japan.   It seems the company and its owner (Rokkaku Gouji) has been using its power to control the police and cover-up its own doings on the streets.   The Rokkaku Police lead by Hayashi make the LAPD look like Police Academy rejects with their heavy handed tactics and tank warfare.   One gang is not afraid to stand up to the censorship and brutality and are intent on defending their culture, you have to pass several tests but once achieved you become a member of the GG’s and set out to rid Tokyo of Rokkaku.

As you can see Jet Set has a look all of its own and in Future things just get even better.  Everything here has been rapidly improved including more vibrant, varied and solid textures.   Several of the levels are based on those from the original however they have grown in size, giving the player far more to do and enjoy.   Making up each level are the various grinds, ramps and ledges which you can explore, Future seems to be packed full to the rafters with possibilities.   In fact it is possible to travel around the levels without ever stepping foot on the ground, for the more accomplished player.   Within each level are the citizens of Tokyo going about their daily business on foot or by transport.  Whereas before these appeared in limited quantities, this time the streets and roads are jammed full of both, just like the real Tokyo itself.   Find a high vantagepoint and use the first person view to look down on it all in awe.   The animation of the gang members is much smoother and everything runs at constant frame rate.

Sega know the importance of music in their games and again Jet Set Radio Future does not let standards slip and even comes with the option of Dolby Digital.   Most of the musicians from the original game appear once again, offering new or remixed tracks, with a few favourites from the previous game.   Overall it is a splendid sound and it is well worth just letting your character rest in the garage while you hear the tracks played in full by the Professor.   Jet Set Radio Future is a game and therefore there is no need to have city sounds of urban chaos rather a cool, delicious and funky selection of tunes.   To the be critical it is too similar to what went before and because of this it may suffer, some of the tracks are not as immediate or catchy but the Jet Set standard is high.   The game won’t win any Cinema Choice awards for its Dolby Digital soundtrack but sitting amongst the speakers is pure gaming heaven.

The improvements to the game have not just been on a visual or audio level; the core elements have been tweaked as a result of feedback from the original.   You no longer have to twist your analogue stick to perform the more difficult tags, instead you just hold down the right trigger.   This is one change I do disagree with, as the game becomes far easier however the emphasis in Future is on grinds and speed.  The old method would have slowed the game down by forcing the player to stop and do his thing.   You now have two trick buttons, which make the game far more enjoyable even though this is no trick based game.   The option to brake or boost is also included with the latter producing a tremendous fire and heat haze effect.   Overall these changes are improvements and make moving on the blades even more fun than before.

Jet Set Radio did not test gamer’s skill, as it was more of an experience than endurance.   Future is very much in the same vein but Smilebit have included measures to increase the longevity of the game.     The garage is your home base and goes beyond just picking a character or creating your own personal tag, instead you can now listen to tunes, practice tricks and grind away the hours.   Hidden in every level are cassette tapes that will reveal the location of Graffiti Souls, bonus symbols are placed in hard to reach areas and when found increase the range of tags you can chose from.   Future goes beyond a single player experience by offering the chance for up to four to engage in five split screen games.   Whilst computer controlled opponents may be easy, playing against friends is as challenging as any other game.   These range from straightforward racing to graffiti tag style games, a welcome addition to the Jet Set portfolio.

With a game such as this, brash, vibrant, slick and pure, it is hard to find fault with Future, just like your own young child, it can do no wrong.    The game camera will on occasion require correcting but not to the same degree as others have mentioned.  At least Smilebit have recognised the fault and included a first person view and a button to centre the camera as in games such as Dragonriders you had no control whatsoever.  Be thankful.  Credit to Microsoft and Infogrames for releasing the game in Europe so soon after Japan and America, lets hope it’s a sign on things to come, no need to engage in import hassles.

Jet Set Radio Future is, quite simply, a fabulous game, a visual orgy of style and originality with plenty to keep the player entertained.   To put it simply, to be this good takes Sega.

Overall 8/10

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