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.
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