rebelling against the megacorporation

So, I got an XBX. I won’t get into the details. Largely, I wanted it to play JSRF. I really liked JSR on my Dreamcast, and I figured the sequel would be extra awesome.

The irony of playing a game in which I fight an evil megacorporation on a console made by Microsoft only now hits me. That’s hardly the point, though. At the end of the day, my concern is with the game. So far, the game is good.

Like JSR, you play the members of a gang of “Rudie” rollerbladers. Your goal, apparently, is to bring down the evil Rokaku megacorp by covering Tokyo in spray paint. It sounds odd, but apparently it works. You’re based in a garage. In JSR, it was a real garage. In JSRF, it’s a mini-level of its own, bearing little to no resemblance to an actual garage. I’m OK with that. It’s a little more fun to skate to different regions than to just pick them from a list.

Tokyo itself is divided into a number of neighborhoods. You can skate from one neighborhood to the other, once the path is unlocked. In the beginning, your path is very narrow. I’ve gotten through the first two stages, and I seem to have reached a point where the game is no longer totally linear. From what I can tell, looking at the blank space on my map, there are a whole lot of neighborhoods.

The gameplay is a lot like the gameplay in JSR. The XBX “S” controller is, actually, quite a bit like the DC controller, especially as regards the feel of the L and R triggers. There are a few differences, but the biggest is the modification to painting graffiti. Instead of trying to quickly move the control stick the right way, you just pull R. I think this is a huge improvement. I can really throw down the tags while I skate in this one, and I just learned how to “shuffle,” which reduces my speed while I skate. It looks ideal for hitting the points in the big “XL” tags.

Technically, it’s a mixed bag. There are clear improvements over the JSR, but they’re not huge. The largest single improvement might be in the number of semi-roaming characters that wander around the stages. There are also better draw distances. Mostly, it’s not a fantastic improvement, and I’m OK with that. I think that too much improvement would make it look like a different game instead of JSR.

There’s a real lack of polish to some parts, though. The camera will move behind solid objects, talking characters will put their chins through their chests, and collision detection is really wonky. Sometimes, I need to be right up on something to hit it. Sometimes, there’s clearly open air. Usually, though, it’s fairly predictable.

The framerate isn’t solid, either. In fact, it doesn’t seem like it’s dropping frames, but rather that the game is slowing down. If I jump across a huge intersection full of moving people and busses, it’s sometimes as if I’ve gone into slow motion. So far, it hasn’t been a real problem, but if JSRF follows the usual pattern of adding more action as the game progresses, things will get lame in a few more stages. I guess time will tell.

I like the music so far, though I didn’t see the much-hailed XBX-y option of using my own. I’m also looking forward to trying out the graffiti editor and seeing what I can do with it.

Written on April 9, 2003
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