Jet Set Radio HD Review

Jet Set Radio HD logo

When you look back on the Sega Dreamcast there are a few games that stand out and Jet Set Radio is at the top of that list. Its blend of funky fresh style, inline skating gameplay and cell-shaded graphic, which were unheard of at the time, injected a whole new experience into the market. It was a marvel and an outlier that, since its sequel in 2002, remains an experience that has yet to be replicated or revisited. Thankfully, Sega has seen it in their hearts to follow the trend of HDifying games and has brought Jet Set Radio to XBLA and PSN, but can it hold up after over 10 years?

Just starting, the fun I remembered having with Jet Set Radio came flooding back. There are two things that stand out from Jet Set Radio, the incredible visual design and the fantastic soundtrack. There still isn’t anything that looks quite like Jet Set Radio and to have the opportunity to jam through those colorful cities streets with those masterful beats blaring in my ears is incredible. There were times I would just let the game sit there so I could take in all of the visual and audio glory. Unfortunately, I did have to actually play it.

Pulling off crazy air in Jet Set Radio HD
There are some brilliant ideas here, they’re just buried under wonky controls

Jet Set Radio HD (XBLA, PSN [reviewed], PS Vita, PC)
Developer: Smilebit
Publisher: Sega
Released: September 18, 2012 (PSN), September 19, 2012 (XBLA, PC), October 16, 2012 (Vita)
MSRP: $9.99 (PSN, PC, Vita) 800 Microsoft Points (XBLA)

Jet Set Radio does not hold up. It still looks and sounds incredible, but it plays a few steps above hot garbage. There are far too many instances where what simple task the game asks of you is simply not something that you can easily do with how the game controls. Just trying to jump onto a platform directly in front of you can be a huge pain. When everything does work, it works beautifully, but that’s probably 30% of the time. The rest of the time you sit there wondering why you fell past the rail instead of grinding on it like you just did ten second ago.

I knew what to do and I knew how to do it, but actually getting it to work was the difficult part. It’s a shame, because I have such fond memories, and while this hasn’t colored them in a different light, it has let me see just how far we’ve come. Jet Set Radio tried something new in 2000, but maybe this is the reason we haven’t seen a new game in over ten years. Even with the intense frustration I experienced, it’s what Jet Set Radio tried to do and the things that make it unique that kept pushing me forward. I wanted to continue in spite of the gameplay just to see more of the world.

Creating graffiti in Jet Set Radio
There’s also an awesome Jet Set Radio documentary  in the bonus features, but it doesn’t make the game better

Bringing back Jet Set Radio as an HD remake seems to have been a double edge sword. I am so happy to see this franchise in the public light again and to have the opportunity to replay it on a modern console, but it has aged poorly. The subpar controls and strange design choices may have been more forgivable on the Dreamcast, but today they can’t be considered as anything other than bad. I think the pricepoint and platforms suit Jet Set Radio well, but be warned this is a piece of history, not an eternal jem, play at your own risk.