Jet Grind Radio
Growing up I was a huge fan of the Sega Dreamcast. I remember when the Dreamcast first came out, Hollywood Video in Green Bay had it set up in a display booth with a tv and a copy of Sonic Adventure, and I was blown away when Sonic started running to the camera at lightning speed while a giant whale jumped out of the water behind him, destroying the pier he was running on. And while Sonic Adventure may have been the beginning of the end for Sonic, the Sonic franchise still continues (albeit in crappy quality), the Sega Dreamcast only had two or three years of life in it before it died.
A friend of mine in Green Bay, and if I’m remember correctly, it was actually his younger sister, won a Sega Dreamcast in a competition, received a year of free online for the Sega Network (the first online console!!), and a handful of games. I’d go over to his house and play multiplayer games with him or watch him play single player or online games (I still regret never being able to play Phantasy Star Online back when it came out). I should blog sometime about my theory that my interest in videogames stems less from anything intrinsic in me to liking videogames but instead from a combination of factors of outside influences creating within me a desire to play games and to continue play games long after others interest has waned or moved on to other things.
After my family moved from Green Bay to Minneapolis, my birthday gift and request was for a Sega Dreamcast; partly because I missed my friend and playing with him, and partly because I was extremely jealous of his Dreamcast and wanted to experience the same things myself. (One of my deepest character flaws is that I hate to feel left out of anything, and always want to be involved or included in some way, even passively.) So even though I knew the Sega Dreamcast was dead and dying, which by that point was extremely clear that the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube had destroyed it, I still wanted it, mainly for those games I had enjoyed in Green Bay. And I played that Dreamcast for years, even though I bought a Nintendo GameCube in either 02 or 03 (which means I got the Dreamcast in either 01 or 02). I started playing one of my favorite games of all time, Skies of Arcadia, on Dreamcast (as did my friend in Green Bay), although I eventually beat the game on the GameCube with the admittedly superior Skies of Arcadia: Legends version.
But since this isn’t a retrospective on my love for the Sega Dreamcast, let me focus on one quirky title my friend introduced me to in Green Bay called Jet Grind Radio. By the way, this blog is inspired by an article on Jet Grind Radio over at Bits N Bytes.
Jet Grind Radio is a weird game, as evidenced by embedded video. I don’t know why it appealed to me. Perhaps it was the combination of (at the time) novel music, alternative gameplay that vaguely reminded me of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and art aesthetic. I’m sure some would assume it was the rebellious nature of graffiti that compelled me, but I don’t remember being that impressionable, well, ever. The tagging of buildings was just how you scored points, and doing it in an interesting way by rotating thumbsticks (a very original idea at the time). The running from the cops was just a cat and mouse game and not some deep inner rebellion against authority. The game was pure innocence.
What is Jet Grind Radio? It is a bunch of skaters going around tagging things while running from the cops. But on another level, it is a skateboarding platformer with unique “puzzle” control stick maneuvers coupled with a sense of speed from running from the cops. It’s rather unique, I guess. The appeal of the game to me lied in controlling your skater as you jumped from building to building, or rail to rail, and then finding your tagging spot and engaging in creative control stick puzzles. I really do lack the words to describe these things without repeating myself. It was a smooth, calming experience with positive reinforcement that ended in a heightened sense of panic while trying to get away from that evil Sheriff who shoots on sight.
Jet Grind Radio eventually had a sequel, Jet Radio Future, I think, that was released on the Xbox. But honestly, I’ve never played it. I never even beat Jet Grind Radio, always becoming frustrating or losing interest a few levels in. Yet those initial levels provided an experience that at the time I had never had before, and found refreshing. If I had been a few years younger when Jet Grind Radio came out, I would have played that game religiously. As it was, it was a fun game with unique ideas that I remember fondly but would probably not seek out to play again.
Now, Crazy Taxi, on the other hand…