Release Date: June 26, 2003
Buy 'JET GRIND RADIO': Game Boy Advance
A few years ago, Smilebit developed a very cool, stylish title called Jet Grind Radio for Sega's Dreamcast. In it, you picked a skater from the GG's clan and went around various cities, spraypainting graffiti (or "tagging") various spots, all the while listening to DJ Professor K's underground radio station and running from the cops. The game introduced a stunning graphical effect known as cel-shading, giving it an extremely unique, almost cartoon-like look. Though many games have since borrowed Jet Grind Radio's cel-shading technique, few would top Smilebit's own sequel, Jet Set Radio Future, released just last year on the Xbox. This title, while equally amazing, placed the emphasis on intricate level design and exploration, rather than fast-paced action.
Now we have a Gameboy Advance version of Jet Grind Radio. The interesting thing to note is that it is very true to Jet Grind Radio, and rather than employing some of the simpler features that Jet Set Radio Future sported, the game really does feel like a mini-JGR - right down to the way you spray graffiti.
You see, in JSRF, tagging was done simply by hitting the proper trigger while standing next to a required wall. It made spraying a lot simpler and quicker than in Jet Grind Radio, where you would not only have to stop at the proper spot to tag, but also maneuver the thumb-stick in a variety of ways. You'd have to swoop from left to right, make curves up and down, and even entire circle motions. It's certainly a bit challenging, but it can be fun, too. It's nice to see that this GBA version stays true to the original, as it also requires you to make movements with the D-Pad. It can be a bit more difficult than using an analog stick, certainly, but the game is a little more lenient, thankfully.
Controlling your character is an easy affair, thankfully. By pressing up on the D-Pad, your skater will move forward, and he'll keep moving until he runs into something or you press down. Pressing left or right will make him turn, and holding in the R button will give you a speed boost. You can jump with the B button, spray with the A button - and that's it. The original wasn't an entirely complex game to control, so it translates fairly well here. You can view the whole affair from an isometric viewpoint. It's smooth sailing most of the time, but there are a few little dents in the system; it can be hard to judge distances at times, making for fatal jumps, and occasionally, structures are hidden by something else in the environment. It's more than bearable though, and can be a lot of fun.
Each of the levels are also intact here, with every railing, ramp, building, or whatnot featured in the original. There are more than a dozen different areas, and many of them are connected to each other, making for a very cool experience by the time you reach the end of the game. You'll probably put in close to ten hours before you reach the end of the game, but you'll probably want to go back and get the best score possible, as you are ranked for each level based on your speed and the amount of extra points you accumulate. And for extra replay value, there's a multiplayer mode - link up with up to three other people and compete in simple games like tag or races.
And, just as in the original, there are lots of ways to customize your graffiti. You can choose from a number of designs to set for small, medium, and large categories, and by finding special items throughout each of the levels, add even more options. The game also comes with a custom graffiti editor, which is surprisingly deep and easy to use. You can use a variety of brushes and colors to create some cool art and use it in the game.
The graphics in the game are good, considering the GBA's power, and they manage to portray some of the style that made the original so cool. Though you can't see a lot of the smaller details, each of the characters look nice and are animated fairly well. The environments also look true to their original form, and even the cut scenes in between levels are interesting. The story is pretty interesting, and it's always good to see some nice art between levels.
The sound is also very well done, and although it lacks the number of tracks that the Dreamcast version carries, the ones it does feature are here in amazingly good form. It's mostly a mix of bizarre techno tracks, but each of them are fun to listen to and the music and lyrics are very clear, considering the GBA's speaker (or headphones). Sound effects are also good, with realistic wheels-on-gravel noise, grinding effects, and such. This game is audio and visual goodness.
What it all boils down to is this: Jet Grind Radio is a faithful, surprisingly fun remake of the original Dreamcast title, for the GBA. If you've played the original, the story, characters, and levels will all be very familiar, but if you haven't, you shall be thoroughly impressed throughout. Though it's lacking in a few areas - usually due to the isometric view of the game - it never really hurts the experience too much. If you're a fan of the original or just want a solid GBA game to play, Jet Grind Radio is not a bad choice at all.
Score : 8.4/10