Hey out there, this is Sega Addicts’ very own number one pirate power station, Jet Set RadiOOOOO!!! Over the hood, through the streets, and right into your brain! We’re transmitting our signal straight to YOU. Y’all got your antennas on or what? Yeah, we’re riding high on a smooth stream of supersonic Sega sounds, and I’m your captain and DJ, Professor J! Jet Set Radioooooooo!!!
These supersonic sounds are what drive this thumping, bumping cel-shaded concoction of Dreamcast majesty. If you do not crack a smile and bob your head while jamming out to Jet Grind Radio’s title screen, get your ass underground, because you are officially dead to me. “The music just turns me on!”
This music isn’t the only audio sweet spot in JGR, either. Jet Grind Radio is unparalleled in its skill for infusing its players with a sense of easygoing empowerment and rhythm-driven entertainment. The very best manifestations of this come with the little diddies of varying length that play as you plaster the walls of Tokyo-to with your spray paint signatures. No sound from the Dreamcast’s lifespan sticks out more than this week’s Sound of Sega.
Track 3: Budda Bum Bum Bum Bow!
Kick your skates into overdrive, grind that rail, lean back and perform the bafflingly impossible task of spraying a drive-by tag in a single spray on the ass of a delivery truck, then again on the side of a parked car. Behind you, the ineffectual fuzz bound around like a dog nipping at the heels of a newspaper delivery boy. You just laugh it off as you leap from the rail and do a back flip to the ground before approaching your next tag. Easy peesy lemon squeezie. These peaks of simple style and baffo badass flavor are the rewards of the infinitely awesome Jet Grind Radio.
Perhaps the most empowering of these bits come when you’ve pulled off a tag. I don’t care how deeply your Seasonal Affective Disorder has sunk its claws into you – this little tune will make you feel like a damn champ. Jumping from tag to tag, all the while triggering this jingle over and over again helps to accentuate just how much mischief you truly are getting away with. Behind you, the cops are clambering to apprehend your punk heinie, but you just keep triggering that sound repeatedly, a manifested audible laugh in authority’s grizzled, hardened mug. It’s kind of like carrying a boom box around a city and blasting your music for all to hear. No matter what people try to do to inhibit you, your sounds are out there, and people have no choice but to listen as you rock out and display your badassery.
JGR’s little tune doesn’t have just one manifestation either. With the single-spritz drive-by tags, you get a satisfying little “bud-um bum,” and you’re on your way. These are pleasing to the ears and keep you riled for more, but it’s with the bigger tags that the real satisfaction comes. As you pull up to the side of a bus or a massive billboard, the camera angle switches dramatically, and you are given a series of prompts that have you twisting your analog stick every which way. With each spin of the stick, you add layer by layer to your masterpiece. With each layer, a new beat of the music spits forth, egging you on –
“BUDDA BUM BUM BUM BOW!”
GODDAMMIT I AM THE GODDAMN BATMAN!
Once finished, the wall is plastered with your blistering visage, a custom tag uploaded and subsequently downloaded online. Now, the citizens of Tokyo-to have no choice but to bask in the glory of your tag. Sega made sure to say that they don’t support tagging in any way at the beginning of the game (remember when games actually covered those bases?), but your immense satisfaction tells you differently.
Just as this bigger tune comes with a more complete reward, failure to finish is conversely as devastating. With every failed swipe, you lose one can of spray paint, and the game cruelly trades out a satisfying “Bum” (…’satisfying bum,’ teehee) for an agonizing record fumble sound of retraction. Like missing a note in Rock Band, that lost beat crushes your flow with an impact so venomous to your initially impervious sense of swagger that you clench your teeth in denial. The largest tags in the game have you building a tower of “BUMS” (…’Tower of Bums’ – Best term I have ever written EVER) that simply must be capped off. If you run out of paint and that cancellation sound interrupts your fun, your tower topples and a nasty case of empowerment blue balls commences. You need more paint, right freaking NOW.
Maybe it’s meant to simply signify the end of a tag, but that little musical cue has become something much more than that. The Jet Grind Jingle ™ is punchy, simple, loud, arcadey, and enormously entertaining. It now stands as a microcosm of everything that makes Jet Grind Radio, the Dreamcast, and perhaps even Sega itself something great. I only wish more videogames still had this kind of light-hearted brilliance coursing through their veins.
In all of Sega’s recent mash-up titles, we’ve seen JGR’s resident mascot Beat in the roster, almost inevitably accompanied by his signature tags and, of course, his tagging jingle. Now, no Sega fan can even conjure the thought of Jet Grind Radio (or Jet Set Radio, whatever) without “budda-bum-bum-bow” popping into their consciousness. This jingle is the everlasting echo of an era of gaming whose only goal was unregulated, unburdened fun.
JET SET RADIOOOOOOOOOOO!!!