Back to the Future.
Sega and Smilebit hit the streets once again in the follow-up to the excellent
Dreamcast title, Jet Grind
Radio. This Xbox installment, called Jet Set Radio Future, returns
to the streets of Tokyo where the population is being oppressed by a mega-corporation
known as the Rokkaku Group. Skater gangs known as “Rudies” have taken to the streets
and are covering the streets in graffiti in order to oppose the strict laws set
down by the corporate thugs.
Those of you who played Jet Grind might be interested to know that
Jet Set Radio Future really isn’t a sequel. The story is basically the
same as the original, with the skater gang known as the GG’s taking center stage
against the forces of the evil corporation. This time around, though, a fellow
named ‘Corn’ leads the group and few of the original gang members have undergone
This doesn’t mean that Future is a straight port. The city you’ll skate
through is different and far larger than the original with plenty of hidden
areas to discover. Also, the focus of the game has shifted from an intense battle
to tag an area before time runs out to a more laid back challenge to locate
all the tagging points.
At first, this setup is a little disappointing. Enemies only pop up in certain
spots and are extremely easy to handle. The cool tagging system of Jet Grind
has been dumbed down to a simple pull of the trigger. Though it doesn’t quite
match the original, after playing for a while longer, you’ll see that Future
can hold its own.
Your main goal is to locate and tag specific spots scattered around the city.
From the tallest skyscraper to the lowest depths of the sewers, you’ll need
to figure out exactly how to get to some very hard to reach places. You’ll also
need to find the secret cassette tape that opens up that area’s Street Challenge.
Think of these challenges like the goals in Tony
Hawk. You’ll need to do things like get a certain number of points, perform
a specific trick, or be able to perform a set number of combos.
Future adds a new ‘boost’ dash to the control. For the mere price of
ten paint cans, you’ll be able to temporarily activate the jets on your character’s
skates and haul serious tail. It might seem extraneous, but it’s actually essential
to reaching some of the tougher tag spots.
Like Jet Grind Radio, Future shows off some of the very best
in video game toon textures. There’s even some nice heat distortion effects
thrown in for good measure. Characters are smooth and the motions are convincing.
A good looking game on the Xbox? You don’t say.
Backing up the visuals is an extensive jukebox of funky tunes. Covering a
wide variety of genres from electronica to underground, Future provides
some excellent noise for your earhole. It isn’t often that you’ll find a video
game soundtrack that you’ll actually want to listen to.
Another highlight of Future is the cool level design. You’ll run through
crowded city streets, bustling entertainment districts, and even a rollercoaster
park on your quest to leave your colorful mark on the world. Even after completing
the game, there’s a good chance that you’ve missed some stuff.
Future also features a Versus mode where you and up to three friends can engage
in some multiplayer madness. Five different games make up the Versus mode including
Ball Hog, a rollerball-like game where you try to complete laps without losing
the ball to your opponents, and Tagger’s Tag, where you’ve actually got to knock
out your opponents by spray painting their backs. The games make a nice addition
and add some life to the series.
And speaking of life, there’s plenty to do after the single player game is
done. If you are able to reach all of the tags spots, complete all challenges,
and collect all of the ‘Graffiti Souls’ for an area, then you’ll unlock Test
Run. Complete the Test Run and you’ll unlock another character to use. It doesn’t
sound like much on paper (or the Internet, for that matter), but 20+ characters
to choose from makes for an even better multiplayer experience.
Jet Set Radio Future has a lot of good going for it, but it also has
its fair share of problems. The floaty jump that took some of the excitement
out of Jet Grind is still here along with the occasional killer camera
angle. Also, the game tends to get repetitive when trying to get to some of
the harder to reach places. Imagine skating up ten stories, jumping from a pipeline
and grinding a long thin telephone wire, only to slip at the last second and
plunge all the way back down. I hate it when that happens.
Still, Jet Set Radio Future will provide you with plenty of cel-shaded
thrills. It’s not as groundbreaking as the original, but it’s just about as