As a Jet Set Radio Future fan, I anticipated the release of Jet Set Radio HD in September as a chance to visit the original game in the series. While there are a few significant differences between the two games, Jet Set Radio HD provides an easy to follow, entertaining and upbeat game with a similar universe to that produced in JSRF.

Jet Set Radio follows the story of the GG’s, a roller-skating gang in Tokyo-To. The narrator is Professor K, a DJ of the local pirate radio station. Tokyo-To is under a power struggle between Captain Onishima & the police, Rokakku Gouji & his Golden Rhino assassins and rival graffiti gangs.

It all starts with Beat, the rudie who decides to start his own graffiti gang. He quickly recruits Gum and Tab, and they begin the story by covering up enemy gang graffiti in Shibuya-Cho. Although the plot does not boast depth, it is easy to follow and allows for a pick-up-and-play type of game. There is no character development, yet the game supplies you with an excessive amount of characters. Each can be experimented with since they all have varying levels of health, graffiti talent and technique skill.

Gameplay consists of choosing a player and skating around one of four different areas of the city earning points based on grinding technique, spraying graffiti and completing a level within the time limit. Characters are able to jump, grind on rails, use a quick boost and skitch on the back of cars. Ratings are given based on your performance from best to worst: Jet - Nitro - Turbo - Engine - Motor - Pedal.  Better ratings lead to unlocking characters; better grinding and tricks lead to unlocking graffiti art.

Spraying graffiti is the most important element of the game. It requires players to pick up scattered spray cans across the map and use them to paint over rival gang graffiti. Medium and large size graffiti’s require the player to use the analog stick in a series of specific directions – as if the player is actually creating the graffiti right then and there. Sometimes this graffiti action gets tedious, especially when being hunted down by the Golden Rhinos or policemen.

Each level is given a specific time limit. Certain levels require your character to race against a rival to a specific spot and tag it before your rival. Other areas require the player to cover the city in graffiti before time runs out, or before the police catch up to you. Game overs result from running out of time or depleting your characters health bar – you can lose health from gunfire or from falling from too high. Health is recovered by picking up a red health spray can.

The game will auto-save following the completion of each level, however you cannot save mid-level or even in between levels. This is unfortunate for anyone trying to earn Jet rankings – replaying through the entire game is necessary if you didn’t get a high score on a particular story mission.

Accompanying each level in Jet Set Radio is an upbeat soundtrack of original songs. Musical genres include hip-hop, funk, electronica dance, rock and even some metal. Each song set accompanies the level effectively and allows for anyone just watching to be interested in the game.

Jet Set Radio boasts cel-shading graphics that compliment the game style and attitude flawlessly. The game looks and feels upbeat with bright colors, sharp contrasts and an electrifying flair.

Jet Set Radio HD creates a unique world filled with exciting gameplay and tons of unlockables. HD cel-shaded graphics look great and upbeat tunes offer a gameplay experience that is fun and memorable. Although it has no multiplayer component, Jet Set Radio entices both those who watch and those who play. It is a game that can be picked up and played any time while also providing a fun gameplay experience. Since it can be returned to easily and often, this game is definitely worth the buy, especially for those who have not experienced the Jet Set Radio universe yet. Jet Set Radio is available for purchase on XBLA, PSN or Steam for $10.

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