Jet Set Radio HD Review (PS3)

The Dreamcast cult classic gets an HD facelift and crashes onto PSN and XBLA. When Jet Set Radio was originally released over ten years ago, the game quickly became one of stand -outs in the Dreamcast’s library. While every other game was striving for realistic graphics and stories, Jet Set went the opposite direction. Although Jet Set Radio’s art design is as electrifying as ever, the gameplay hasn’t aged quite as well.


Jet Set Radio’s premise revolves around underground street gangs caught in a turf war in Tokyo. You play as multiple members of the GG’s, a group of punk kids who all share one thing, their love for skating and graffiti. The GG’s must expand their turf by covering their rival gangs, the Noise Tanks, Loveshockers and Poison Jam in paint. Things appear simple in the beginning but as you defeat one rival gang after another, a bigger enemy is revealed. By the end, Jet Set Radio becomes a battle against an evil cooperation empire. The story is primarily told through the character DJ Professor K, who leads the pirate radio station Jet Set Radio.  Professor K  is the glue that holds the overall story arch together, his quick monologues after every level really add to the overall world of the game.


Jet Set Radio’s art design and graphical style has always been the stand-out. The vibrant, colorful, cell shaded world still holds strong today. The game’s influences come everywhere from Tokyo street art to underground trip-hop cultures. To put it simply, Jet Set Radio is dazzling and electrifying. To populate the colorful world, Jet Set hosts a variety of unique characters, each with their own style and flare. There are also over a hundred different graffiti tags to choose from. The presentation and style of Jet Set becomes even more exciting as soon as the soundtrack kicks in. Featuring some of the most memorable songs in any video game, the soundtrack of Jet Set Radio is an eclectic mix of hip-hop, trip-hop and punk infused rap. The music couldn’t fit the gameplay more perfectly.


The main goals in Jet Set Radio are covering Tokyo in graffiti, earning more turf for the GG’s and defeat the rival gangs.  You will skate through city squares, residential areas, downtowns, grind rails and jump from building to building, to reach designated graffiti tag areas. The more you tag the city, the more resistance you face. It’s not long until the police, dogs, helicopters, cooperations and tanks show up to stop you and your fellow GG’s. When everything runs smoothly, Jet Set Radio’s gameplay is great, arcade-like fun. Grinding rails and performing big air tricks to reach your tags is a blast when you nail it but, it doesn’t always works so well. Later levels require very precise jumps and timing to reach tags which will lead to frustration due to the dated controls. The game’s jumping mechanics will take some getting used to for newcomers to the series. There is also frequent slow down which dampens the overall experience. These issues aside, Jet Set Radio is always exciting to play and the game’s overall style really makes these small problems forgettable.


If you have fond memories of Jet Set Radio back on the Dreamcast, then this HD re-release won’t disappoint. If you are a newcomer however, you may find yourself getting a little frustrated during the later levels. That being said, Jet Set Radio’s style and soundtrack make even the low points exciting and fun. Weather you’re resurrecting some childhood nostalgia or you’re picking the cult classic for the first time, Jet Set Radio still stands out in today’s market.


-Matthew Bruce 2012

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