When the first screenshots of Jet Set Radio were revealed I distinctly remember thinking “what the Hell is that?” What we all now know as cel-shading was invented there and I had no idea what to make of it. When I finally saw the game moving, though, it was a revelation, completely stylish and original and probably the coolest-looking game ever. Like Comix Zone, it’s a great marriage of form and function – Jet Set’s aesthetic embodies its rebellious “graffiti is art” message, and the same goes for its soundtrack, for which the word “eclectic” may well have been invented. Running from hip-hop to J-pop, it’s every bit as individual as the game, and special praise must go to Hideki Naganuma for crafting a large portion of the soundtrack, and naturally Richard Jacques gets a Sega high-five too.
Right, but what about the actual gameplay? Well, it’s a 3D platformer-stroke-skating game that challenges you to spray your individual tag on a number of targets around the play area, all the while escaping the enthusiastic but incompetent police. Simple tags are done immediately, but for the more complicated ones you must execute a series of analogue stick commands, giving things a nice feeling of tactility. Speaking of tags, not only can you download images from the Internet to use as graffiti, you can design your own using a pretty clever editor, giving you all you need to plaster the streets of Neo-Tokyo with pro-Sega propaganda.
Jet Set Radio gets in at the expense of its better-looking Xbox brother by being much more in-line with what Sega is about – whereas Future is a bit grimy and grungy, JSR is cheeky and cheery. For a game that looks this good to be a perfect balance of style and substance is a real achievement, and one that lands Jet Set Radio a deserved place in the top 25.