Archives for posts with tag: Jet Set Radio

Dancin' to tha Beat
I don’t remember the first time I saw Jet Set Radio, but I certainly remember my reaction: “Holy crap, that looks cool.”

It was probably a feature in the dearly-departed Dreamcast Magazine, some time after the game’s TGS ’99 reveal, and from the moment I saw it, I knew I had to play Jet Set Radio. From the incredible cel-shaded art-style that exuded that street-punk attitude that serves as its thematic foundation, to the central conceit of the game – namely, tagging graffiti to mark your gang’s territory – to the saturated colours of the Tokyo streets against that trademark Sega blue sky. Everything about this game arrested my attention. I couldn’t wait to play it.

And then, months later, thanks to a demo disc attached to the cover of the aforementioned publication, I got my chance. And I hated it. I couldn’t get my head around the controls for a start, which meant I had trouble getting around the environment, which meant I couldn’t escape the rampaging police, which meant I couldn’t find the time to paint. And on the off-chance that I actually managed to get to a tag site, I couldn’t seem to get to grips with the graffiti mechanics, either. But I had been so looking forward to the game that I decided I had to try it again. And again. And again and again. And all of a sudden, it just clicked. Everything came into sharp focus; I knew what the game expected of me, and I understood how to make it happen. Get some speed behind you, grind that rail, make that jump, ride that wall. The floor is lava.

Smilebit’s 2000 Dreamcast title has since become a cult classic, leading to Sega and BlitWorks releasing an excellent HD version on literally everything back in 2012. Jet Set Radio presents a colourful, stylised representation of Tokyo, including iconic areas like the Shibuya bus terminal, and stars a cast of punky inline skaters out to grab territory for their respective street gangs. How do you go about this? By tagging the crap out of everything you see, of course! You’ll mark your territory on buses, cop cars, advertising hoardings and storefronts as you claim turf from rival gangs the Love Shockers, Noise Tanks and Poison Jam. Naturally, the police, led by the hard-boiled Captain Onishima and backed by the shadowy Rokkaku Group, don’t take kindly to your urban artwork. These crazy keisatsu will do anything, including calling in helicopter gunships, to put an end to your adolescent fun.

Gum taggin'

Right from the off, Jet Set Radio demands that you get good. Just as the controls take a little time to puzzle out, so do the level layouts; very early on, you’ll learn to prioritise the larger, more time-consuming tags before the police escalate their presence, bringing in tear gas troopers, assassins armed with electric whips and black-suited knife-wielding goons, all of whom make it a very bad idea to stand still and tag. You’ll soon realise it’s best to leave the simple, one-hit tags ’til the very end of the level so that you can grind, trick and race past your aggressors, tagging as you go. This means that you’ll ideally spend the first minute or so just skating around, getting the lay of the land and collecting spray paint cans, before launching your carefully-planned graffiti assault on the streets of Tokyo-to.

Let’s look at the funk

The first thing you’ll notice – and indeed, the thing the game is probably still best known for – are those striking, pioneering cel-shaded graphics that make Jet Set Radio look like a Gainax anime come to life. We see the technique a fair bit these days, and 2002’s The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker arguably brought it to more mainstream attention, but back in 2000 it was absolutely state of the art; really, it had only been seen in the character models of Fear Effect, which came out only months before Jet Set Radio. Chief graphics designer Ryuta Ueda wanted to create a snapshot of what he saw as Tokyo’s youth culture at the time, something that reflected the eclectic, high-energy, vibrantly colourful scene he saw around him.

It’s not just about those beautiful, flat, shaded polygons though. The game is brought to life by all the little incidental details; the fact that Garam’s necklace looks like it just might be Sonic’s skull, Tab poking his tongue out at you every now and then for no good reason, DJ Professor K’s funky hair that pulses in time to the beat, and the fact that nobody ever stands still. Every character is in constant motion – even leaving your skater idle causes them to dance to their own rhythm, like a way cooler version of Spaced‘s Tires. Touches like this create a tangible, kinetic connection between gameplay and presentation, tying them together with the audio in such a way that every element comes together to create a solid, cohesive whole where every little touch just feels right.

These guys mean business

The visual presentation is beautifully mirrored by an eclectic, borderline-manic soundtrack from Hideki Naganuma that remains one of the best in gaming. Representing every facet of Ueda’s vision of late-nineties Tokyo street culture, Naganuma’s work takes in hip hop, funk and even acid jazz, interspersing it with odd looped samples (“Will you stop playing with that radio of yours? I’m trying to get to sleep!”). Meanwhile the varied licensed tracklist mixes in the kooky rock of Guitar Vader, the alternative hip hop of Jurassic 5, and even finds space for a track from fellow Sega veteran Richard Jacques (yes, the man behind the indisputably awesome Sonic R soundtrack contributed to Jet Set Radio).

Understand, understand

While Jet Set Radio didn’t exactly set sales alight, a sequel of sorts was released for the Xbox in 2002. Jet Set Radio Future, as the name suggests, transposed the GGs and their rivals to a near-future vision of Tokyo-to. Characters were redesigned, the plot was shuffled about a bit, and the colour palette was more muted, but the biggest differences were in how the game played. Conventional wisdom holds that you either like one game or the other, and you can’t possibly like both. While this isn’t really true at all, Jet Set Radio Future did do a fair bit to put off fans of the previous game.

Future exists almost as a reimagining of the concept, simplifying some things while expanding others. The most immediate changes are the removal of the time limit in each level and a ‘streamlining’ of the way you execute graffiti; whereas you’d copy analogue stick movements in Jet Set Radio, corresponding to broad strokes of paint, in Future you simply pull the trigger as you race past and it all just happens for you. I absolutely hated these changes at the time. Coming from a challenging game where it’s vital to set your priorities and then create the space needed to get things done in the allotted time, Future just felt like it lacked pace, challenge and focus.

The differences weren’t all for the bad, however, and the removal of these mechanics makes a lot of sense when you look at what Jet Set Radio Future is, rather than what it isn’t. The size, scale and complexity of the environments have been massively enlarged, with multiple large, vertical spaces leading to and from one another; a time limit would have been a real drag in levels this huge, and its absence lends Future a much more exploratory feel than the original. The level design is also pushed to its limits to accommodate this expanded sense of freedom: larger spaces mean far more routes over, under, through and around the game’s crazed urban landscapes. Where Jet Set Radio was a tight, focussed time-attack game as its heart, Future is more like a playground for you to jump, grind, trick and tag through.

Jet Set Radio may have been absent for over a decade now, but its influence can still occasionally be felt. Insomniac’s Ted Price has spoken about how the Sega classic informed Sunset Overdrive‘s traversal system, and that game also has a knack of making you feel like a sucker if you so much as deign to touch the ground. Meanwhile, the recent Splatoon will give gamers of a certain age serious JSR vibes, as, like Sunset Overdrive, the game’s visual presentation clearly owes a debt to Jet Set‘s colourful, anarchic sense of fun. How fitting that a project led by a new generation of talent at Nintendo’s famed EAD division should echo a game that looked to celebrate Tokyo’s youth culture in the final days of the 1990s.

And what of the team that brought JSR into the world? Well, sadly, we all know about Sega’s troubles since going third-party in the aftermath of the Dreamcast’s premature death, an upheaval that led to internal teams being reshuffled, reorganized and renamed, as well as something of a talent exodus. Both Ryuta Ueda and director Masayoshi Kikuchi went on to work on the Ryu Ga Gotoku series (where they even managed to include a short cameo for JSR bad guy Rokkaku Gouji, later joking that this meant the games existed in the same universe). Ueda has since left the company, along with Hideki Naganuma, who recently suggested that Sega has no interest in reviving the series.

Still, with new Sega Games CEO Haruki Satomi recently indicating that Sega want to win back their fanbase, perhaps we will see something done with all those classic IP that are just sitting in a vault somewhere in Tokyo, gathering dust. At the very least, perhaps we can hope for Sega to give us some more of the HD remasters they were offering just a few short years ago, and make Future available for a new audience. Perhaps things are looking up, after all.

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Today is the day that Vita owners finally get their hands on Sega’s HD remaster of much-loved skate-n’-tag-’em-up Jet Set Radio.

It was released two months ago onto PSN and XBL, with the Vita port at the time expected to follow in October, only for it to be delayed. It’s absolutely been worth the wait though; it looks spectacular – colours really pop on that five inch OLED screen (as you can see in the screenshot captured directly from my Vita, above) and the game looks beautifully clean and smooth. This may even be the best I’ve seen the game look, and it’s hard to discount the ability to play it wherever, whenever.

Jet Set Radio is on the PSN store now for the princely sum of £6.49, and perhaps owing to the difference in release dates between the Vita and PS3 versions, it is not available on Cross Buy. But it’s still worth every penny – in fact, I’ve now bought this game three times!

Also out today for the handheld is Digital Reality/Grasshopper Manufacture shooter Sine Mora. After originally going up for the rather expensive price of £11.99, it has now been corrected and stands at a much more palatable £7.99 price point. There are apparently significant differences between the handheld and PS3 versions, and as such this title is also not available on a buy-one, get-both deal.

This of course isn’t the only Vita action taking place this week, as PlayStation Plus launches for the handheld too, with games such as Uncharted: Golden Abyss and the excellent, excellent (did I mention it’s excellent?) Gravity Rush being added to the Instant Game Collection. Plus on Vita ties into its big brother, so you’re not expected to take on two subscriptions. I think the service is really going to represent fantastic value for those with both consoles in the coming months.

Vita sales are still pretty languid, but it’s great to see Sony supporting it with services like this. Of course, it may not bring in new buyers, but it’s great for existing owners to see the platform holder getting behind the handheld.

E3 is almost upon us, so today, in lieu of the usual ‘Sunday Soapbox’ piece, I’ve decided to list some of the things I’ll be looking forward to or blindly hoping for. Because everybody loves a good list, don’t they?

The 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo starts on Tuesday June 5th at the Los Angeles Convention Centre, though Microsoft will be jumping ahead of the competition by having their press conference the day before. Yup, that means tomorrow!

So what am I looking forward to? I’ll try and group my thoughts by publisher or developer, so read on to find out, and then leave a comment to let me know what you’re looking forward to.

Microsoft
Seeing as they’re first off the blocks, I’ll get straight onto the Xbox 360 manufacturer, and the obvious starting point is Halo 4.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a massive, massive Halo fanboy, so I’m predictably overexcited about the prospect of seeing some single-player footage, learning more about the setting and figuring out just what in the name of Sergeant Johnson is going on. I’ve read a few previews that have all described the beginning of the game (which unfortunately doesn’t answer any of the above questions), and I have a feeling that this is what we’ll be seeing as an on-stage demo. Not that this would disappoint me of course – I really want to see what 343i have achieved with their first entry into the franchise.

It’ll also be interesting to see what the devs have to say about multiplayer; fans have been worrying that Halo 4 seems to be going the Call of Duty route, with perks and other xp-based unlockables. Halo has always been an open playing field – if you win, it’s because you’re better than the opposition, not because you have better equipment. Hopefully 343 will be on-hand to allay fans’ fears.

The new Gears of War game, titled Judgment, will also be a big draw for Microsoft’s conference, and again, I’m looking forward to find out what’s going on. It appears to be a prequel, given the existence of Locust forces and the fact that Cole looks very young, and it’ll also be interesting to see how deep Bulletstorm creator People Can Fly’s involvement goes. Essentially nothing is known about this title yet, so hopefully a full reveal will help to ground it somewhere in the existing Gears canon.

I’m also wondering whether we’ll see more of Crytek’s Kinect action game Ryse this year. It’s been awfully quiet of late regarding the former Codename: Kingdoms, so perhaps E3 is the perfect time to show it off. Sticking with the Kinect theme, I’m hoping to get a good long look at Yukio Futatsugi’s Crimson Dragon. As a big, big fan of Sega’s Panzer Dragoon (all four games still proudly grace my shelf), the spiritual successor to that series is one of my most highly anticipated games this year. An on-stage demo would be great, as would a release date.

Yukio Futatsugi’s Crimson Dragon.

Sony
What I really want to see from Sony at this year’s E3 is massive support for their new handheld. I absolutely love my Vita (I’m currently making my way through Resistance: Burning Skies), but most wouldn’t argue the point that it’s floundering in the marketplace at the moment. Some big new franchise announcements specifically for the Vita would certainly help alleviate the perception that it has no games. Seeing Ken Levine walk on-stage to demo BioShock Vita would certainly be a good start, and perhaps we’ll hear more about Killzone and Call of Duty. Aside from shooters, I’m hoping we’ll hear about some good RPGs coming to the handheld in the next year.

Besides the Vita, some gameplay footage of The Last of Us would be great to see. The trailers so far have got mouths watering, but we know nothing of how the game will play. Will it be a post-apocalyptic Uncharted, or will Naughty Dog pull out all the stops and head in a completely new direction? I can’t wait to find out.

Joel and Ellie, wondering what they’ll be doing for the next ten hours.

Square-Enix
The Tokyo-based company recently announced their list of games they will be showcasing at E3, and all I can say is I hope they’re planning to hit us with a load of surprises. On the list were Hitman: Absolution, Tomb Raider, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, Heroes of Ruin and Kingdom Hearts 3D for the 3DS. The rest are mostly mobile phone games.

Seriously Square-Enix? It’s Final Fantasy‘s 25th anniversary! Come on! They have to have something up their sleeves, don’t they? Final Fantasy Versus XIII is apparently not being shown at E3, although recent rumours have claimed it’ll be renamed Final Fantasy XV and will in fact be unveiled at the trade show… I’m taking that one with a barge-full of salt, but I am blindly hoping for some kind of big FF news at the Expo, considering the 25-year milestone. At the very least I want to see the PS3/PSV re-release of Final Fantasy X that we’ve heard absolutely nothing about in God knows how long. If Square-Enix’s conference holds no surprises, I’ll be very disappointed.

Nintendo
The house of Mario are expected to unveil their final Wii U hardware and, more than anything, I’m hoping to see a gorgeous HD Metroid adventure (hopefully from Retro Studios please!). Despite last year’s HD Zelda demonstration, I don’t expect to be seeing anything from Link and friends this year, though I imagine we’ll get a proper glimpse of a new Mario game. I think Nintendo will keep Wii U game reveals to a minimum and focus on the console and tablet and what they can do together, allowing third parties to take up the slack, as they did with their E3 2011 showreel.

Hopefully we’ll see some great new 3DS titles announced (perhaps a new handheld Zelda?) as well as get a good look at New Super Mario Bros 2, and I’d love to see more of Luigi’s Mansion 2.

Namco-Bandai
Having recently watched a Namco-Bandai presentation (at last week’s London Expo), I’m not foaming at the mouth (quite as much) to see Ni No Kuni and Tales of Graces f, though more on both would certainly be welcome. I’d love to get confirmation of a European release date for Tales of Xillia though, and I’d imagine we’ll be seeing more of the recently-announced Xillia 2. Tying into my earlier words about Vita games, I’m also hoping we’ll get a Western release announcement for the handheld’s version of Tales of Innocence R, too.

Others
Electronic Arts will no doubt have a strong presence at the show, and I’m looking forward to a full-on Dead Space 3 reveal, though I am worried about how far co-op will permeate the core experience of the game; let’s hope it’s entirely optional, though I’d prefer it if co-op was a separate side-story entirely. Crysis 3 will most likely also be a focus for EA, and I’ll be hoping it’s more like the first than the second, with large, open environments with flowing objectives and tactical options that allow you to feel like the Predator.

I’m hoping to get a good look at both Zone of the Enders HD Collection and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance from Konami, and it seems they’ll also be tearing the veil from two new Castlevania games – a direct sequel to 2010’s Lords of Shadow and a 3DS spin-off.

Ubisoft are expected to show off tropical shooter Far Cry 3 and colonial stab-’em-up Assassin’s Creed 3, and I’ll be looking to THQ to show us how Metro: Last Light is coming along. Last but by absolutely no means least, I’m hoping for a solid release date for Jet Set Radio HD. And while you’re at it Sega, how about some Shenmue news?

Yeah, I’ll keep dreaming…

99.9% of JSR soundtrack returns for HD outing
Sega have announced, via the humble art of the blog post, that “99.9%” of Jet Set Radio‘s original soundtracks will be brought back for the forthcoming HD re-release. Only two songs from across the Japanese, European and US soundtracks didn’t make it – Deavid Soul’s ‘Yappie Feet’ and ‘Many Styles’ by O.B. One.

The post refers to the list as the “worldwide soundtrack”, so I wonder if all three will be blended into one, or whether you’ll be able to select by region? Either way, this is great news considering what a huge part the music plays in the Jet Set experience. It’s even more pertinent when you think about what happened to the soundtrack for Crazy Taxi‘s HD appearance…

Ni No Kuni release date announced
Namco-Bandai has announced that Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch will launch in Europe on 25th January 2013.

The Level 5/Studio Ghibli-developed jRPG is currently being localised, with the dialogue being re-dubbed in English, and subtitles added for French, German, Spanish and Italian. However, the game will also include the original Japanese voicework, playable with English subtitles.

It’s been a long time coming, but, as I found out at last week’s MCM Expo, Ni No Kuni will be well worth the wait.

New Tomb Raider trailer gives away release date
Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider reboot will be released on March 5 2013, a new trailer has revealed.

The brutal trailer, which you can see below, shows a young Lara Croft struggling to stay alive, fending off attacks by humans and animals alike, as well as using a bow and arrow to hunt a deer for it’s meat. The trailer is interspersed with footage of plenty of massive set-pieces, and, dare I say it, seems a little reminiscent of Uncharted in places (ironic, no?). With that said, it also looks far darker than any of Drake’s (or indeed Lara’s) adventures to date.

Doom 3 BFG edition announced
A remastered and expanded version of Doom 3, dubbed the BFG Edition, has been announced for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 by iD Software.

This new version features remastered graphics, 5.1 surround sound, and support for 3D and head mounted displays. Also included are the original Doom, Doom 2, the Resurrection of Evil expansion pack and the never-before-seen Lost Mission, a separate story set across seven new levels.

Best of all? The game now features an armour-mounted flashlight so you can finally see and shoot at the same time!

A new trailer for the upcoming Jet Set Radio HD re-release has revealed that Rob Zombie’s track Dragula will be included on the game’s soundtrack. Dragula was on the US version of JSR (which was renamed Jet Grind Radio in the States, ugh…), but was not present on the European or Japanese versions.

The trailer, below, ends with a request to stay tuned, hinting that news of other licensed tracks will be forthcoming. I imagine we’ll get the full tracklist at E3 next week.

In a press release that has utterly made my day, Sega has announced that classic Dreamcast tag-’em-up Jet Set Radio, set for a PSN/XBL/PC HD update some time this summer, will also be released on PlayStation Vita.

The handheld version will be playable at E3, and will sport a couple of Vita-specific additions: players will be able to tag their graffiti sites with touchscreen movements, and the Vita camera will be used in an as-yet unspecified manner. Sega said that the release is otherwise identical to its PC/home console brethren, including “the original funky soundtrack that rocked the ears of gamers worldwide in 2000.”

There’s no news yet as to whether Jet Set Radio Vita will be a boxed or digital release, but it matters not; this is the best Vita news I’ve heard since launch, and today is certainly a good day to be a Sega fan. Now I just have to decide whether to buy the game on console or Vita…

Who am I kidding. I’ll be getting it for both.