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The reason why Jet Grind Radio (or Jet Set Radio, for my many Japanese readers) was a brilliant game, and the pseudo-sequel/remake Jet Set Radio Future is only a good game is all in the chase.
In Jet Grind Radio, one of the best games ever for one of the best consoles ever, the Dreamcast, you, as a member of a “gang” of inline-skater graffiti artists, skate around tagging things around the city. Eventually, the cops come and chase you incompetently. You skate away, do some more graffiti, the police chief starts shooting at you in a park filled with kids, you do some more graffiti and super fast skating and jumping, and after a few levels the cops are bringing in missile launchers to stop your evil graffiti ways. My favorite part is when they send in the tanks - because you’re tagging. It was absurd and cartoony and one of the reasons I absolutely loved Jet Grind Radio. (I also loved it for its unique visual style, creative character design, bright colors, and catchy j-pop filled soundtrack, but I’m not in the business of reviewing video games.)
In Jet Set Radio Future this chase element of the gameplay has been removed. Rather than overwhelming and omnipresent police resistance, there are compartmentalized “street battles.” The normal gameplay of skating around and tagging is occasionally broken up when the cops or other enemies corner you (large fences appear out of nowhere) and you’re forced to dispatch your foes. This is done by skating into them to knock them over, then spraying them with spray paint.
The first problem with this is that “modal” gameplay like this breaks up the flow of the levels, which destroys the otherwise fast pace of the game. More importantly, it’s not very fun. This, combined with the removal of the time limits from the original, basically allow you to skate around at a leisurely pace, but Jet Set Radio is supposed to be all about speed.
What really bothers me, though, is that if a bunch of skating graffiti punks take down a dozen law enforcement agents with spray paint, it perversely justifies the future stupid things the cops do against you. Suddenly, it makes sense that the cops are bringing out huge spider-like fire-breathing robots.
Basically, since they’ll probably never do another Jet Set Radio game (despite both being critical successes, neither sold well) I think it’s a real shame they didn’t to ask me to design this one so it didn’t abandon it’s most important element.
Also, I would have added more hot punk-rockish skater girls.
And on the theme of important media productions being controlled by people less qualified than me, how the hell did Jimmy Kimmel get his own show?
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