I'm an avid gamer who relishes any chance to talk about his favourite games. I was born in '92, started gaming in '95 on what you Americans call a Sega Genesis. Back then, all I cared about was Sonic, Sonic 2, Sonic 3 & Knuckles and Chuck Rock. Later in life it was Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Destruction Derby, Duke Nukem, Metal Gear Solid, Abe's Oddysee and many other Playstation classics. Since then I've amassed a collection of games and consoles with my 10 all-time favourites being:
1. Jet Set Radio, Jet Set Radio Future
2. Tales of Symphonia
3. Persona 4
4. Dark Souls
5. Chrono Trigger
6. Metroid Prime 1 & 2
7. Ocarina of Time (obligatory Zelda title)
8. Silent Hill 3
10. MGS 3: Snake Eater
Well technically, that's 12. But...erm...yeah.
Recently finished Mass Effect 3. Let's just say it's all about the journey, not the destination. I think with this statement in mind, it's one of the greatest stories ever told in videogames.
I could loudly bellow about Jet Set Radio and its Xbox sequel until the riot vans show up. They are my favourite games of all time and probably always will be. Their unique styles, cool-ass gameplay mechanics and intoxicatingly brilliant soundtracks have turned me into the person I am today. No, not a rollerskating graffiti-laying ne'er-do-well; rather an open minded individual with a love artistic freedom of expression, Japanese culture and all kinds of musical endeavours. In a nutshell, Jet Set Radio is the only game that completely changed my life.
So, to celebrate the upcoming HD re-release of the Dreamcast original and my overall unyielding love for the series, here's how I succumbed to the hypnotic pleasure that is Jet Set Radio.
I was first introduced to the series in 2002 when I was nine, going on ten. I already had a feverish love of videogames at this point, with my stepbrother and I squeezing countless hours of enjoyment out of my PSOne (because we couldn't afford a PS2) on a regular basis. Eventually, playing the same old games weekend after weekend grew tiresome. Duke Nukem: Time to Kill, Evil Zone, Resident Evil, Twisted Metal 2, Megaman X5, Metal Gear Solid, Ape Escape and Medal of Honor: Underground were all great games for their time and many of them still are, but those were all the games we had for quite some time.
It was when I flicked on Sky one day that I spied a channel I'd never seen before: the sadly now-defunct Game Network. Its name pretty much sums it up; it was my go-to channel for videogame news, previews and reviews before such things became more readily available on the internet (yeah I know gaming sites existed in 2002, but I was never really allowed on the internet back then, on top of the fact that my parents rarely used it). One segment on Game Network showed video clips of upcoming and/or newly released titles; it was probably my favourite show on the channel (though the segment's name escapes me). I remember seeing early footage of Half Life 2, as well as Knights of the Old Republic and Dynasty Warriors 3 which would all go on to be some of my most cherished games. One day, however, a game would be shown that completely blew me away.
Its name was Jet Set Radio Future. At the time, this game was brand new and was a lauch title for the Xbox in Europe. I couldn't believe what I was seeing; as various skating misfits grinded on the back of a spiraling, glowing neon dragon, I thought to myself: "this is the best looking game I have ever seen." Or most likely the nine year old equivalent: "Woah this game looks well good!"
As the video continued to show scenes of graffiti-spraying, trick-pulling mesmerisation only one thought remained consistent in my head: I need this game and I need it right now.
Somewhat coincidentally, I managed to find what looked like Future the following week during a visit to the Printworks, a massive cinema/mall in Manchester. The game was playable at a Dreamcast cabinet, so I rushed over and--hold on, a Dreamcast cabinet?! What is this sorcery?!! Well, my confusion ended when I found out via the title screen that this was in fact the original game, simply titled Jet Set Radio. Suddenly, the fact that two of these games existed was just too much. It was ages until my birthday, and I knew I had to get my hands on a Dreamcast. It wasn't like now, where I can just squander my student funding on random shit; back then I had two occasions every year where I could ask for a special something: my birthday and Christmas, and Christmas was even further away!
I ranted away to my parents about how amazing this Jet Set Radio game was, and how I just had to have it, and this Dreamcast thing (which I never knew existed until that point in my life. Come to think of it, the Dreamcast was basically dead by 2002, so why there were multiple Dreamcast stands in one of the UK's largest cinemas is quite baffling).
This Dreamcast would be nice.
A week later, I came home from school to find something that shocked me to the core. On the sitting room sofa, was a boxed Sega Dreamcast; and next to it, a copy of Jet Set Radio. Words simply could not describe how I felt, and it's a good job they can now, otherwise this blog wouldn't be here. I just stared at it in stunned silence.
After the celebration subsided and I had thanked my parents for completely spoiling me, I began playing the game, and wow. Just wow. It was the most mindblowing game I had ever played. In fact, I don't think I touched another game for weeks. Jet Set Radio was my religion, Professor K my god. If I never played any other game for the rest of my life I would have been content.
But then I remembered something. What about the future? The Xbox sequel was out, and all of a sudden, I couldn't stop thinking about owning it. One problem; we didn't have an Xbox. Nor could we afford one. You may remember that the Xbox was absurdly priced when it was released, a contributing factor to why it wasn't as popular as the PS2. So, the next time we were in town, I asked my dad if we could go to the local game store.
It was too good to be true. Way too good. The shop stocked Xboxes of course, but new ones came bundled with this strange disc that held two Sega games. One was Sega GT 2002, a fairly unremarkable racing game, but the other was my holy grail of complete gaming satisfaction. The game I saw on the Game Network channel that one time. It was Jet Set Radio Future. Holy hell, this had to be a dream, and it may as well have been. There was no way my dad was shelling out for another console and I couldn't blame him, dat shit was expensive. That didn't stop him from buying a second hand Xbox a year later, though. Hey, big spender!
And so, with both Jet Set Radio games in my collection (well sort of, dad rarely let me play his Xbox) the hype finally subsided. I was content. I still own both games to this day. If you haven't played them, I highly recommend them to any kind of gamer. They were both exclusives on two different consoles, and buying a console as well as the game can be expensive, but they're fairly accessible.
Or, you're probably better off waiting for the original's HD re-release this summer. I can't wait, I'm hyped. Wait a minute, hyped? That feeling, that overly joyous sensation! It's back! The Jet Set Radio hype has engulfed me once more and there's no stopping it. This game is incredible and I'm so glad Sega are once again giving it the attention it so rightfully deserves. It's not a brand new game, but when it's my favourite game of all time, I think I can let that slide.