So, after putting Idol Janshi wo Tsukucchaou to bed, I had a couple of Dreamcast titles left that weren’t RPGs, and I figured that playing through one or both of them might be a good idea.
I chose Jet Grind Radio, alternately known as “Jet Set Radio” everywhere in the civilized world, loaded up my old save from 2002 or so, noted that I’d only completed the first two levels on my old save, elected to start again from fresh, got through the same two levels, and popped it out of the Dreamcast.
It’s not going back in, ever.
I’ve got nothing bad to say about the world of Jet Grind Radio. It’s a pretty neat place – it oozes style, the music is great, and the cel shading works really well. It makes me want to see a lot more of the world.
Unfortunately, it’s teeth-clenchingly difficult. The idea is basic enough; you play one of a small band of scofflaws out to save the world through the liberal application of spray paint, and to accomplish this and avoid pursuit, you do it all while wearing roller skates. There’s lots of rail grinding and flipping and feats of dexterity that would be accompanied, in the real world, by throwing up your arms in triumph.
You might even be tempted to shout “woo!” or something similar.
Sadly, the fantasy life of an expert rollerskater / graffiti artist is somewhat hampered by a camera that seeks your death, time-limited levels that discourage experimentation and exploration, and a bewildering control scheme that maps two functions to the exact same button, leaving three buttons on the Dreamcast controller completely unused.
In addition, an awful lot of the game centers around jumping onto rails – to be fair, the rail grinding in the game IS awfully neat – but getting your on-screen avatar to jump onto a rail is really bloody annoying at times. Most of the time, I wound up either falling short, overjumping, or jumping just slightly to one side of a rail, which meant that I lost all the momentum I’d built up and had to take several seconds to circle around for another pass.
So, getting through the first two levels took me a couple of hours, and there are sixteen levels, and I understand that the game takes a massive difficulty leap about halfway through, and if I’m struggling this hard on the early levels there’s no way I’m going to be able to stick with it once it gets “hard”.
So, hell with it. I may give the Xbox sequel a try sometime, because I understand that it’s gotten rid of a lot of the frustrations from the original game, but I’m going to file the original game under the category of games that I wish I could play but am going to accept that I won’t.