(Game Boy Advance)

Jet Grind Radio (Game Boy Advance)

Game Review

Jet Grind Radio Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

Funk on wheels

Sega's Dreamcast died in an explosion that sent the company's intellectual property flying all over what was left of the gaming landscape, and few consoles of that generation received more surprise ports than the Game Boy Advance. Not only did it see Sonic return to his former 2D self in the Sonic Advance series, the handheld also landed ports of the frenetic ChuChu Rocket!, the too-hip Space Channel 5 and the utter funk-on-wheels that is Jet Grind Radio.

Originally released in 2000 on the DC and developed by Smilebit, Jet Grind Radio (or Jet Set Radio as it's known outside North America) was shrunk down to the GBA in 2003 by Vicarious Visions, the studio behind the rather good handheld versions of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. Jet Grind Radio was given the same isometric playing field treatment as the Hawk games, but the emphasis here is less on stunts and more on getting around quickly to tag the environment – although grinding and jumps are an integral part of getting around. Other than the viewpoint the core game and its presentation is nearly unchanged.

As before, the game takes place in the city of Tokyo-to. You take control of members of roller graffiti "rudie" gang the GGs as you set out into the city to mark your territory by collecting paint cans, spraying graffiti all over the place, fighting off rival gangs the Love Shockers, Poison Jam and the Noise Tanks and steering clear of law enforcement (which ranges from regular ground troops to snipers and eventually attack helicopters) and the lunatic police chief. Each stage has a strict time limit and it's your job to tag all of your targets before the clock runs out or the cops beat you down.

What's surprising is just how accurately Vicarious Visions ported the game. The distinct cel-shaded art style is intact and masks the GBA's underpowered-3D weaknesses through its bright colors and cartoony characters. Those who have sunk hours into the DC original will be delighted to see that the stages make the leap largely intact and are easily recognizable on the small screen, although a few accommodations were made – the most notable being the mixing of the Grind Square and Bantam Street stages. There are plenty of jumps, rails and drops for you to zip around in the fairly large stages, and the sense of speed you get from chaining between them is as fun as it is satisfying. Tagging is done by either hitting a button for smaller pieces or by following D-Pad prompts for more elaborate ones, and you can choose whether you'll spray one of the preset graffiti pieces or create your own with the pixel editor.

Completing the story missions for each of the three areas opens up additional challenges like races, a freestyle trick attack and a tag-everything mode. Not only do these add legs to the game, they happen to enable something not found in the console version: four-player multiplayer. If you can gather round some friends with their own copy of the game then there's plenty of fun to be had and it's a nice extra to have.

The isometric viewpoint worked just fine in the Tony Hawk GBA games and works just as well here once you get used to it, but many of the same issues with that series plague Jet Grind Radio as well. Anything that requires a great deal of precision is tough to pull off because of the viewpoint and limited visibility on what's coming next; it'll take a few tries to get past certain sections as you memorize what obstacles are next and where exactly you need to steer your jumps. Similarly, since everything is isometric-smushed, rails and other areas that appear easily accessible can in fact be way out of your reach and confuses the stage layout some. As mentioned, putting a little time into the game will help alleviate these issues but they don't ever go away entirely.

The beloved soundtrack of the Dreamcast game realistically just couldn't make the trip to the handheld in its entirety. Instead, this version includes a half-dozen notable tracks cut down to 30-60 second loops, which sounds great at first but eventually succumbs to unavoidable repetition. It'll take someone with ears of steel and a heart of gold to not gradually turn the music down over the course of the game.

Conclusion

On the Dreamcast, Jet Grind Radio oozed more style than should have legally been allowed. A lot of what made the game special there survives the leap to the GBA, but of course the obvious hardware limitations necessitate a few cut corners here and there. Considering this, Vicarious probably couldn't have done a much better job at adapting it to the small screen, and once you're used to its quirks then you'll find a crazy, fantastic gem of a game.

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User Comments (25)

pixelman

#1

pixelman said:

Didn't even know this existed on the GBA! Looks interesting, but not my cup of tea.

JamieOStaff

#2

JamieO said:

Oh yeah, if NLife keeps reviewing these forgotten GBA gems, I am going to have to look into new purchases to improve my GBA collection. I like its cel-shaded take on the isometric viewpoint.
As Jon says in his intro, the GBA had lots of games which continued Sega franchises which were dear to gamer's hearts. Vicarious Visions mastered the isometric viewpoint in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 right in time for GBA's 2001 launch, even though you had to be perfectly lined up for grinds in that one, it was still a good translation of the console games. Funnily enough the GBA music for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 grated after a while, too.
A class pick for a GBA review, nice one Jon. :)

Ravage

#3

Ravage said:

Wow, I didn't know about this one either. I only remembered the Tony Hawk games. This does sound more interesting than the Hawk games though.

Rerun

#6

Rerun said:

I hope SEGA brings Jet Grind Radio to the Wii (you can throw in Balance Board support)

Egg_miester

#7

Egg_miester said:

i really enjoyed the game it wasn't as great as the dreamcast copy but sega did a great job bringing it on the portable level

Sylverstone

#13

Sylverstone said:

@9: Well, I just know that any Activision game on Wii/DS out right now is developed by them. But what (big) Activision product hit Wii? Infinity Ward and Treyarch did MW Reflex, so I'm guess VV did Mobilized for DS.

DarkEdi

#14

DarkEdi said:

I didn´t know this game exist. It´ll be hard to find (one time i saw gba space channel and i haven´t see it later)

Egg_miester

#15

Egg_miester said:

@ SilverBlacktail they are making games but mostly for the big consoles they mostly got out of the handheld market

antster1983

#16

antster1983 said:

@SilverBlacktail:

Vicarious Visions were acquired by Activision in 2005, they are largely responsible for most Wii and DS versions games published by Activision, and the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2.

I think Vicarious Visions will be taking over the Guitar Hero series from Neversoft after the next GH title, but don't quote me on it! .

JimLad

#17

JimLad said:

I agree with anster1983
jet SSSSSSSSEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEETTTTTTTTTTTT radio!

Stuffgamer1

#18

Stuffgamer1 said:

Actually, they already DID start referring to the series as "Jet Set Radio" in North America, starting with Jet Set Radio Future on the original Xbox.

There's been a copy of this GBA game sitting in my GameStop for a little while now. $3. Not sure I'm interested, really. I have the Xbox game, and based on this review, I think that's enough for me.

JamieOStaff

#19

JamieO said:

@Stuffgamer1 Whoa $3, that it is only £1.98! I would snap that up quick smart, especially if it is boxed with instructions.

bluecat

#20

bluecat said:

I didn't even know this made it to the GBA! I loved Jet Grind Radio on the Dreamcast. Might have to keep my out out for this.

Slapshot

#21

Slapshot said:

@Jamio.... if you do decide to track down GBA titles, I would recommend finding a copy of Konami Krazy Racers as well. Its hard to find but its well worth the purchase as it holds its own with Mario Kart on GBA.

Great review as well. I had this on the XBOX as well and enjoyed it immensely. Dont think a clone of Tony Hawk on GBA is up my alley though unless I find it really cheaply. I do have Tony Hawk 2 for GBA ;)

JamieOStaff

#22

JamieO said:

@slapshot82 Cheers mate, I remember reading the Konami Krazy Racers reviews, Konami did a great job on that one for an early 2001 launch title. I decided to skip it back in the day, because I was waiting for Mario Kart: Super Circuit.

My GBA collection is not bad, although I am becoming more and more interested in starting to collect more Japanese GBA titles. I only have 12 Japanese GBA games and while there can be issues with recognising the characters to save the game and reading text for stories, I really like the style and presentation of their boxes/ instruction manuals. Genki Video Games had the Japanese Konami Wai Wai Racing Advance in the UK for £15 ($23), which is a good price, but it has sold now. I will keep an eye out for it coming back in and for GBA Jet Set/Grind Radio too.

I have the pseudo-sequel to GBA Krazy Racers which was released on iPhone, Konami's Krazy Kart Racing, but it is not a great kart racer, it is beaten on that platform by Gameloft's Shrek Kart. Incidently Shrek Kart would be a nice fit for DSi Ware, if Gameloft are listening, as a cheap kart racer. Not that the NDS needs any more with the awesome Mario Kart DS and recently released Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing providing plenty of kart racing fun already. Edit: Apologies for drifting off topic here!

Thanks. :)

antster1983

#23

antster1983 said:

Konami Krazy Racers is a racer any GBA collector or player should look out for. Cruelly overlooked and underrated in my opinion :'(

Ski_Deuce

#25

Ski_Deuce said:

The DC version was incredible. This version, while fun, couldn't help but lose some of the flair. The thing that really put the nail in the coffin for me (to stop playing) though was the different final boss. That portion of the game was pretty much impossible and infuriating.

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