Jet Set Radio (or Jet Grind Radio, if you’re from Japan) is one of those iconic franchises that go back to the Dreamcast, though it did have its last installment on the original Xbox. But aside from an Xbox 360 remake of the first game, like various other SEGA classics (Crazy Taxi, you were too good for this world), it’s been dormant for a long time. So once again it’s indie devs’ turn to continue, via a legally distinct sequel called… Bomb Rush Cyberfunk! Does it live up to the task though? Let’s find out!
Already the game’s menu and its opening throw us back in time, into the cool and edgy 90’s where skateboard culture, funky fonts, rad high energy rave music and low-poly 3D graphics dominated videogames, on top of a large chunk of the pop culture. Remember when skating was the coolest thing ever? When drum ‘n’ bass, happy hardcore and such were all the rage? Dutch developer Team Reptile, of Lethal League fame among others, certainly do, and they decided to bring it all back with shocking accuracy.
The game’s short but dramatic introduction sees the radical graffiti artist protagonist of the game find an unlikely ally in a prison cell, as they manage to escape together safe and sound. Well, for the most part, as the character we control gets decapitated by a then unknown evil DJ, throwing a weirdly sharp vinyl at him just as he’s about to bail. This isn’t the premise of a Metal Gear Solid 2-esque bait and switch in terms of main character, as our hero is saved by his new ally and his sister by applying a red-coloured robot head instead of the missing body part. Apparently, in the game’s 90’s-inspired cyberpunk future, this happens often. Don’t ask me how this even works, and how can our protagonist reclaim his thoughts and mind without his head (which was apparently taken by the bad guys, oh noes), but bear with us alright?
How it’s done
Going on, while the game does offer a surprisingly meaty story, especially compared to the Jet Set Radio games which had virtually none, it’s really not the game’s strongest suit. Nor it should be, as it’s laser-focused on delivering a sensational gameplay loop that not only recreates the magic of that long-dormant franchise, but also evokes other extreme sport titles from the era like the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games or the similarly defunct SSX franchise. There was something radical about that era, and I’m happy to report that Bomb Rush Cyberfunk hits all the right notes when it comes to this exciting core gameplay loop.
Let’s say you’ve never touched or seen a Jet Set Radio game before, so you have nothing to compare to when trying to understand what Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is all about. The game features 5 stages, that become available as the story goes on. These function as semi-open world urban hubs, where players can find all kinds of cool collectibles, secrets and further missions to accomplish, all while also being able to use stick direction combinations to use various graffiti tags we unlocked in specific locations. But, much like the Jet Set Radio games and aforementioned extreme sports titles like those with Tony Hawk’s name on ’em, the entire level is a playground, ready to be conquered via grinds, slides, tricks, turbo boosts and more.
You see, Red (and the other fellow playable companions you unlock later on) don’t just walk or run around. That’s totally not tubular. Rollerskates, BMX, skateboard – anything goes, in this highly low-poly (pun intended) environment where virtually every angle can be grinded on (even in highly unrealistic ways), every wall can be ridden on, and there’s all kinds of elements in the environment that can be interacted with to make huge jumps and such. But it’s not even a traversal for the sake of it: the player gets increasingly high multipliers and scores for doing highly varied tricks, especially if they’re chained together in a crazy long combo.
As you ride on a long cable, a rail or a sidewalk (a pretty much automated process, even more so than in Tony Hawk games where balance needs to be kept by managing the sticks), you can alternate between various tricks using the face buttons. These further gain variations when using the speed boosts, which are unlocked in the middle of the trick sequence themselves via chaining as many as possible together. Unlike in Jet Set Radio, landing after a jump or a grind isn’t necessarily the end of the combo, as airboosts, slides and manuals can be combined to further extend the streak, and indeed many of the game’s achievements ask ludicrous score combos from the players. Fortunately, due to the ease of keeping balance and multiple fairly easy locations to cheese, these aren’t all that difficult to obtain. So while the pace is high and the adrenaline is through the roof, it’s still a relatively easy-going game for an extreme sports title.
The game’s story takes less than a dozen hours to blast through, with about another dozen or so hours needed to get rid of all optional content – though the score-chasing can bring many more hours of pure fun. Unfortunately there is no multiplayer mode of any kind – not officially or on console anyway, as skilled modders on PC already have found ways to make it work. Not on the Xbox versions that we played, of which of note is that the game runs at a buttersmooth 4K at 60fps on Xbox Series X. No 120fps support as of now.
Naturally, the review can’t end without a special mention to the audiovisual department of the game. The game looks like a higher resolution, higher framerate version of those classic DreamCast/PS1 era of early 3D extreme sports games, with their colourful locales, charismatic characters and all playable elements being abstract enough to instantly stand out when looked at from a distance. And most importantly, the game’s soundtrack is an absolute banger: from throwbacks to the 90’s eurobeat, house and drum ‘n’ bass, all the way to the newer influences like trap and hyperpop, without ever feeling like something too modern or out of place. Just like the game itself, the music sounds old school yet with that touch of modern production that makes it all the more appetizing today.
Ready… Jet… Set!
Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is both an excellent unofficial sequel to the classic Jet Set Radio games and a smart evolution and modernization of the formula to better fit modern sensitivities and to offer more variety. Sure, the story could have been better and maybe Team Reptile could have swayed farther from Jet Set Radio… but this is exactly the game fans of the franchise want and deserve.
Bomb Rush Cyberfunk
Xbox Series X
- It's basically a new Jet Set Radio
- Smooth and addictive gameplay
- Captures the visuals perfectly
- Lovely soundtrack
- Could have brought more new ideas to the table
- Story isn't great
- More game modes would have been nice