Pros: Awesome cel-shading, great music selection...
Cons: Less grinding, less cohesion, less fun, more time doing nothing!!!
I was one of the few, the proud, the Dreamcast owners. I sat, in agony, on the Dreamcast's bedside and held it's controller oh so tight as Sega's child died a slow, painful death from malnutrition of the third party support. Still, I stayed, I played, I laughed with it. I found many a great friend for my Dreamcast to play with, from Crazy Taxi to Marvel vs. Capcom 2 to Skies of Arcadia. I even bought it some stuff that I thought it might like, like a keyboard peripheral and Typing of the Dead. My Dreamcast smiled. It let out a faint whirling sound from its disc drive. That same sound that I had grown to not love, but respect for what it was.
Shortly before the Dreamcast died, I found Jet Grind Radio. And, well, I had a candid and much publicized love affair with Jet Grind Radio. It sang loudly and proudly. And, well, then the music died. Sega said goodbye to the world of first-party and joined the land of third-party development.
And, I made my way to Korea and parted with the system and game that, to this day, I knew was my one true love. Still, as I wasted away in the mindnumbing world of the MMORPG with Asheron's Call, I longed for more. I remember skating along the wonderful world of Tokyo-to. I could still hear the music Jet Grind Radio sang so sweetly into my ear.
I thought I could move on. I bought a Gamecube. I was happy. My friends kept me company as we blew each other to tiny bits in Bomberman Generations, but all I could think as I saw the White Bomberman be blown to bits was, "Cel-shading... oh, sweet cel-shading." I laid awake, one night, after a long gaming session of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and thought to myself, "Hyrule's amazing... but I miss her and I miss Tokyo-to."
And then, I saw it the week before Christmas at the local Post Exchange. There, sitting with the evil that was X-Box was her younger, pretty sister... Jet Set Radio Future. It was love at first sight.
And, my new friend the X-Box said that he'd let me take the kid sister out for free if he could stay at my pad for a while. I agreed.
So, here I am, today. And, now that my little love affair is over, I'm here to tell you about it.
The Story of Us
I booted up the little pack-in and got to work. She handled nicely and the world was fairly familiar. I started out as the newcomer, once more, Yoyo, who's trying to get into the GG's. I sat at the garage... the central location of the world of Tokyo-to and home to the GG's. It was surprisingly large and, unlike with Jet Grind Radio, I could roam the garage. However, I needed to talk to this stupid robot named Roboy whenever I wanted to do the simplest of tasks that were so easy to do with Jet Grind Radio. This was frustrating.
However, I couldn't stop looking at her and how pretty she looked. Mind you, Jet Set Radio Future's older sister was a looker, but there must be something in the silicon supply, because this girl looks better, yet.
As my skaters grinded along things, I noticed two things very quickly. One, there were blur lines to give the illusion of speed that weren't there in the preceding game. Two, you can't grind nearly as many surfaces as you could in the original. The latter feature was quite disappointing, as I became very used to grinding a short curb and then flipping over to a railing.
Also, there was something not quite right as I ran up my first telephone pole and noticed, well, I just ran up a telephone pole. I know she's younger, but that's no excuse to be such a dreamer. However, I adjusted quickly.
So, I start roaming the streets of Tokyo-to. I run, I jump, I grind, I explore, I find paint cans and I learn a trick or two. I find friends, some I know like ol' reliable Beat, and others I don't. Still, I kick it around some more and find myself digging it. However, as I sat contently with Jet Set Radio Future, I couldn't help but think of Jet Grind Radio.
Some of this was due to the fact that Future sounds so much like her older sister. The music she sings so sweetly is much of what I heard and enjoyed before. Hell, she doesn't even sing that Rob Zombie song that sounded so out of place but she does know a Cibo Matto song. I really like Cibo Matto and thought it was cute that she didn't sing any of the expletives to "Birthday Cake." I really dug how she sang the songs her sister had sang before, but slightly different. It all felt relative.
But, I remember how I used to boost with ease as I escaped the law and the gangsters that wanted control of the streets. I remember how I used to get swarmed by the Five-O and how they'd even run after me with tanks and how I always felt like I had to run. Now, being a little less mature, all she wants to do is fight those who stand in our way. Mind you, there's not nearly as many people after the GG's nowadays. No, the streets have grown placid.
Also, there was no time limit. At first, I really liked the idea of running around and seeing the sights at my own leisure. Then, I realized, that this really deterred from the fun that I had in the past with Jet Grind Radio. It always seemed like there was more rushing through and memorizing the best routes to each and every place that I had to spray graffiti.
Then, I realized, this game was far too open for me as she told me that she liked to just waste the ozone away and use 10 cans of paint at a time just to do something as simple as dash. Sure, it was blazingly fast when she did rush, but it also made simply skating around seem painstaking.
She was simple to handle as I knew how she would respond each time. Still, I missed the complexity her sister had. I had some rough times in the past as I watched my friends get blasted by a missile when they were trying, desperately, to make circular motions when laying down graffiti. But we had fun. Now, it just seemed too easy. Some people may enjoy how easy it is to tag the surroundings but it feels far too simplified for me.
The controls were simple, sure, but almost to the point where they seemed dumb.
And, basically, I realized that this youngster hadn't learned to respect her family's heritage. This young one just wanted to make it easy for those who would try to hook up with her. She didn't realize that half the fun was the hunt and that the rough times are what really made a great game. A game of legend. Sure, she's pretty, has a nicer voice, but she's not the same. She's not as fun. Girls, take note, because I'm going on record as to saying there is such a thing as too easy.
I remember, back in the day, that my friends all seemed distinctively different. I remember how Gum used to have trouble holding onto paint cans and would refuse to carry more than 15 for fear of tagging herself. Now, she and the rest of the gang learned how to hold 30 just like Beat and Corn had learned long ago. Outside of a little speed difference, every character played the same. Some were better at grinding, some were faster than others, but at the heart it was like trying to find the difference between Mario and Luigi in Super Mario Bros. on a black and white television.
I remember the variety of Jet Grind Radio, like fighting rival gangs and having to tag them with spraypaint. I remember how fun that was and how much I looked forward to fighting bosses. I remember how the structure of Jet Grind Radio was tight. I remember this and I stood awestruck as all I had to do was follow the rival gangs, now. I never noticed how much of an edge Jet Grind Radio had to it until it was gone.
Did Jet Set Radio Future and I have fun? Yes.
But, then there were times that she frustrated me so much I wanted to cry. I remember being stuck alone in a suburb of Tokyo-to for over an hour trying to find a way out of that part of the town. I was lost, I was alone, I was afraid. There was only one way out of the town and it was up a statue. I had taken a wrong turn out of Shinyuki Terminal and landed where I wasn't ready. And I realized that she led me here for nothing.
And, basically, that's her main problem. I spent too much time doddering around when it would've been just as easy to make a suburb selection map like my lost love, Jet Grind Radio did.
There was no cohesion... the open relationship that we had just didn't work for me. I liked things all nice and tight, I liked that I didn't have to wander around just to find where I had to go to next. As I sat with Jet Set Radio Future, I didn't think of the fun I had with Jet Grind Radio but the slow agony that Final Fantasy VIII provided by being too slow for its own good.
So, between lack of challenge, lack of cohesion and lack of interest, I completed my time with Jet Set Radio Future and said my goodbyes. I was so disappointed with what she wasn't that I couldn't look at what she was.
However, looking back, I'll say that she was a fun, albeit extremely easy, little game that kept me busy for a while. She looked great and sounded great. She moved however I wanted her to and was fun while it lasted. However, unlike Jet Grind Radio, I don't see myself coming back like a dog with its tail between it's legs and asking Jet Set Radio Future to take me back after a short fling with another game. No, I'll just look back fondly at the time we had and remember that looks aren't everything. Sometimes you have to work for what you want.
I wanted so badly to love you, Jet Set Radio Future. Maybe I WAS expecting too much, but let's face it: your sister's got the personality and brains that you only wish you could have.
Translation for those who didn't understand the preceding:
The graphics and sound are amazing, the control is tight and responsive, but the game is merely average and a far cry from the greatness that was Jet Grind Radio on Dreamcast.
Jet Set Radio Future, as a pack-in is nice, but a disappointment as the game lacks most of what made it so great in the first place. Now it just seems like your average 3D platform adventure whereas the original was a 3D action game.
If you loved the first, chances are you'll like the new game. But liking a game is unacceptable when you could've loved the game.