Jet Set Radio

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Jet Set Radio
European Dreamcast cover art
Director(s)Masayoshi Kikuchi
Producer(s)Osamu Sato
Artist(s)Ryuta Ueda
Platform(s)Dreamcast, Java ME, Game Boy Advance, PlayStation 3, Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita,[1] iOS,[2] Android[2]
Genre(s)Platform, action, sports

Jet Set Radio,[a] titled Jet Grind Radio on the first North American release, is an action game developed by Smilebit and published by Sega for the Dreamcast in 2000. The player controls one of a gang of youths who skate the streets of a fictionalized Tokyo on inline skates, spraying graffiti and evading the authorities. It was one of the first games to use cel-shaded visuals, giving it a cartoon-like appearance.

A version by Vicarious Visions was released by THQ for Game Boy Advance on June 26, 2003 in North America and February 20, 2004 in Europe. A sequel, Jet Set Radio Future, was released in 2002 for the Xbox. In 2012, a high-definition port was released for multiple platforms.


The player controls one of a gang of graffiti-tagging inline skaters. In a typical stage, the player explores an open 3D environment and must tag every graffiti spot in each area before the timer runs out,[5] while evading the authorities, who pursue on foot, in tanks and in helicopters.[6] New playable characters are unlocked after the player beats them in trick battles.[7]

The game is controlled with only a few buttons, and technical aspects of skating are simplified compared to games such as Tony Hawk's Pro Skater.[6] According to Vice, although Jet Set Radio is "about the fluidity of good skating, the joy of motion and skill ... skating is less the focus and more the medium"; the game instead emphasizes a "general sense of youthful rebellion".[6]

Visual style[edit]

Jet Set Radio was one of the first games to feature cel-shaded graphics, with exaggerated shapes, thick lines, and flat, bright colors.[6] According to Vice, "The whole world feels like it could be scrawled on a wall somewhere, reeking of spray paint fumes."[6]


Professor K, DJ of the Jet Set Radio pirate radio station, broadcasts to gangs of youths who roam the streets of Tokyo-to, rollerblading and spraying graffiti. One skater, Beat, forms a new gang, the GGs, who compete with rival gangs for turf: the all-female Love Shockers in the shopping districts of Shibuya-Cho; the cyborg Noise Tanks in the Benten entertainment district; and the kaiju-loving Poison Jam in the Kogane dockyard. The authorities, led by Captain Onishima, pursue the gangs with riot police, tanks, and helicopters.

The GGs are joined by skaters Combo and Cube, who explain that their hometown, Grind City, has been overtaken by the Rokkaku, a sinister business conglomerate. They plan to free their friend, Coin, who has been captured by the Rokkaku. The GGs confront the Rokkaku CEO, Goji Rokkaku, atop the Rokkaku building, a giant turntable. Goji plans to conquer the world with The Devil's Contract, a vinyl record which reportedly has the power to summon demons. The GGs tag him with graffiti and he falls from the building. Although Coin's fate remains uncertain, freedom is returned to the streets of Tokyo-to. Combo reveals that The Devil's Contract was simply an old indie record with no demonic powers, and that wealth had driven Goji to insanity.


Jet Set Radio was developed by Smilebit, a Sega studio formed from members of Team Andromeda, developers of the Panzer Dragoon games for the Sega Saturn.[8] The team was young, with an average age of under 25.[9] Director Masayoshi Kikuchi said the team wanted to create something "cool" that dealt with pop culture and was completely unlike their previous game, the 1998 RPG Panzer Dragoon Saga.[9]

Smilebit drew inspiration from games outside the typical genres of science fiction and fantasy. Artist Ryuta Ueda was particularly inspired by a demonstration of the PlayStation rhythm game PaRappa the Rapper at the 1996 Tokyo Game Show: "I think that’s the first game with pop culture like that. They did it first. After that I decided to make a true game, not just a visual experience, that was actually for adults."[9] The anti-establishment themes of the 1999 film Fight Club were another influence.[9] Ueda's drawings of a punky character with headphones and rollerblades became the foundation of the game. The team developed the cel-shading technique, which has no gradations, to recreate Ueda's art with polygons.[9] Jet Set Radio was announced at the 1999 Tokyo Game Show and drew media attention for its cel-shaded style.[10] The game features graffiti by a variety of artists, including Eric Haze, who had designed album art for acts including the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy.[11]

Jet Set Radio was one of the earliest games to feature an open 3D world, which presented the team's biggest challenge. Kikuchi said: "Making an entire town in a game was quite the prospect. It’s not hard with modern hi-spec hardware, but that wasn’t the case back then… It was very difficult from a programming standpoint."[9] Another Sega game, Shenmue (1999), also featured an open world, but Kikuchi felt the games posed different technical challenges, as Shenmue does not allow the player to jump or move at speed. The team implemented grinding to allow players to enjoy speed without worrying about colliding with obstacles.[9]

The settings were inspired by Japanese locations such as the Tokyo shopping district of Shibuya.[9] Sega feared that the game's style might alienate players outside Japan, and requested changes for the international versions. The team added stages modelled after New York’s Times Square and the south Bronx, and made story changes, such as changing the nationality of two characters to American.[9] The interactive credits sequence of the Japanese version was also cut, as localizing it would have meant rebuilding the stage with names written in English. The game was retitled Jet Grind Radio in the United States, though this was not retained for its sequel, Jet Set Radio Future. Sega sold the international version in Japan as De La Jet Set Radio. Ueda was unhappy about the changes, which he felt diminished the essential Japanese elements of the game.[9]


The Jet Set Radio soundtrack includes original and licensed songs combining J-pop, hip hop, funk, electronic dance, rock, acid jazz, and trip hop. The North American version and international re-releases adds metal songs. The port omits "Yappie Feet", "Dunny Boy Williamson Show" and "Many Styles" for licensing reasons.[12][13] The Game Boy Advance versions features shorter samples of six songs. Vice described the music as "energetic, rhythm-heavy and defiant ... a multicultural melange of youth culture and an irrepressible, joyful sense of revolution" and "a central consideration of play".[6]


Jet Set Radio was released in Japan on June 29, 2000. The US release, retitled Jet Grind Radio, contained two new maps, various new songs, and other in-game content designed to increase the game's appeal to Western audiences. This version also allowed the user to connect to the Internet via SegaNet and download user-created graffiti tags, or upload tags of their own, as some could also be used to promote other Sega games. Sales of the game were relatively low, but it has gone on to achieve a cult following in the gaming community.[citation needed]

Alternative versions[edit]

Game Boy Advance version[edit]

A version of Jet Set Radio was released for the Game Boy Advance system in 2003, created by Vicarious Visions, the developers of the numerous Tony Hawk Pro Skater GBA games; and published by THQ. It featured an isometric perspective similar to the GBA Tony Hawk games and, despite the hardware limitations, cartoony graphics were designed to emulate the look of cel-shaded graphics, despite the smaller resolution. Music is reduced to 30 to 45 second samples. The levels ranged from exact duplicates to reminiscent counterparts of the original Jet Set Radio.[citation needed]

Typing Jet[edit]

A version for mobile phones, Typing Jet, was released in 2001 in Japan.[14]

De La Jet Set Radio[edit]

After the public reported several bugs in the original Japanese version of Jet Set Radio, Sega rereleased it under the name of De La Jet Set Radio ("Deluxe" Jet Set Radio). This version was only sold in Japan via Dreamcast Direct (later renamed Sega Direct) making it one of the rarer Dreamcast titles available. The gameplay in this version was easier to pick up and included the added music from the PAL and North American versions, including the two levels only included in these two versions. The text featured in the game is localized in the main language of the player's Dreamcast, unlike the original Japanese version, which means that if the player's Dreamcast system is set to English language, the text in the game will be in English. The same goes for Japanese, German, French and Spanish. However, the voices remain Japanese in this version regardless of the language to which the Dreamcast is set.[citation needed]

HD port[edit]

In 2012, a high-definition port of Jet Set Radio was released for PlayStation 3 on September 18 (members of PlayStation Plus could purchase the game from September 11, 2012), on Xbox Live Arcade and Windows on September 19, on PlayStation Vita on November 20,[15] and on November 29, 2012 for iOS and Android devices (however, mobile ports were removed from their respective stores in 2015). To promote the port, Sega ran a contest to allow players to submit their own artwork to be used as graffiti within the game.[16][17] New features include widescreen HD graphics, online leaderboards, achievements, and a new camera system. The rerelease combines the North American, European and Japanese soundtracks, but omits the tracks "Yappie Feet", "Dunny Boy Williamson Show" and "Many Styles".[5]


Aggregate scores
GameRankingsSDC: 92%[18]
GBA: 76%[19]
MetacriticSDC: 94/100[20]
GBA: 74/100[21]
PS3: 75/100[22]
X360: 70/100[23]
iOS: 58/100[24]
Review scores
AllGame4.5/5 stars[25]
TouchArcadeiOS: 3.5/5 stars[31]

The game received critical acclaim.[32] Many praised the style of the game as the matching soundtrack with up-tempo music. Critics also applauded the simple arcade-style gameplay.[33] Famitsu magazine scored the Dreamcast version of the game a 32 out of 40.[27] The lowest review according to GameRankings was a 3.5 out of 5 from Independent Gamer.[18] IGN gave the game a 9.6 rating but criticized the camera control, saying, "You'll spend at least a week wondering why all games don't look this good. Then you will spend at least a month wondering why the camera didn't get fixed during localization."[30] Eurogamer scored the HD version 9/10, writing that "The skating's still great, the city's still a joy to explore, and the soundtrack's still one of the very best ever put together."[26] GamesRadar gave the HD version a 4/5, stating "Its varied missions will keep you coming back for more and the added treat of hearing its eclectic soundtrack makes playing them all the more fun."[29] IGN gave the Game Boy Advance version a score of 8.6. Official Nintendo Magazine gave it 76%, praising it "faithful to the original".


  • E3 2000 Game Critics Awards: Winner for Best Console Game, runner-up for Best in Show
  • 2001 Game Developers Choice Awards: Winner of Excellence in Visual Arts and Game Innovation Spotlights awards, nominated for Game of the Year
  • 4th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards (2001): nominated for Game Design, Game of the Year, Console Game of the Year, Console Innovation, Original Music Composition, Sound Design, and Visual Engineering


In 2012, Whatculture wrote that "Jet Set Radio is symbolic of a time in which Sega took more risks than anyone else in the industry", citing Shenmue and Crazy Taxi as other innovative Dreamcast games.[7] Reviewing the 2012 rerelease, Eurogamer wrote that it "retains the power to astonish and amaze and bedazzle and beguile" and is still "one of the most striking games you could play on a 360, or a PS3, or a PC."[5] A sequel, Jet Set Radio Future, was released for the Xbox in 2002, early in the system's life cycle.

Beat and Gum from the game appear as playable characters in the games Sega Superstars Tennis and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, and the former also appeared in Archie Comics' Sonic Universe issue 45, an adaptation of the game along with Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing. In 2009, an early antagonist in the game, Captain Onishima, was ranked 95th in IGN's "Top 100 Videogame Villains" list.[34]

Insomniac owner Ted Price credited Jet Set Radio as an influence on their game Sunset Overdrive.[35]


  1. ^ Japanese: ジェット セット ラジオ Hepburn: Jetto Setto Rajio?


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  3. ^ Matulef, Jeffrey (November 13, 2012). "Jet Set Radio HD coming to Vita, iOS and Android this month". Eurogamer. Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  4. ^ Clumsyorchid (November 13, 2012). "Dates Confirmed for Jet Set Radio on Vita & Mobile!". SEGA Blog. Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  5. ^ a b c "Jet Set Radio Review". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "What Today's Video Games Could Learn from 'Jet Set Radio' | VICE | United States". VICE. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
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  8. ^ "GameSpot Presents: The History of Panzer Dragoon - GameSpot". 2005-06-01. Archived from the original on September 22, 2004. Retrieved 2015-12-11.CS1 maint: Unfit url (link)
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  10. ^ "TGS: Sega Shows Jet Grind Radio". September 1999. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
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  19. ^ "Jet Grind Radio for Game Boy Advance". GameRankings. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2019-04-18.
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  21. ^ "Jet Grind Radio for Game Boy Advance Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  22. ^ "Jet Set Radio for PlayStation 3 Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  23. ^ "Jet Set Radio for Xbox 360 Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  24. ^ "Jet Set Radio for iPhone/iPad Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  25. ^ Thompson, Jon. "Jet Grind Radio - Review". AllGame. Archived from the original on November 15, 2014. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
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  33. ^ Hopton, Adam. "Top 10 Dreamcast Games". Trendy Gamers. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
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  35. ^ "Sunset Overdrive: the Ted Price interview". Retrieved 2018-07-28.