Tuesday, January 8, 2002

Jet Grind Radio

Genre: Action / Miscellaneous
Platform: Dreamcast
2000 SEGA.

Jet Grind Radio Games
Jet Grind Radio Strategy Guides/Art
Original Soundtrack
Toys and Accessories
Everything Jet Grind Radio
Cover Description:
Join a graffiti crew; stamp your territory and protect it from rival taggers, but watch out for the angry cops!

Carton-dimension art style in visually-compelling 3D environments... Over 10 funky and hip characters... 5 fully interactive cities with 16 challenging missions... In-game graffiti design screen... Trade custom logos and graffiti online... Cutting-edge hip-hop and industrial soundtracks, including tunes from Rob Zombie, Jurassit -5, and Mix Master Mike.

So cool it hurts. >>> by Status
Over the past few years, genre-bending games have become more and more the norm. Blending two games together to create a completely new genre is all the rage, and the most popular element to draw from is the RPG. The 'Action-RPG', the 'Fighter-RPG', so forth. Jet Grind radio has to be about the first 'Futuristic skate punk hardcore music blasting underground-RPG', though.

Jet Grind Radio is easy to dismiss as an action game. You skate around the lovely town of Tokyoto avoiding rival gangs, police, and eventually corporate killers, much like an action/platformer. You combine rail grinds and some limited tricks to create extended combos worth a ton of points, like a skateboarding game. You make graffiti tags in a Dance & Rhythm style series of controller movements. And all this is tied together with a progressive story, exploration, and assembling a party, pulling in RPG and Adventure elements. Heck, you can even design your own graffiti, giving the game a Creative/Maker element. If you can think of a genre, it's in here somewhere.

While it blends countless gameplay elements in to one very tidy gameplay package, JGR is probably best known for it's visual style. It was the first mainstream game to make use of 'Cel-Shading', a graphics technique that gives the game a totally unique look. While the character designs are unique, they only scratch the surface of the game's style. From the menu elements to the grins on the attack choppers (You'll see...), this game SCREAMS cool. The only thing hurting the visual package is the weak level graphics. Texture quality can be remarkably poor at times, regressing to visuals that remind me of the N64 in terms of overall quality. While this is only noticeable in a couple levels, it's a pain.

Hmm... characters. What can be said about the characters? Very few are developed in any kind of detail (only the main GG's have backstories), but they almost don't need to be. Their attitude, style and graffiti are enough to express their personalities. Development of both the characters and the story is a nagging weak point, with a story little deeper than "p*ss off the other gangs and dodge the cops" until about halfway through the game.

Now, visuals, gameplay, story. What's left, Audio? In ninety percent of games - especially in the 'punk' genre, this is little more than an afterthought. Call a couple of hardcore groups, get 'em licensed, done. JGR totally shatters the expectations for what a soundtrack should be. Rock and punk are represented, but the techno tracks steal the show. There's a blend of both American and Japanese artists, and all of the music stands on it's own feet. While mostly underground, a few mainstream acts like Cold, Jurassic 5 and Mixmaster Mike of Beastie Boys fame. Rob Zombie also 'contributes' Dragula. I'd complain about it, but I swear, this stupid song is in virtually every game that's been released since 1999. I've reached the point that I don't even care. Considering every single other song in the game is great, I can live with it.

A word on replay value, this is a gamer's game. If you play through a game for the sake of finishing the game, you'll get 15 hours out of this. There are plenty of hidden tags, a few hidden characters, and some extra modes. If you play a game for the sake of the game, you'll log an easy 50 hours. Perfecting your runs, opening ALL the hidden characters, and creating your own graffiti can make this game last for days. Don't play it to beat it, play it to master it. It'll be one of the most rewarding games you'll ever play.

It's amazing that more people haven't picked JGR up. Last time I checked, it's going for $9.95 U.S. dollars. C'mon, you can't even rent two games for that. You can barely even get a pizza for $10 anymore. You owe it to yourself to get this game.

RATINGS: Gameplay 9; Battle 8; Story 7; Visuals 8; Characters 7; Sounds 10; Replay Value 9

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