Jet Set Radio Future
Platform: Microsoft XBox
Release Date:
22nd February 2002(Japan)
25th February 2002(North America)
14th March 2002(Europe)
Genre: Action(?)
Developer: Smilebit - Sega
Publisher: Infogrames(In Europe)
ELSPA Rating:11+
Homepage:JSRF.com(Now defunct)
Players:1-4

DJ "Professor K" is your mentor, winning street territory, your mission. Cops want you nailed, rival gangs want you dead, you're the rollerblade tagger with a price on your head. Your face is all over town, your name on every flyover and hitmans' bullet. Keep those skates pumping and your head screwed on. Wheels are your only way out, your spray can is your only weapon.

- Taken from back of this (admittedly kinda weird) game's casing.

The famous(Or infamous) Jet Set Radio, released way back in 2001 for the ill-fated Sega Dreamcast, was hailed by critics as an absolutely fantastic, unique and all-around bloody great game. Merely a year later, in 2002, the sequel was released... This time on Xbox, after the Dreamcast's untimely demise at retail.

This presents several problems. The first is, that this game is in fact a sequel. Part of the reason the first game was such a critical and cult, if not retail, success is that it was so unbelievably original. For the uninitiated, Jet Set Radio was really the first game to use(Or at least, the first to popularize) the now practically ubiquitous visual effect known as celshading. This gave the game a funky, 3D comic-book look that had never been seen before - coupled with some seriously strange(but still rather cool) character design and you had a game with an entirely unique appearance. This was added to a core gameplay concept that didn't make a hell of a lot of sense but was definitely no rehash and most certainly was fun - you zoomed around town on futuristic rollerblades, performing unrealistic stunts and spraypainting walls in order to bring down a corporation trying to conquer the aforementioned town and then probably the world.

JSRF, the sequel, carries on with this concept, alters it a little, slightly upgrades some aspects(And then removes others), and calls itself another game. That it may be, but it certainly lost a lot of it's originality factor simply by virtue of the fact that all the core gameplay and visual aspects have been done before; in it's predecessor. That's a whole load of the original's charm gone right there.

Some of the alterations to the original seem a little... bizarre. Firstly, the original's tagging system(Which consisted of spraypainting walls by following on-screen button prompts, a little like Parappa the Rapper's core gameplay) has basically been removed - you now just hit a button when you're close enough to a tag indicator and it does it all for you. This removes a lot of the skill involved in the game itself, and a lot of fans really didn't like the new system - such as it was.
The stunt system also got totally revamped from the original - previously, it was possible to just jump on a rail, and automatically rack up points just for staying on it. Now, you have to rhythmically press one of two buttons to do two different kinds of tricks in order to get any points for it. In addition to this, for some odd reason you're now capable of grinding up vertical rails(Like lampposts!), but strangely, you don't get any more points for doing this than you do for just grinding along a safety railing. I can't speak for you, but I’d be more impressed if someone was grinding up a phoneline pole than just going along a park bench. Maybe I’m just weird?

It's not too hard to see why the developers made these decisions. Essentially, they change the 'style' of gameplay from the original's - previously, the focus was on the skill involved in tagging, and travelling around the levels using strategic jumps between rails and wall-riding. Now, in JSRF, the focus is on extremely long and over-the-top rail grinds along with actual tagging taking place while still grinding.

Personally, however, I find the new gameplay alterations more annoying than anything else, and I vastly prefer the original.
In addition, there are some downright stupid ideas in JSRF. For example, some rails, although totally identical to every other rail in the entire level, give you more points when you perform stunts on them than any other rails on the level - and you need to actively seek these out to complete some of the levels' optional objectives and unlock secrets. And some of it just plain doesn't make sense - The GG's(The gang from the previous game) are now run by some guy called Corn that was never even a guest character in the original, Beat(The old leader) turns up halfway through and doesn't seem to have aged at all while Yo-Yo, who WAS in the first game, is now waaaay older. The Noise Tanks, a rival gang from the first game, are now totally robotic and there's millions of them, while Poison Jam look like they fell into the same green ooze that mutated the Turtles way back in the 80s.

One other thing of note, as any Jet Set Radio fan will tell you, is the soundtrack - the soundtrack to the original game was fantastic, and suited it right down to the metaphorical ground. The mixture of techno, hip-hop and j-pop played a large part in cementing the funkadelic feeling of the original, and it continues to do so in JSRF. A large portion of the songs used in JSRF came from the Latch Brothers and BS2000, both side-projects of the Beastie Boys, and they fit the game well. Some of the songs are just plain weird and I personally can't stand them - but then again, it's not like I can objectively evaluate music now, can I?

Conclusion
Jet Set Radio was fantastic. A pure masterpiece. One of my all-time favourite games. Jet Set Radio Future, however, was a disappointment; not a bad game by any means, but with some strange design decisions, the complete removal of some of the original's features and a strangely darker visual style make it an unworthy successor to the original's legacy. Worth getting if you already have an Xbox, because at the time of writing it's going pretty cheap(£10 in some places) and it's got some worthwhile gameplay time packed into that trademark green Xbox case.

One Final Note...
Why, oh why, when the Xbox is the only console in the current generation(Xbox, PS2, Gamecube) to have a feasible online gaming system, can you not download and upload graffiti tags? The game itself allows you to design your own graffiti, but you can't do anything except use it yourself. The original game let you use JPEGs from the net as tags, and with Xbox Live, i can't see why we're not allowed to exchange our homemade, digital masterworks amongst ourselves. Darn you, Sega! Darn you all to heck!

+1 Links of Interest
http://www.epitonic.com/labels/grandroyal.html - Legal mp3 downloads from the music label epitonic - including a fair few tracks from JSRF. Check out Aisle 10, The Scrappy and I'm Not a Model for some JSRF soundtrack goodness.

http://www.sega.com/games/game_temp.php?game=jsrf - JSRF official mini-site thing. The game used to have it's own homepage,but as usual it's gone down.

As usual, if anyone has any information to add here, send me a private message and I’ll add it(Assuming it's good, and makes some sort of coherent sense) - and if anything's inaccurate, let me know. The same thing goes for if those external links suddenly make an escape attempt from the face of the internet - I can't stand trying to visit websites listed in nodes only to find that they're now defunct. That is all.

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