Roller-Skates are Back in Style: Jet Set Radio HD Review

Posted on Oct 1 2012 - 3:41pm by Jared

Earlier this month Dreamcast’s audio/visual classic experience makes a comeback to tell a story of art and rebellion in Tokyo-to in a full HD remastered port of Jet Grind Radio for the PS3 and Xbox Live Arcade. I sat down to relive Dreamcast’s glory days with this title and was not disappointed.

As a Game

For those who haven’t played the original title, Jet Set Radio is a graffiti based videogame where you play as a roller-skating gang of young teens trying to express themselves in a corrupt futuristic Tokyo. Most levels are completed by performing a series of grinds and flips parkour style around the city tagging over rival gang members marks in a time limit all while avoiding tanks, helicopter strikes, and a psychopathic police chief who’s VERY determined to take you down (after all who calls in four tanks for one tagger?). Longer strings of grinds into flips into tags into more grinds earn points as well as completing the quick-time events for spraying graffiti without failure. Each character you play as also has their own stats which determine health, ease of the quick-time events and a base score for your graffiti.

The gameplay itself is very fun yet repetitive, with the random rival encounters to unlock new characters and story based goal missions (including tagging the rival gangs shirts in a race to defeat them) really breaking the pace up so it doesn’t get too stale throughout the story mode. The game has a nice difficulty to it that scales well into the progress of the game, adding to the sense of accomplishment and keeping the game from becoming too dull since many of the missions have the same goals. The levels however are very diverse so  even the same challenge four stages in a row feels fresh every time because of how that stage is built and how you naturally go about climbing and grinding through it. The controls are quite clanky which unfortunately is a good third of the difficulty to the game, but by the time it really becomes an issue in later stages you will have mastered the game enough to be able to overcome the controls without much stress.

As a Remastered Release

First off, the game does look great. Brining this game’s unique art style into HD was a brilliant idea and fans of the game and newcomers alike are bound to love it. That being said I have played other Dreamcast remastered games and was not impressed at the complete lack of effort apparent on the character models which are just and boxy and cube-like as they were on the original title. The game looks great in HD, the colors pop, the music is fantastic, but the character models are quite… well ugly (particularly the Love Shockers) for a HD game. Unless you find a comforting sense of nostalgia in polygon faced characters, which I’m sure many people do (myself included), it’s quite a distracting stain on an otherwise gorgeous game. The soundtrack sounds great and DJ Professor K is as loud as ever.

Final Verdict

Jet Set radio is a great throwback to the Dreamcast, and its message and theme is just as relevant today as it was twelve years ago. It’s a fun pickup for fans of the title that miss it, and a decent and challenging game to pick up for newcomers. The remaster is much appreciated but isn’t what it could be. For a game that sells itself off as being an audio visual experience that is a must experience (which it is) the controls fall a little short and a few small failed visual updates dampen this title from being able to be so much more than it is. At the end of the day people who loved the game will continue to love this port, and newcomers who can look past the characters and controls will get a good number of hours sitting down and enjoying a unique game. It’s easily worth the price you pay to download it so pick it up if you played the old one or have a balanced left from buying your last digital game.


Jared is a multimedia major with a passion for gaming. His studies included advertising and 3D landscape design for games. Over the past four years, Jared has found inspiration for his work in the levels and graphics of the Assassin's Creed and Bioshock series' respectively.