JSRF: Jet Set Radio Future

jsrf boxart

JSRF: Jet Set Radio Future (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia) is a unique game – no where else have I seen similar combinations of art style, music, and insane story come together so well. I’ve also never before experienced a game that I should love, but just don’t quite.

So where to begin with this one – let’s start with the art style and visuals. The game is celshaded and frankly still looks great. I bet if they just increased the resolution it would look right at home on modern systems. One of the main themes of the game is graffiti and the characters and environments take a lot of cues from that style. I don’t know exactly how to put it into words, but while playing, the game seems like graffiti art in motion.

275802-jsrf_2

The game itself plays like a Tony Hawk type rollerblading game –  the controls are definitely arcadey and you grind on rails and other parts of the environment for what seems like forever. You are awarded points for doing tricks, and it all feels great. The tricks however aren’t really the focus of the game. In each level you have to spray paint graffiti onto specially marked surfaces to achieve a goal – in the first level I played it was to get a rival rollerblading gang (seriously) to come out of the shadows and challenge you for intruding on their turf. You can paint by pulling the right trigger while in range of a target and you need to collect spray paint cans throughout the level to keep the meter up – run out of paint and you’ll have to hunt for more cans. Thankfully, there are tons of them distributed throughout the levels so I never found myself running out. My one complaint about the gameplay is that when you start it isn’t clear where you need to go or what you need to do – you’re dumped into what I assume is a central hub with no indication of where you are supposed to go. I think I figured out what the correct first level was, but the game never told me.

Finally, music and sound in this game are very good. The sound effects and most of the voice acting are good and fit in well with the rest of the game. The music is widely regarded as fantastic and while it fits, it’s not my taste. I will say that the game lets you select tracks to listen to and there is a large selection – I found a few that I liked better than the rest and was able to listen to them which was a nice touch.

So the sound, gameplay, and visuals are all good and they work together but I’m still not super into it. I can’t really say why. I never did particularly enjoy any of the Tony Hawk games even though I recognize them as quality – maybe I just don’t enjoy these types of games in general. I will say that I did enjoy my time with the game for the most part, it just didn’t click with me.

Verdict: Back on the shelf. I may revisit at some point, but it’s not really my cup of tea.

Images courtesy of Giant Bomb

 

Advertisements

Super Battleship

super-battleship-usa

Super Battleship (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia) is a pretty direct version of the classic board game, with an additional strategy type mode added in.

In classic mode, you are presented with a tile grid that should be familiar to anyone who has played the board game. You place your ships (you can rotate them with the B button) and when you’re ready hit start and select a difficulty for your opponent. Because the screen is shared, there is no local coop play. The classic game plays out exactly the way the board game does with one exception – instead of firing each turn, you fire 3 times per turn. This speeds the game up considerably, and I think it’s a nice touch. You win when you sink all of your enemy’s ships, and lose when all of yours are sunk.

In super battleship mode, the game is completely different. You’re given command of a set number of ships per scenario, and have to sink the opponents ships in a certain amount of turns. In this mode, issuing commands is turn based, but combat is real time. When engaging the enemy, you have to aim and fire the guns from your ship to sink them before they sink you. It plays OK, but it’s hardly thrilling. After playing all 4 initial scenarios (there are more you can unlock or use codes to access), I wished that there was an auto-combat button so that I wouldn’t have to manually sink the ships.

super-battleship-action

To put it mildly, gameplay is rather boring. The ship battles are the most interactive part, and they don’t have you doing much. The strategy portion is pretty basic and I don’t think it would interest strategy game fans at all. I will say this, at the time of release (1993), there were pretty slim pickings for strategy gamers on home consoles, and so I have to give a little credit to this one for being one of the few in the genre.

Graphics are pretty bland and uninteresting – it’s definitely not pushing the Genesis in any way in that department. They are adequate, but nothing to write home about and would be right at home on the Master System or NES and look very dated for a 93 release. Sound… is pretty bad. There are only 3 music tracks that I heard (victory, defeat, and super battleship mode background) – there is no music in the classic mode. Sound effects are fine, but nothing stood out as great.

Overall, I wasn’t too impressed with Super Battleship – it feels like a budget release. The classic mode is the only thing I can see coming back to, but even then it’s not very interesting just playing against AI every time.

Verdict: Back on the shelf. I don’t see a reason to go back to this one.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

2392936-prince_of_persia_the_sands_of_time_01_artwork

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia) was released in 2003 for several platforms – I own and played the Xbox version, but it is also available on Gamecube and PS2.

The story starts out in the past, with you playing the role of the prince. His father, the king, is conquering an Indian city and enlists the help of a shady Vizier to take the city by surprise. I’ll be honest, the story seems a little elaborate and didn’t draw me in at all. While the direction of the story is a bit lacking, presentation was done very well. You have flash backs and flash forwards at certain points and the cut scenes never overstay their welcome.

Basic gameplay has you doing a lot of platforming and some melee combat. The combat is… acceptable. It doesn’t feel particularly deep, but it’s competent enough to make the game a little more interesting. Platforming is the bread and butter of this game. You can do a ton of traversal maneuvers and the rooms are puzzle like in nature, forcing you to use all of them. The camera has a first person and wide landscape mode that you can switch to on the fly, which is great, but it’s still hard to accurately judge some jumps which leads to more trial and error than it should. Thankfully the major mechanic in this game helps a lot in mitigating it – it is reversing time. Let’s say you made a bad jump and fell to your death – if you have some sand left in your dagger, you can pull the left trigger and reverse time to a desired point and try again. This is a cool idea that is executed perfectly – it makes the game stand out and not devolve into just another action platformer. Despite it’s age (almost 13 years old at the time of this writing) it feels like mechanically it could be a new release.

766748-sot_143

Sound is good but not great – nothing that’ll blow you away but nothing terrible either. I did notice in my setup that the voice over audio was frequently way, way too low to make out and there wasn’t an option for subtitles that I saw. Graphics are very nice, especially for an Xbox release. They did something right with the engine, because there is tons of AA and not a single jagged line did I see in my time with the game.

Verdict: Play again! This holds up amazingly well and looks great on Xbox. Well worth a revisit.

Images courtesy of Giant Bomb

Sega GT 2002

2213179-box_segagt2

Sega GT 2002 (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia) is a simulation racer released for the original Xbox. If you’ve played the more popular Gran Turismo 3, you should know what to expect. There are several modes available when you start the game, including a replay theater, quick race, chronicle mode, and the main campaign. I only played the main campaign as that’s the only mode that is interesting to me personally in these types of games.

In the campaign you are given $13,000 to purchase your first car (which won’t buy you much) and then it’s off to the races. The races offer fairly realistic physics and have a difference from Gran Turismo – your car takes damage. This damage is automatically repaired at the end of the race by deducting from your winnings or any money you have in your account. There is no modeling of the damage you take, just a meter. This makes the game play much more cautiously than Gran Turismo – you don’t want to smash into an opponent to get a head as it’ll cost you money. When you’re not racing, you can upgrade your car, buy new cars – of which there are quite a few from at least a dozen manufacturers- and view your trophies in your garage. This was also a difference from Gran Turismo and one I wish that game had. Your garage has the trophies from your wins displayed, but when you win you are allowed to snap pictures from the replay of the race and have them appear in the garage. It’s a nice touch, and makes you feel like your a real racer.

Controls are good, if a bit touchy, and that’s exactly what you need in this type of game. I will say it was a bit strange to be accelerating using the A button instead of a trigger, but I got used to it quickly. Sound is good for the most part, but the drag racing event had some horrible notes in the background music. The music on the menu screens is very serene and I liked it quite a bit.

858509-sega_gt_2002_374207

Graphics are a mixed bag – while they look good, especially for an early Xbox title, there is an expectation that racing games should look good – and by this standard they are simply OK. Gran Turismo 3 looks as good if not better, and that game came out a year before this one on a ‘weaker’ system.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with Sega GT 2002, but if I’m going to play a simulation racer from that time period, I’m going to play Gran Turismo even if it’s just nostalgia talking.

Verdict: Back on the shelf. This is a competent racer, but I have better ones available in my collection. If you don’t have a PS2 and only own an Xbox then this is a great alternative to Gran Turismo 3.

Images courtesy of Giant Bomb