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REVIEW | Sega Classics “Jet Set Radio,” “NiGHTS” Return In HD Fashion

Posted on October 4, 2012 AT 07:00am

When one looks back at the games of yore many memories of fun, bedazzlement, and hearty feelings tend to rush through their minds. Once in a great while we as gamers are given the chance to relive some of those great titles of our youth, sometimes with a nice fresh coat of paint. Sega has been one of those game developers out there who has listened to the call of the fanbase, and about roughly 72% of the time they respond back with something everyone can clamor over about.

Within these past couple months they have given Sega fans the chance to return to two beloved classics: Jet Set Radio and NiGHTS into Dreams…, with giving players a beacon of hope that the success of these rereleases will drive forward a return to these franchises with new games in the future. Restored in glorious HD both games give a reminder to older fans of how far along we’ve come since their first release, as well as showcase to newcomers where the gaming revolution first started. Unfortunately despite being classics, we are also reintroduced to some of the flaws of these titles, but more on that later.

Released in 1996 on Sega Saturn NiGHTS into Dreams… brought gamers into the realm of dreams, where two young children come across a young jester-like entity known as Nights that helps the two kids overcome their two failures in life; one kid’s dream of becoming a singer was shattered by a case of stage fright in front of a group of judges, another a wannabe basketball star who gets kicked to the curb by more talented players. In order to restore peace in the world of dreams players must collect these orbs known as Ideya, and then proceed to vanquish the boss in each level.

Players could fly around as Nights in order to collect the Ideya, or they can take control of one of the two children and roam around the level freely to collect them. Each level is split into four segments, which can be completed by collecting 20 Ideyas. Once you do you will be given a chance to add some bonus points by collecting yellow Ideya and bringing it to the gazebo. Once the level is finished you are then sent to battle one of the bosses. If you don’t defeat the boss, you’ll have to restart the level from the beginning.

Released around the same time as Super Mario 64NiGHTS into Dreams… was one of the few games out there at the time that showcased a great 3D flying mechanism. While most of the in-flight aspects were shown in 2D its ability to switch around angles in a 3D-like rendering was applauded by fans and critics everywhere. At the time a special controller was even sold with the game to fully engulf the player into the experience it was conveying.

Playing NiGHTS in its HD form is both a blessing and a curse. Comparing the game with the new look and the classic look (which you are allowed to do in this game) it’s clear that Sonic Team wanted to make sure every nook and cranny of the game shined as it once did on its Saturn system. It’s actually quite funny seeing how blocky the characters looked in their 32-bit form, which back when it was first released it was deemed the most advanced-looking title. While the HD restoration is great, there was one weird hiccup that I couldn’t help but notice: when walking the area as one of the kids the ground around you seemed to ripple and warp itself out, like dropping a stone in a puddle. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be like that due to it being a dream and all, but I found it a bit distracting.

Jet Set Radio, on the other hand, hasn’t looked this good in a long time!

Released on the Dreamcast back in 2000 Jet Set Radio (or Jet Grind Radio, as it was known in the US) was the first video game to have a cel-shaded look in a 3D environment. Taking place in a futuristic Tokyo, where just about everything fun is outlawed, players took controlled of skater Beat as he and his gang the GG’s set out to (literally) paint the town in its colors. Rival gangs, the police, and many other obstacles stand in the way to complete control, so it’s up to the GG’s to settle the score once and for all.

You start out the game by having Beat recruit two new members into his gang by completing tricks and tracks in a specific timeframe. (You will add more characters that way, too, later on.) Soon you are given the task to let Tokyo know of your existence, spray painting your logos all over town as you avoid the fuzz, the SWAT, and the crooked Captain Onishima. Soon you’ll face off against the rival gangs, which you must take down by tagging your logo on their backs. You can even pull off tricks for some extra points in the long run.

The HD version of Jet Set Radio showcases how to properly remaster a classic game. Even with it being twelve years-old the game’s overall look have not aged at all. Beat and the gang move and groove ever-so fluidly in their environments, making jumps, tagging buildings, and evading the cops in a grand ole fashion. The soundtrack is where its true cool nature was injected. Not only do you have 98% of the original great licensed music from Guitar Vader, Rob Zombie, Jurassic 5, and Mix Master Mike, but the original cuts from Hideki Naganuma are still club-worthy in every sense of the word. Play something like “Rock It On” at a rave, and watch how insane the place will explode!

While these games still contain its original magic and charm, there are two elements to both titles that keep them from shining brightly. The first issue is the camera. In both Jet Set Radio and NiGHTS into Dreams… I found myself having to readjust the angle of the scene at just about every loop and turn, costing me valuable time and energy in each level. Then there is the issue of the controls, especially in Jet Set Radio. Trying to pull off the right jump and angle to reach some of the levels’ areas can feel more like a chore than having fun, especially when you have a timer on you reminding you of every second you’ve just wasted doing something wrong. In NiGHTS the controls aren’t as bad, but they do tend to respond slowly when you try making a big turn.

Jet Set Radio will take you roughly 6-7 hours to complete, whereas NiGHTS into Dreams… has a play time of roughly 2-3 hours. However those who purchase NiGHTS will be treated with the rare two-leveled Christmas NiGHTS , which was released only in special editions of other Saturn games and specially-marked video game magazines. While there aren’t any other gameplay extras included with Jet Set Radio, there is a great documentary about the game that is featured in the Extras section, as well as a few tracks from Jet Set Radio Future that can be unlocked.


In order to relive the classics, we must take the bad with the good. It’s no lie that both Jet Set Radio and NiGHTS haven’t aged as well as we’d like to them to have, but at the same time it’s very refreshing to see the games we loved as younger gamers back in the form we remembered them as. They may not be as shiny as many of the current-gen titles out there, but back in the day these were the games that instigated the start of a new way to play. Newcomers may scratch their heads and wonder why we consider these two titles classics, whereas people like myself will smile as we’re reminded why we loved these two games in the first place.

Jet Set Radio: 7.9 (out of ten)
NiGHTS into Dreams…: 7.5 (out of ten)

A review copy of the Xbox Live Arcade version of NiGHTS into dreams… was provided by TriplePoint PR. The PSN version of Jet Set Radio was played for the conduction of this review.

An accomplished music, anime, and video game critic, Evan Bourgault has been a Contributing Editor and Podcast host with ElectricSistaHood since 2008. His passion for discovering new bands, developers, and Japanese pop culture began in his college radio days and continues on today. Follow Evan on Twitter at twitter.com/King_Baby_Duck

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