Jet Set Radio Future: A Review

March 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

Note: I never owned an original Xbox, and as such never played JSRF as it was meant to be played. This review is one of the game played with the 360’s less than perfect backwards compatibility. I’m fully aware some of the issues I experienced weren’t present in the original, but I’ve only got my personal experience to go on when it comes to this. Taking such matters into account simply isn’t possible.

If any game were to sum up the ‘almost-retro’ fashion stylings of the early double-0s, it would be Jet Set Radio Future. The florescent art style, the ‘street’ lingo characters use, and the omni-present radio DJ all point towards a style that was verging on the ridiculous even when it had a following. Perhaps then this distance from the culture it apes is a good thing, adding a layer of tongue in cheek to a game that would otherwise see its setting plunge into cheese so deep so as not even to be ironically enjoyable.

As it is however, the setting is pleasant, almost whimsical. In a not-to-distant Tokyo a fascist dictator has come into power, intent on making every citizen a slave to his unimaginative, generic take on what art should be. As a result of this several graffiti gangs – all of which sporting inline skates, a fact that’s never really explained – pop up, intent on covering the city in paint and restoring its urban beauty.

Whilst the story does pave the way for many encounters with a very Nazi-esque police force later in the game, initially it tends towards the tedious, and sometimes even the frustrating. A very common task you’ll be presented with is to enter a new area and cover predesignated spots with graffiti. The act of squeezing off paint cans and seeing predefined pieces of artwork pepper the walls is enjoyable enough by itself, but when you’re asked to repeat this task several times over there’s more than a little sense of the grind setting in.

Actually spraying the graffiti is only half the battle though, the other half being just getting to the place. Here, billboards and railings are your best friends, the former providing a means to wall ride and propel yourself around corners, and the latter allowing you to scale sets of stairs. Largely these actions are automated, so it’s just a case of lining yourself up with whatever it is you need to hit, and this removes an awful amount of the frustration-factor, but can also add a host of other difficulties when you’d rather your skates land on the floor than be stuck in a difficult to exit grind.

An automatically adjusting camera causes problems for exactly the same reason. For the most part you can leave the camera alone, safe in the knowledge that it will center itself behind you once you start moving, but in cases when you’re standing still, lining yourself up for a particularly taxing jump, it feels like it takes far too long to get the camera looking where you want it to. These problems pale in comparison to the ‘set-piece’ camera however, when the game feels it necessary to take camera control away from you. In one case (when you’re skating around a cylindrical grind rail) the camera actually pans backwards, making the jump out of the grind much more taxing than it should otherwise be.

Minor annoyances simply cannot mar your entire experience with Jet Set Radio Future when the core skating component feels so right so consistently however. It feels good merely skating along the flat pavements Tokyo has to offer, and the fact that there’s a basic trick system in there (along with a button that allows you to skate backwards) when high scores play next to no part in this game adds to this sense of innocent fun the whole game exudes. Ultimately there isn’t a point to much of the stuff you’ll end up doing in Jet Set Radio Future, but you have fun doing it anyway.


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