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   PlanetDreamcast | Games | Reviews | Jet Grind Radio
    Jet Grind Radio
Sega's stylish and innovative masterpiece was worth the wait - Review By digitaltaco
Page 2/2

Grinding is your main technique, from which most of the other tricks start.
Jet Grind Radio's environments are a joy to explore. Though they are for the most part urban, the locales seem pretty diverse and are easily distinguishable from one another. You'll travel across building tops, beneath the ground into the sewers, through buildings, train stations, and junkyards. All of the areas are highly detailed and textured, and include many objects for the player to interact with. There are often breakable boxes, or breakaway walls that may contain powerups or even lead you to different parts of the area. Like in THPS, almost any surface can be either grinded or ridden upon. This allows for some interesting gameplay elements as tag spots and powerups can be located high above the ground and only accessible to those who can grind cables and shafts high into the sky. For the American release, Sega included two new levels that represent more American-looking cities. The first is basically a busy city street, and the other looks a lot like Times Square in New York City. As all of the original areas are included, the new areas work to expand the game and the story, and are a very nice overall addition to the game.

There are a large number of selectable characters, each with their own characteristics and styles. Each has three different attributes that can be used to determine which is right for you: power, technique, and graffiti. Power basically determines how large their energy bar is. Technique affects character speed, jumping, and tricks that are performed automatically during a jump. Graffiti determines how many cans of spraypaint can be held at any given time. A large tough guy like Combo has a large energy bar but his technique skills are very low. Cube, on the other hand, is a cute little "Gen-X" girl, so she has a much higher technique rating and lower power. Beyond these attributes, personal preference will come into play when choosing a character. Though there are only three characters available at the beginning of the game, beating certain levels will unlock challenges where the other characters can be won. In the end, there are 10 characters to choose from each with their own distinct style and look.

The game features a number of extra features which add to the quality of the overall package. As previously mentioned, there is a jukebox that allows you to listen to any of the game's musical selections. And the music is so good, don't be surprised if you find yourself turning it on every once in awhile to hear the music. There is also an Internet mode which lets you check out the game's website and download tags onto your VMU which can be used in the game. You can also transfer JPEG graphic files to the VMU and convert them into custom tags. The game even features an extensive tag editor that allows the player to create his/her own tags. The interface is pretty simple, but trying to draw with the analog stick can be pretty difficult. Even so, don't be surprised to see some cool custom tags pop up in the future. Also, there are a number of preset tags that can be unlocked throughout the course of the game by grabbing little tag powerups. There are around 150 in all spread throughout the levels, and finding them all can be quite a challenge. With so many extra features, the replay value of the game is very high... and that's not even taking into account the challenge of beating your high scores!

  • The Bad

    You know you're in trouble when they call out the tanks!
    It should be pretty clear at this point that the game is very good, but even the best games have flaws. The main complaint I have concerns the camera. When stuck in tight places, the camera can provide a whole bunch of trouble. Sometimes it gets stuck behind objects in the scenery. Sometimes it flips to an almost complete overhead view, making it impossible to see what's ahead of you. The left trigger can be used to center the camera behind the player, which is fine. But why is the left trigger also the tag button? Often when trying to tag a hard to reach place, you'll begin to jam on the left trigger in hopes of getting the tag off. While this is happening, the camera keeps recentering itself. It's not that unbearable, but is certainly annoying. Would it have killed them to use a free button (of which there are three) to control the camera?

    Controlling your character is for the most part very easy, but sometimes response time feels a bit sluggish. This is most apparent while trying to use the "speed boost" button. Sometimes it seems like the character will not respond to your button presses. While not catastrophic to the overall gameplay, it is, again, annoying.

    There are a few problems with clipping and bounding boxes. Sometimes when trying to ride underneath an object, your character will slide though that object unrealistically. On the other hand, sometimes the opposite will happen. You'll attempt to ride underneath something, and though it appears that you should be able to make it under, you'll hit it instead. It's just a minor gripe, and doesn't affect gameplay all that much.

    The new levels which were added to the American version are good, but they don't display the level of polish that the originals do. Graphically, they are a step down from their Japanese counterparts, and just aren't as detailed or fun. I guess it just feels like more time was spent creating the original maps, which I'm sure is true. Also, I found many of the new tag spots very, very hard to reach. At that point, the game became less fun and more tedious. I spent a good while cursing at the screen while repeatedly trying to tag one specific spot, and I don't think that should have happened. Being difficult is fine, if the answer requires you to think a bit. But when it's just dumb luck that means the difference between success and failure, it's clear that something needs to be fixed. But, because none of the old maps were deleted and these serve only as an addition to the game, this is not really a major problem.

    My only other complaint is that there is no multiplayer mode. It would have been great to have included timed tag wars, where two people scramble all over the level trying to cover each other's graffiti. There could also have been race modes where two competitors attempt to travel through a level in the fastest time possible, pulling off stunts along the way. Or what about a cooperative mode where both players work together to complete the level? And of course, we haven't even touched the idea of online play. Why not make these modes compatible over SegaNET? Man, talk about missed opportunities.

  • The Final Word
    Jet Grind Radio is a unique experience. The graphics are some of the most amazing you'll see on any of the "next-generation" consoles this year, and prove once again that with a little ingenuity, the Dreamcast can be even more visually stimulating than any of its more powerful brothers. Add in a fun soundtrack, gameplay that is as unique as anything else on the market today, and a great sense of style, and you know that Sega has a real winner on its hands. From the second you turn on your Dreamcast, you'll realize you're stepping into a game world like no other, and you may never want to leave. Simply put, Jet Grind Radio is one of the best titles available this holiday season, and a great addition to the already amazing Dreamcast library.

    Developer: Smilebit
    Publisher: Sega
    Genre: Action

    Highs: Unique and innovative gameplay, amazing cel-shaded graphics, superb soundtrack, great sense of style.
    Lows: Awkward camera, minor graphical glitches, no multiplayer.
    Other: 1 Player, VMU Compatible (4 blocks), Jump Pack Compatible, VGA Box Compatible, Modem Compatible.


  • Intro (MPEG) - I wish I could play half as well as the computer does in the intros. [Big (12.7M)] - [Med (6.8M)] - [Small (1.5M)]
  • Gameplay 1 (MPEG) - Rippin' it up in Kogane-Cho. [Big (12.2M)] - [Med (6.6M)] - [Small (1.4M)]
  • Gameplay 2 (MPEG) - Escaping the law in Benten, city of the night. [Big (15.5M)] - [Med (8.3M)] - [Small (1.8M)]
  • Final Score:

    (out of a possible 10)

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