In case you didn't know, Jet Set Radio is one of the best games ever made. Forget the Xbox-only pseudo sequel and the GBA 'conversion', it's the Dreamcast original that's where it's at. It is one of those few games that tries to be cool and actually succeeds. Many games are cool without trying; many games try to be cool but fail. Jet Set Radio is just achingly, exceptionally brilliant. And now it's coming to Xbox Live, PSN and PC in HD. Woot! But before we start getting the tables out for the street party, let it be known that one crucial element hangs in the balance.
It's the soundtrack. The Sega rep at the event we attended in London said that the team is doing its best to get the full license for the soundtrack 'because that's what the fans want'. WHAAAAT? Jet Set Radio without its soundtrack is officially about 32.8% of the experience (according to figures that we just made up). And that's less than a third. We NEED the full thing.
Anyway, the rest of the news is good. This is still the jumping, grinding, graffiti-ing skate fest that it always was. Decently-sized 3D environments allow you to roam freely, seeking out red arrows signifying graffiti points, which is soon complicated by the arrival of the police.
Above: Oh noes! The Keisatsu! Better run if you don't want a cel-shaded baton to the head
This version will be a culmination of the three different releases of the game: Jet Set Radio, Jet Grind Radio and De La Jet Set Radio (the deluxe Japanese re-release on Dreamcast). That means you get the extra Grind City levels and... well, hopefully all the music.
You also get widescreen 16:9 support, which is much appreciated, as is the ability to move the camera manually using the right analogue stick - something the Dreamcast pad simply didn't have. The graphics have been given a makeover too, though nothing too obvious. Things just look a little cleaner, although the cel-shaded graphics were so clean anyway, it's more like seeing the game through a clean window.
Above: "Graffiti is art. However, graffiti as an act of vandalism is a crime..."
However, one thing that surprised us as soon as we saw it is the frame-rate. There's nothing particularly wrong with it as it never goes into slowdown or drops frames or even judders at all. But it does run at 30 frames per second which, while faithful, isn't what we'd expect from a modern conversion of such an old game. The animation routines were probably only made to run at 30fps, which would arguably make a smoother update pointless, but we'd still like to see the camera swinging around in smooth-o-vision.
The game is still loads of fun and tagging a helicopter with paint, causing it to crash spectacularly, is something that very few games offer, even in today's market. According to the rep, original developer Smilebit has not been involved in the conversion directly, but has reportedly been sent code throughout the process, approving it and giving pointers along the way.
Above: Doesn't it all come flooding back? Remember what happened to the GGs' pet dog?
Basically, all that needs to happen here is for the game to feature everything from the original game and we'll love it. Anything else like custom tags, HD graphics and widescreen support is just a bonus, but we're getting that too. Just please, PLEASE give us all the music intact. That is all.