Underrated Games: Jet Set Radio Future

In the year of 2000, the gods of gaming graced us with Jet Set Radio. Who are the gods of gaming, you ask? Erm, well it's Sega, obviously. 

Jet Set Radio was a funny game indeed. A game about graffiti spraying inline skaters? "How could such a game be a masterpiece?" you scream at me. Well what makes a game great? A good concept? Great gameplay? Easy to understand controls? Amazing music? Colourful graphics? Well, Jet Set Radio has every one of these and it takes a very well deserved place in the library of incredible games that were available for Sega's console swan song, the Dreamcast. But with no more Sega consoles being made, what became of every Dreamcast fan's favourite graffiti rollerblading franchise? Well they made a sequel, of course. Jet Set Radio Future, baby. Understand that ish. See, the funkiness of Jet Set Radio has even got me using some of DJ Professor K's street lingo. That's how addictive this franchise is!

Jet Set Radio Future brought with it what made the first game so incredible, while improving on the one thing that made the first game feel incomplete and even frustrating at times. No longer did we have to put up with those annoying time limits! Games that employ extreme sports elements should let you roam around the various environments to your heart's content! Remember having to power your way through a map to spray your graffiti at the last second as the counter is about to hit zero? Well, those days are gone. You also don't have to move around the analog stick frantically in different directions to spray the tags either. Now you just hammer the right trigger of the Xbox controller and your character (which there are a variety of, and all have their own unique style) will spray the tag with no messing around. Of course this makes for easier gameplay in regards to the graffiti element of the game, but to make up the difficulty, the developers tend to put some of the graffiti spots in hard to reach places, meaning you will have to be strong with your navigation and tricks in order to get to all the graffiti spots. Oh, and let's not forget, there is a splitscreen vs. mode! That is definitely what the first game was missing.

The controls are more or less the same as they are on the Dreamcast, although the graffiti button has been moved from the L trigger to the R trigger. After playing lots of Jet Set Radio on the Dreamcast, this caught me off guard at first, but it really isn't a problem at all. The left trigger is now a button to correct the camera angle. The B button lets you do a turbo boost (if you have 10 spray cans handy) which can provide useful for getting places quicker, as well as knocking over cops and getting to hard to reach ledges. The X button is the button that lets you pull off tricks in the air and allows for combos while grinding and the Y button turns your skater around for some backwards skating or grinding. Then of course the A button makes you jump, which was always there! The best addition to the controls by far is the ability to use the right analog stick to change the camera angle, while on the Dreamcast you had to use L and R to turn the camera angle clockwise or anti-clockwise, as the Dreamcast only had one analog stick and it tended to bug out a bit, which was pretty annoying. So overall, the controls are great. Well, except if you are using the original version of the Xbox controller. If you are, throw that oversized piece of crap in the bin and get yourself the more conventional smaller version that I have been using to play this game with. 

A controller that large, with such an awkward button layout? What were they thinking?!?

Of course we can't talk about a Jet Set Radio game without talking about the music, because as always with this series, the music is beyond awesome. It's the kind of music that makes even the most uncoordinated dancer think they have some kind of moves to flex. The majority of the soundtrack is composed by Hideki Naganuma, the genius behind the majority of first Jet Set Radio game's soundtrack. Both installments of the Jet Set Radio series feature some of the best tracks ever heard in video games. The soundtrack of Jet Set Radio Future is comprised of some new Hideki Naganuma jams as well as plenty of remixes of classic tracks from the first game. I have yet to find a track composed by this man that I didn't like. There are also a few tracks composed by The Latch Brothers, a Beastie Boys side project you may or may not have heard of. There are also a variety of tracks from other artists that really make the soundtrack of Jet Set Radio Future complete. The awesome thing about this soundtrack is, as you skate around, the tracks are mixed together, as if you are listening to DJ Professor K's radio station through headphones or something, and he mixes a hell of a lot better than most nightclub DJs! This is an awesome new feature, however the mixing isn't random, and after a while you will start to realise that the same songs repeat a lot. Remember how I said you will have to work hard to get to specific graffiti spots? Well during a long play session, you will most likely hear Cibo Matto's 'Birthday Cake' a few too many times. Did you know Miho Hatori from Cibo Matto was the voice of Noodle on the first Gorillaz record? ...Sorry I got side tracked there for a second. Oh yeah, the soundtrack does change depending on where you area of the map you're in, but it does seem to repeat a lot in certain places, with the same tracks being played in the same order before looping back to the start, which is a shame as shuffling the the tracks up a bit more and having longer playlists would be great. On the next game, they should make it more like the Tony Hawk games, of course with more mixing.     

While the original Jet Set Radio is getting a much deserved HD remake this September, which will hopefully introduce the innovation and colour deprived current generation of gamers to a absolutely excellent game, Jet Set Radio Future has no HD remake on the horizon. Hopefully if the HD remake of the first game does well, then gamers will be able to experience this wonderful game too, but for now you can only play it on the humongous brick that is the Xbox original, or you can download a patch to play the game on your Xbox 360 although apparently it lags like hell. And then there is the question about the future of the Jet Set Radio franchise. Will there be a sequel to the sequel? Or will it just sadly die out and be forgotten? Let's hope not. Apparently there was going to be a Jet Set Radio game released on the Nintendo Wii a few years back but it was cancelled.

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