CARTOON DIGITAL: 2nd stop on my Spanish LudoToreroTour08
CFP: Perspectives on the History of Computer Games

Jet Set Radio - Still tastes great after all these years

250pxjgrboxI re-plugged my Dreamcast after many years of being abandoned at my studio. Actually, it wasn't abandoned: many of the guys at Powerful Robot took it home to give it a try.
The first CD (actually, GD-ROM) that I popped in was, of course, Jet Set Radio (known as Jet Grind Radio in the States). Sadly, the copy was so badly scratched that it would not run. I had to settle for the also excellent Space Channel 5.
I downloaded a torrent with JSR and, after a little tinkering, I was able to run it on the console (the original copy may now be a coaster, but it's one of the coolest coasters in my house). What a great game! The gameplay is good (a bit tricky to pull out some stunts) but the visuals and sound are still among the most impressive and distinctive to be found in videogames. Cell-shading may be commonplace, but JSR's visual choices (mainly the color palette and character design) have yet to be matched.
One of the things that keeps surprising me every time that I play old games is that I seem to master them much faster than before. I reached the 5th level in JSR after a couple of hours... that took me a couple of days when I first played the game. And this is not just because I mastered the game previously, since I have been able to easily win games that I abandoned years ago because they seemed too difficult at the time. The obvious answer is that we do improve our learning on how to play videogames and that shows after a certain time. A clear example is Space Channel 5 (SC5). I've never been too good with rhythm games and I certainly had real trouble with this game, mainly because it doesn't provide visual clues like more recent rhythm games. However, my sense of rhythm must have improved after countless hours of DDR and Guitar Hero, because I was able to beat SC5's levels that I never reached before... on my first try.
In any case, the curious thing is that the Dreamcast did not make me nostalgic. Its better games have not aged at all. Certainly, there are fewer polygons but that was made up by the excellent character development (Professor K, Beat, Ulala, Seaman). Since games are generally reviewed rather than criticized, JSR did not become a milestone in game development because, except for being the first successful cell-shaded game. However, I would argue that it's one of the few games that combines insanely great graphics and sound and a very good (but not excellent) gameplay. As such, it creates an experience that is worth replaying eight years after it was created, not just by nostalgic SEGA fans, but by gamers in general.
I was going to write that "unfortunately", Jet Set Radio Future's lack of success in the XBox platform killed the franchise. On the other hand, sometimes it may be better for a game not to be rehashed over and over. In any case, JSR is an aesthetic masterpiece that still provides a very rewarding gameplay experience.


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