Jet Set Radio and the Power of Addition by Subtraction
This is the same game you played on the Dreamcast, with a few notable bonuses and omissions.
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An HD release of Jet Set Radio is one of those things that erstwhile Dreamcast owners have had on their wish lists for years now, right above new button cell batteries for their VMUs and a signed photo of Yu Suzuki. In a few months, that wish will become reality, with Sega set to release a downloadable remake of this Rollerblade classic on the PC, Xbox Live Arcade, and PlayStation Network. It's very much the same game you remember from back in 2000, with a few notable additions and subtractions.
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The most obvious change Jet Set Radio has undergone is its leap into the HD era. The higher resolution looks great, and the game's cel-shaded art design keeps the graphics from looking like they've been stretched out against their will, which is a common aftereffect in older games that get the HD treatment. On top of that, it's running at 60 frames per second, so the graffiti vandalism action looks nice and smooth.
The other big difference is the way Jet Set Radio adapts to modern controllers. With the right analog stick--a luxury never afforded to the poor old Dreamcast controller--you can now swing around the camera at will. It's a nice little bonus, considering the level layouts are a bit more claustrophobic than you might remember. So being able to avoid having the camera butt up against a wall all the time is awfully helpful.
Lastly, there's the soundtrack. Back in 2000, Japanese and North American gamers got different song selections when Jet Set Radio made its Dreamcast debut. While the Japanese soundtrack featured a bunch of delightful Japanese dance tunes that fit in with the superstylish aesthetic, North American fans got…Rob Zombie's "Dragula." It was a bit like biting into a candy bar filled with nails when you expect tasty nougat instead. Fortunately, Sega is ditching the American soundtrack this time around in favor of the Japanese original in all territories. It is still working on finalizing licensing deals with the original artists, but the company insists it has already taken care of the bulk of the songs.
Jet Set Radio is looking like a nice port of the Dreamcast classic. It's certainly a straightforward remake, lacking any additional game modes or even the ability to ability to import JPEGs as graffiti art (Sega's holding a public contest to determine the art that turns into in-game tags), so if you're hoping for a substantial upgrade over the original, you're out of luck. But you can just as easily argue that this is a faithful port, right on down to the original Japanese soundtrack. If that's all the reason you need to take another spin through this Dreamcast favorite, you can expect to see Jet Set Radio released this spring.