The Better Question Would Be… When Will We Experience It?
If anyone knows me, they know that I am a Jet Set Radio fan to the core. It was one of the few games I wore to the ground on my Sega Dreamcast. It was the source of my first ever cosplay. My earlier fightstick art was based off of Gum from the original game. There hasn’t been a game that impacted my childhood much like this game had.
All one need to do is check Twitter to see the Rudies (fans of the series) tweet about wanting their games on modern consoles including their love for the games themselves. Especially on the PlayStation 4. (Check out the #JetSetSona tag if you hadn’t already!)
So it came as a surprise when I wound up reading a tweet from the official Japanese PlayStation account, with a link to a blog post and Jet Set Radio front and center.
— プレイステーション公式 (@PlayStation_jp) March 11, 2020
Now, I’m not going to pretend my Japanese is fluent. It really isn’t. I had to use the help of Google Translate to take the wheel for me.
From what I could gather, the post showcased several Sega classics that are currently on PlayStation streaming service, PS Now. These titles include Crazy Taxi, Virtua Fighter 2, and of course, Jet Set Radio.
You can read the blog post here.
What I found most interesting is that Jet Set Radio is actually on PS Now. The caveat is that it’s only on the Japanese PS Now at the time of this writing.
So what gives? Why is a timeless classic, that is arguably more popular among the Western audience than the Japanese, currently Japan-exclusive on the Sony console?
This is especially puzzling as the game has been made backwards compatible on the Xbox One since 2016. Being that you can still purchase the game for PlayStation 3, I don’t believe it’s much in the way of a licensing issue as well. Perhaps there’s a slated release for the Western PS Now users in the future? Only time will tell.
How did such a niche series attain a devoted fanbase? How did it ever get to this point? In order to answer these questions, we have to look back a bit.
In the turn of the millennium in the year 2000, Sega blessed the world with a culture bomb. Combining the beats and aesthetic of Hip Hop culture with a modern rebellious “stick-it-to-the-man” attitude, Jet Set Radio was a game that was light years ahead of its time.
Praised for the music and art direction, the game never had a chance to kick off as it was a victim of its own success. For those who had played it, it was herald as a masterpiece. However, majority wouldn’t have the chance to experience this moving work of art for themselves as the discontinuation of the Sega Dreamcast loomed. Smilebit, the developers of Jet Set Radio, found their new home on the Xbox.
In 2003, they released a reboot of the original game titled Jet Set Radio Future, which was an entirely new game from the ground up. It still had the blend of Hip Hop culture and art, yet it was set in a dystopian, totalitarian-esque future instead of the modern era of the previous game.
This shift of attitude and gameplay won a set of fans that would stick around to this day. The original fans of Jet Set Radio wouldn’t see their beloved game return until 2012, twelve years after its original release.
This HD remaster version of the original game, released on Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, and Steam, featured updated graphics to fit the expected HD quality of games at the time. The rest of the gameplay at its core was kept the same, welcoming old fans of an oft long forgotten game and ushering in new curious ones. With the release of the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4, however, this version was rendered obsolete.
At least, until it became backwards compatible on the Xbox One in 2016 as mentioned earlier.
While there are many options for the original Jet Set Radio, the Jet Set Radio Future release continues to be lost in the wind. As of this time of writing, the game is yet to be backwards compatible with Xbox One.
The Xbox 360 compatibility is notoriously bad in some sections of the game, specifically on 99th Street. This means that the best way to experience Future remains on the original Xbox.
There are, of course, other ways to experience the game, with Xbox emulation on the come-up in the past several years. But the fans want to support the series. Again, just take an afternoon to look through Twitter. Fan support is quite massive even in this current year.
Sega themselves haven’t been ignorant. They have included several characters of the series in various Sega titles as well as include cameos in the style of costumes for games like Sonic Forces. Occasionally you’ll see a tweet or two from the official Sega page referencing the series.
With this recent tweet and post from Sony themselves, however, they understand the concept of love game’s resounding popularity. When you have official companies stoking the flames of the community by acknowledging that they exist, it’s difficult not to have hope for the future.
Maybe one day we will see Jet Set Radio on the American PS Now. Perhaps we will somehow see Future on any modern console. Again, only time will tell.