Review: Jet Set Radio HD (PSN)

This entire month on the site has been one giant Dreamcast lovefest, and it goes without saying that, when you mention the Dreamcast, there’s usually someone who will bring up Jet Set Radio. It was one of the most unique games Sega ever made, and while it’s rare to see someone claim it as the greatest game ever, it still gets a lot of much-deserved love from fans. Despite the rather massive cult following, aside from guest spots for characters in the Sega All-Star games, Sega’s never really revisited the franchise since 2002’s Jet Set Radio Future.

Needless to say, the day Sega announced this re-release for HD consoles was met with a ton of celebration and hype. So much so, “Jet Set Radio” was a #1 worldwide trending topic on Twitter soon after Sega posted the teaser, the first time to my knowledge a Sega game has ever done such a thing. This release was a big deal, to say the least.

So after all these years, was it all worth the wait? Or does it tarnish our memories of a great game? Hit the jump, preferably with a flamboyant spin, to find out.

The biggest thing for most about the game was its ridiculously awesome art style, with some of Sega’s best character designs, as well as level art. As a huge fan of this, I was seriously hyped about how nice it would potentially look in full HD, and couldn’t wait to see it in action.

Sadly, that hype’s gone a bit unfulfilled, as the graphics are a bit hit or miss. While it’s nice and colorful as to be expected, aside from taking the time to make the game widescreen, nothing’s really been upgraded. There’s quite a bit of pop in, and textures disappear and glitch out pretty often. It doesn’t even seem like the textures have even been remotely touched up for HD. A shame, honestly. I wasn’t expecting a HUGE leap, but I was at least hoping for something on the level of Daytona USA’s graphical touchups, with just a bit less pixilation.

As far as sound goes, come on. It’s Jet Set Radio; we already know the soundtrack is one of the greatest of all time, and kudos to Sega for getting most of the original soundtrack back for this, as well as throwing in some bonuses from Future. While the voice acting remains unchanged and at times ripe for second-hand embarrassment for the actors, it has been cleaned up, it seems, for HD.

Playing it, however, was a very disappointing experience for me. You see, they’ve taken great care in making this a perfect port of the DC original, and they’ve succeeded, but a little too well. On one hand, it’s Jet Set Radio just as you remember it. They’ve done good work in keeping things as familiar as possible, and if all you want is something on the level of a PS1 classic in that regard, this is right up your hastily spray-painted alley.

The problem with this is, along with every gameplay nuance they kept, they’ve kept every bug and problem from the original as well. Not to mention the surprising amounts of slowdown and pop-in present, which, for a 1999 game being put on a 2012 console, should be nonexistent. And despite adding camera control to the right stick, the camera is still a mess at times, especially during chase sequences. Trying to tag a gang member and ending up adjusting the camera instead, despite their “tag me” bubble being up, was one of the biggest sources of frustration for me. Also, this is just a personal bug, but not having a retry button? In a game like this in 2012? That’s a massive oversight that shouldn’t have happened, in my eyes.

In all honesty, it feels like all they did was upscale it, throw a documentary and JSRF music in, and call it a day. And if this were marketed in the same way as a PlayStation Classics line game, like God Hand or Tekken 2 or whatever, this would be more acceptable. But marketing it in the same vein as, say, Street Fighter II HD Remix, as the game you know and love but with several improvements, has turned this into a real disappointment. It doesn’t help that the game sadly hasn’t aged very well, at least in my opinion, either.

So we’ve come to an awkward point, in terms of rating and recommending this. I’m not sure whether to praise the job of the porting team, or curse Sega for not fixing the bugs and living up to the implications that this would be a full, polished release. I’m not sure how other Dreamcast games ported to the PSN fared in terms of bug fixing and such, as I’ve not played any of them to be honest, but at least those were treated more like, again, the PlayStation Classics line or like the various Genesis releases were instead of an “HD Remix”.

So basically, it comes down to what you’re expecting. If all you want is Jet Set Radio exactly as you played it all those years ago, with no real changes outside of upscaled visuals and achievements, go for it, you’ll be pleased. However, if you’re asking for a little more than that, or if you already have the game on the Dreamcast (in which case, you’re really only paying ten bucks for the exact same game with a different screen ratio and a different controller, not worth it), you might be better off trying the free demo to see how you feel, or waiting for a price drop.

Either way, I’m glad to see the series get its name out there again, even if I was disappointed in this. Here’s hoping a release for the always far superior Future is somewhere in Sega’s plans.

 

About the author

Brett Hatfield

Sega Addicts owner, writer, and podcast/stream host. Sarah's person and husband-to-be. Honorary Australian. #TakeTheWorld
  • UPDATE: I’ve been told that I can turn off the awful Tag Camera mechanic, so consider that point null and void.

  • I might have had some very rosy goggles on when playing this, but I think I’ve put so many hours into the original that I was still accustomed to the control when I played the HD version. I actually thought they felt more responsive, though I haven’t gone back to check the original since a month ago.

    The jumps still do feel wonky, with slow tricks mid air.

    Good honest review

  • Wow, that’s quite a harsh review coming from a Sega fansite!

    • I tried not to be too harsh, that’s reserved for drivel like Hyperdimension, but yeah, I was really quite disappointed.

      • Every where else I was told it was very good!

  • I downloaded the XBLA trial and was disappointed to find that they didn’t separate the tutorial from the rest of the game. The compulsory tutorial was a barrier to me in the original version, and was definitely the case with the trial. As you mentioned in your review Brett, the addition of a retry button even just for the tutorial, would have been a blessing.

    It boggled my mind that Sega wouldn’t the tutorial, especially considering that many people would base their decision to buy the game off what’s played in the trail version. It just gave the impression that they did as little as possible to palm this off as a HD remix.

    What a shame.

  • noiseredux

    honestly the four games that made it to the 360’s Dreamcast Collection sort of turned me off from DC HD ports. I mean sure they look nice and all, but ultimately they always seem to disappoint *just enough* that you wish you were just playing the games on DC with a VGA box instead.

    • EXACTLY. If you have the DC version, there’s simply no reason to bother with this. It’s no different aside from the bloody screen ratio.

  • Josh Newey

    While there are certainly points you’ve made that I simply don’t agree with, like the visual and camera issues, I felt similarly in regards to updating certain elements of gameplay to help reduce some of JSR’s frustration. No restart option, the awful map system, and mandatory tutorials are probably my biggest grievances with this update. They all seem like very easy fixes to me.

    Whatever the case, this is a great review. I appreciate your honesty. This may be a Sega fansite, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call the publisher out for their missteps.

  • This is probably one of the more honest reviews up there with my Mad Dog McCree review. Oh that game….

    Anyway! Great review, Brett! I agree with nearly every point. I know I will never get the “Tag a gang member in the first 30 seconds” simply because of that camera and tag button being assigned to the same button. Unless of course that’s the tag button you are referring to in your update.

    Regardless, and somewhat unfortunately, I’m happy this game did not get anything higher than a “C” mainly because of the controls destroying its playability to some extent.

    I’m really hoping the success of this game somehow brings Future to the digital marketplace.

  • Wow, I was kinda expecting to be burnt at the stake for this one, but I appreciate the kind words.

    I dunno, maybe I set my expectations waaaaaaaay too high, but this one really touched a nerve with me.

    • It touched a nerve with me considering I yell at the game nearly once per level when I miss a grind/get sniped/hit a wall for no reason/get raped by dogs.

      • THIS IS WHY I HAVEN’T BEATEN CHAPTER 3. The fucking snipers on the sunset level. I’ll get to like, one tag remaining and LOL SHOT INTO THE RIVER.

        • Haha yeah man. I loaded it up on the DC’s birthday and realized I never actually beat that level. Somehow I powered through it on this HD re-release though, which makes this the first time I actually completed JSR. Kinda crazy it took me this long.

          • it was the reverse for me. I got through it on the original, by some way of demonic sorcery we don’t speak of, but the remake was just, no. Never again.

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