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Jet Set / Grind Radio

Know as "Jet Grind Radio" in the USA, "Jet Set Radio" elsewhere

Ever wondered what you’d get if you mixed Tony Hawks Pro Skateboarding with Crazy Taxi?  Well, you get a brilliant blend of action and mayhem, in the form of Jet Set Radio, or put the way it’s said: ‘JET SET RADIIOOOOO!’

Jet Set Radio is set in the city of Tokyo-to.  (Hmm... wouldn’t happen to be Tokyo would it?)  Gangs of youths show their appreciation of Tokyo-to by roaming the streets on super-magnetic in-line stakes spraying their graffiti tags across the city.  These gangs are sworn enemies of each other, and if that wasn’t bad enough you got the cops after your blood too.  Your gang (the GG’s) is led by Professor K, a serious dude with an ego as big as his ghetto blaster. Professor K runs ‘Jet Set Radio’ a pirate radio station that provides non-stop hardcore music.  You start off with a cool punk, Beat, but a one man gang isn’t much of a gang right?  You get challenges from other skaters who will join your gang if you can prove to them that you have as much skill as them.  By copying their moves, you can get ‘em to be part of your group.  Once you get 2 more members then off you go to the streets of Tokyo-to!

The city is divided into 3 sections, and you have missions to complete within each section.  The main idea is to spray locations marked with an arrow with some graffiti of your own within set time limits.  Spray cans are located around the city, and these are used to graffiti over a rival teams tag.  Pressing the L trigger by an arrow puts you into spray mode, where following the on-screen commands using the analogue joystick gets your player executing his spraying.  There are 3 sizes of graffiti, each having their own difficulty in executing.  3 simple joystick moves can get a small graffiti patch sorted, whereas you’ll find yourself rotating the joystick around 7 times in all directions to pull off the biggies; sore thumb alert!

The visuals in the game are extraordinary!  Instead of following others to achieve a realistic look, this game uses cell shading.  Cell shading you ask?  Well, think of the game as an interactive cartoon!  Everything is outlined in black, just like a cartoon.  The characters have a ‘drawn in 2D style’, and look very cool indeed.  The levels are huge, very colourful, interactive, looking similar to something from a Japanese manga film.  Everything goes together to achieve a very funky look.  Roaming subways, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, tearing up a bus depot, trespassing an abandoned industrial site and winding around a busy city centre are all part of the action.  As well as being very well constructed, the levels are highly detailed. Small things like signs and posts, vehicles, glowing neon lights, cats and birds scouring around, and secret shortcuts all contribute to the amazing visuals.  The explosion and lighting effects are pretty cool, all in the cartoon style matter.  There are a good variety of levels, 2 have been added extra from the Japanese version that I have also completed.  All the levels are part of the same city, if you get to near the edge of your mission area you’ll get a warning sign telling you that you’re about to leave your designated level.    

Even the main menu screen is truly spiced up.  Instead of a standard “missions, players, options, music” etc screen, the whole menu front is implemented into a 3D hang out.  To access the missions, just go up to the map of the city on the wall.  Want to change players?  Using your joystick, go through the line up of ruddies as they all hang out and move to the groove of the music in the ‘garage’ as they call it.  Want to hear the background music?  Head over to the MASSIVE speaker (Professor K is a DJ after all!) and access all the tracks through the radio interface.  

It is even possible to create your own graffiti tags in the game, you are provided with some basic construction tools to create your very own masterpiece.  If designing is all too much for you, then stick with the 100’s of in-game graffiti tags.  Tags can be unlocked by collecting tag icons within the levels.  Hey, you can even download tags in jpeg format off the Internet and use them in the game!  Ha, the joy of spraying a revealing Carmen Electra around Tokyo-to is unrivalled!  The overall presentation of the game is superb, the interfaces are very cool, the font used is funky and navigation is easy.  Lot’s of attention to detail gives that quality feel to the game.  

The levels are scattered with carefully positioned objects to help your skater dudes roam the levels making full use of their kick ass magnetic in-line skates.  Grinding is very important, being the best way to get around the levels with speed and attitude.  For those not in the know how, grinding is like balancing a power-slide down a railing.  Blades slanted so that the grinding plate under your feet touches the surface, you can slide down whatever you like the look of!  Grinding is also a brilliant platform to execute moves from and to gain that extra jump height to reach a spray location.  Railings, telephone wires, crane-arms, bridges, railway tracks and even walls can all be grinded on.  You can pull off some really cool looking moves, ranging from a 720 degree spin to Beat’s mid air splits!  Combo’s can be performed by stringing together lots of moves while grinding, to help soup up your points for a better ranking!  You’ll find yourself jumping across from railing to railing across the levels to get around to tag the rooftop locations, and without getting caught by the cops.

The cops.  No one is going to take vandals, which you ultimately are, roaming the streets strutting their stuff.  Even in the early missions, the cops are hell bent to stop you led by humorous Captain Onishima, but they’re quite the wussies.  Later on, the SWAT team are called to end your graffiti dreams using tear gas.  Keep moving around or you’ll suffer.  Things get a bit hectic when the tanks are called in!  Yes, 5 army tanks against a teenage punk!  Did I mention the choppers?  The choppers are called in the later levels, and bare some resemblance to the Apache ‘copters for anyone who follows military gear.  The choppers fire heat seeking rockets hoping to put your skating antics to rest, too many hits and you’re a gonna for sure.  Thankfully in the style of ‘spray cans’, ‘health cans’ are scarcely distributed in the odd place to help you recover lost health.  You can sit back and rejoice laughing when you graffiti the cockpit view of a chopper, watch the pilot lose control, and pillow into the ground! 

As you progress through the game, you get missions where you have to locate another gang, like the heart-broken love shockers, and spray tag their backs to finish them off for good.  May sound easy, but having to chase other punks through the streets roaming with traffic and lined with obstacles to spray their backs around 15 times can be a tad tricky; most important is to keep a good supply of spray cans.  It’s a right pain when you’re right on the tail of an enemy, press the L trigger, a big “duh”, you’re out of spray cans!  Every so often, some guy or gal offers you a challenge.  Challenges are either having copy their moves, or race them to a location to tag a spot.  Succeed and you’ve earned yourself a new team member.

As you start to get more and more members, you will start picking certain players for certain missions depending on their attributes.  Combo has great health/stamina, but lags behind agility.  On the other hand, Gum is fast but has poor health and cannot carry many spray cans.  Missions where there’s heavy enemy fire will get you picking strong characters.  Each member has a pager tapped into the police and rival corporations.  Therefore, you’ll be able to hear the cops and other enemies talking about you, and you’ll know when they’re about to bust into your area.  When you hear “kill him”, they mean it.  Keep yourself moving, or else they’ll have assassin no. 69 spank your ass with his extending whip, no really I’m not joking here! 

Towards the end of the game, some mafia group start their invasion of the city.  These guys are so mean that even the cops are too scared to do anything; you must sort the buggers out yourself.  That’s enough of giving the story away; the rest is for you to see for yourself!

Music.  How did I fail to mention it earlier?  Jet Set Radio boasts some of the BEST game music EVER in ANY video game.  To fit the ‘all things funky’ theme, the game boasts a superb blend of rap, dance, techno; Japanese pop and hip hop music!  Hideki Naganuma from Sega has composed most of the music.  We’re talking original quality music here.  The US version, which is named ‘Jet Grind Radio’, includes some music from recognised bands including Rob Zombie, Jurassic-5 and Cold.  The US music fits in excellently with the game, even though it isn’t as good as the Japanese stuff.  Richard Jacques (did the Metropolis Street Racer music) has also helped out, adding the cool ‘Everyone Jump Around’ track to the game.  I can honestly say that JSR is a perfect example of seriously ‘cool’ and ‘funky’ music in a video game.  Crazy Taxi touched the line, with Off Spring and Bad Religion performances, but Jet Set Radio rewrites the way game music is to be done.  The tracks integrate very well, just like some DJ performance.  One minute you’re hearing one track, the next minute you’re on the next track without realising!  The gradual integration is brilliant.  Any game that has you playing sometimes just to listen to the music must have some seriously mean music! 

The sound effects and speech are wonderful too.  Each player has his or her distinctive style of talking, funky, cool, or downright comical!  Professor K, the guy who seems to talk with his hands, and talk he does a lot, has great speech.  Captain Onishima must have been put in for a right laugh, it’s easy to piss him off and his ‘sounds-cheesed-off’ talking gives that away smoothly.  The ‘Jet Set Radiiooooo!’ dialogue is pure klass.  General sound effects are great, making this game audio wise almost purrfect!

The control system is quite simple, there’s jump, dash, tag, camera angle and the analogue stick for movement.  It’s a bit awkward having the camera angle and tag button both using the L trigger, as if you want to change your camera angle when you’re next to an arrow your player will start spraying instead of changing camera angles.

On the subject of camera angles, it is always a challenge for the developers getting it just right in such a perspective game.  Thankfully, it works well most of the time.  Occasionally, you do end up with a daft view of your player hidden by a wall or the camera staring right up your players back side (the latter which may please some male gamers out there when playing as Cube!)  A small problem compensated by all the pros of the game.

The only considerable flaw with this game is its lifespan.  Completing the game may only take around 8 hours.  It’s a shame, as when you finish the game you’re there wanting more, the game is that wicked!  The replay value is high though, as collecting all the tags to unlock the new graffiti will have you playing over again.  You are also ranked after each mission, so you’ll be playing over completed levels to gain a better status.  I completed the game 3 times from scratch, once the Japanese version and twice this version.  That shows how cool the game is.  The fact that the game is such an original idea means that you’ll be gagging for more and more Jet Set Radio, which means you’re going to have to play Jet Set Radio!  I can just bet 10 developers are working out there to make a JSR clone... rest assured, JSR2 is coming!

Farooq Asif 

Comments? Suggestions? Mail me:

-- “Someone’s busting our turf, let’s get spraying!”




Innovative cell shading results in some very funky looking levels and players.  Brilliant interface and presentation, the game screams quality!  Hundreds of small additions make JSR one hot looking game!
Sound 10 In a word, AWESOME!  The funkiest and coolest game music ever!  Rap, techno, hip-hop, dance, the lot is here.  The originally composed music is pure class, and the labelled music is a great addition.  Sound effects are wonderful, everything audio wise fits the theme of the game perfectly.  Guaranteed to kick a hole in your speaker with the super-sonic sounds and phat bass!
Gameplay 8.5 Be a vandal, be cool, be a ruddie!  Spraying the city may seem a little bit repetitive, but the addition of diversified missions, killer originality, a flowing story line, large array of characters and brilliant levels make thing one heck of a playable game.
Lifespan 8

The game is a bit too short for my liking, but the replay value is excellent.  Perfecting previous levels, getting all the tags, playing around with downloaded and earned tags and trying all the characters give the game a good lifespan.  A multiplayer mode would have been a brilliant addition.


"At long last we get a fresh breath of air from the gaming arena courtesy of Sega’s in-house developer Smilebit.  Jet Set Radio defines a new standard for future games with its screaming originality, fresh graphics, killer music and addictive gameplay!"


By Sam

Jet Set Radio is something of a novelty, it is executed in such a way that you can not help but be impressed with.

The game has been rendered in a similar style to ‘Wacky Races’, and seems to represent the more modern anime films like ‘Jin Roh Wolf Brigade’. The basic game sees you travelling to various locations highlighted by a big arrow to cover some rival gangs gravity with your own. However unlike Crazy Taxi you don’t have access to a whole city, you have access to parts of it. Each different stage takes you around various parts of Neo-Tokyo-To, and in some of the Rival challenges you get to skate around the whole city, but with no obstacles such as pedestrians or cars.

It has been widely reported that Jet Set Radio is very easy. Personally that is something of a misconception. The extra characters you learn through the rival challenges vary a lot. Some are really rubbish and others are okay for one mission, but you will no doubt stick to Beat through the early levels, until swapping to Mr. Boom Box, on his search for Coin in chapter 2.

The music is cool, the UK version does not have the Rob Zombie track in it, so stop crying, get over it. JSR is a game that you will keep coming back to again and again, due to its cool styling and quirky humour.

If I were to be placed in charge of Jet Set Radio 2, I would add a 2-player mode. The idea of two people trying to tag each other’s graffiti [an Italian word] it’s just too much. Jet Set Radio is amazing, so go and buy it. go on.

Overall: 8/10

-- "Wot officer?  Graffiti is art man!  Get those wrist bangles off me, you fascist!"


>> Download some Jet Set Radio wallpaper

>> Download Jet Set Radio MP3s and Graffiti tags

>> Read more Dreamcast game reviews



Developer Smile Bit
Publisher SEGA
Genre Skating
Players 1
Extras Rumble, Online facilities



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All copyrighted images and names are trademarks of their respective copyright holders.  All original work is copyrighted by Farooq Asif.  Unauthorised reproduction of any material from this site is strictly prohibited.      © 2001