When Sega makes a good game, they make a genre to go along with it. I'm hard pressed to classify the game. Is it a third person shooter? No, you never use a gun. Perhaps a graffiti sim? Not quite. But whatever it is, its fantastic!
The premise is fairly straightforward; you're a techno-geek gang from the streets of "Tokyo-to". You need to get your gang's name out there, and do so by spray-painting your gang's tag (graffiti) all over town. You also gain territory by painting over rival gang tags, all the while watching out for the feds. Take too long, and the cops come after you with everything from troops to tanks, from tear gas to helicopters!
I absolutely love the fact that as you pick up gang members (which you can choose to play as, each with their own special attributes) you pick up new tags, and you can even build you own tags using a pretty intuitive program, then save them off and spray them around town.
The game was advertised with "toon-shaded" graphics, but these days we call it cel-shading. This is the first use of this style, and at the time was just striking. It's a little muddy in comparison to what is available now, but the graphics are still sharp and the character are all unique.
The controls are easy, and you'll have them mastered in no time, especially with the amount of time you're likely to pour into the game just because its so much fun! There's something for everyone, too. If you just like doing the Tony Hawk style tricks, then you'll unlock levels that allow you do just that. Don't like running from the law while you paint? There are levels for that, too! And when you finish the game you keep all the characters, tags and special levels you've unlocked, but the story mode starts all over again.
Jet Grind Radio is the name of the pirate music station you listen to while you play, so no review would be complete without mentioning the soundtrack. I'm going be honest, I'm no raver, and don't care too much for techno, but the selection is nice and diverse, including cuts from Rob Zombie, Jurassic-5, among others. And the techno stuff from the regular soundtrack of the game doesn't really bother me too much, not when I'm having this much fun.
I can hardly convey the excitement I felt when I first grinded across a steel garter in front the cockpit of an attack helicopter close enough to see the pilot, and spray painted over his window, blinding him and forcing him to crash into the streets below.
If you own a Dreamcast, you need to own this game. Period.