Chances are, if you played Jet Set Radio when it first appeared in 640 pixels across and 480 pixels high on the Dreamcast, you probably had the same reaction as me. You thought: "This is it. Games don't need to get any better because, ladies and gentlemen, we are playing cartoons."
Jet Set Radio didn't just look good - it had the most infectious dance soundtrack. When Sweet Soul Brother belts out as you skate across the primary-coloured roofs of residential Kogane, you'd need a charcoal heart to not slobber happily with a huge wash of endorphins. Jet Set Radio has that rare essence of pure pleasure. Annoyingly, it also has an equally powerful essence of face-bending rage.
You are the GGs, a rollerblading crew of 'rudies' who flex their artistic muscle on the streets of Tokyo-to. It's highly territorial business, and the game begins by pitting you against rival gangs, covering their graffiti, and fi nally themselves, with your own tags. Success is about navigating the rail-grinds and wall-rides, while dodging increasingly insane countermeasures that are brought out to obliterate your aerosol-based rudeness. And this is where the frustration begins.
Levels aren't designed in a way that you can react to. Rail-grinds are angular and erratic, launching unprepared skaters in unexpected directions. Momentum is hard to maintain, stumbling is frequent, and your rollerblades make smaller movements fist-bunchingly clumsy. Your first play of any level will be a huge meal of swallowed curses. It's good, then, that when you revisit levels, you're given a chance to remember what you've learnt.
You learn the paths, the shortcuts, and which graffiti to do first. Your progress summons harsher enemies, so you're best to get the big ones out of the way first. It never gets easy, and that frequently stunted momentum will always irritate. But as you get better, the pleasure of the cartoon looks and music slowly begin to complement your enjoyment of the game.
Jet Set Radio may have lost the graphical novelty that made it the jaw-dropper it was back in 2000, but it still has the warm attitude, inexplicable storyline, and outstanding soundtrack that make it such a lovable bastard. It's not massive, so 800 Microsoft Points is the perfect price - generous for nostalgia-sodden boobs, and cheap enough to bait in the unwary newcomers. Give it a go, it'll win you over. Just very, very slowly.
Still rolling and spraying
- Brilliantly quirky soundtrack
- Pioneered the cel-shaded style
- Personality to spare
- It will make you profane
- So pretty, but so cruel