Jet Set Radio
At first gander, Sega's extraordinary-looking Jet Set Radio--due here this fall--may seem like a stylized take on Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, but don't think you've figured this unique title out that easily. "The development team (which includes veterans of the Panzer Dragoon and Sega Rally games) kinda wanted this game to be a genre breaker," producer Klayton Vorlick told us. "They didn't want it to be classified as another skating game. And it's not a racing game. There isn't one specific goal."
Instead, Vorlick says JSR assails you with several simultaneous objectives. Whizzing around town in special "Overdrive Magnetic-Motor Skating Shoes" (the 21st century's answer to inline skates), you spray graffiti at specific tag points such as cars and walls throughout your turf and pull off tricks--all while evading cops and dodging rival gangs. An onscreen arrow guides you to the next tag point, as well as scattered safety zones where cops won't touch you. On top of that, the game packs a story filled with plot twists; it's not just spray, run, spray, run. Graffiti designs come in three sizes (and you can even edit your own designs; more on that later). The larger your design, the longer it takes to spray it--and the more cops you'll have hot on your tail. "When you first start out," Vorlick said, "no one's around. You spray once or twice and the cops come. Spray a few more times and they send in reinforcements. Spray a few more times and they send in the captain. Depending on the level, they sometimes send in parachute troops or SWAT teams. Basically, at the end of the stage you're running from every type of police force possible."
The trick system is simpler than what you'll find in Tony Hawk. Depending on your speed, angle of jump, etc., you'll perform one of several tricks per character. Grinding is automatic when you leap onto a rail. "While grinding, you can jump and do tricks," Vorlick said. "Jump and you'll do a flip, and if you spray while doing that your character will twist around and do another trick, then spray, then land back on on the railing."
The Japanese version of JSR contains three massive cities--each crammed with pedestrians and traffic--to wreak inline havoc in, but the U.S. version will contain a fourth metropolis. Cities are divided into several sectors. Depending on the current mission, you can access other sectors by skating to the edge of your current area. Terrain types include train tracks, parks, residential areas (where you can skate on rooftops) and back alleyways. "In some levels you can actually go through buildings as shortcuts and secret areas," Vorlick said. JSR gives you 10 characters to choose from, and each has his or her own set of tricks and graffiti designs. Better still, you can make your own designs with a special graffiti editor, which lets you type in words and dress them up with a variety of effects. Although you don't get any multiplayer modes or network play, Sega is planning to provide downloadable extras for this surefire blockbuster soon after its release this fall.