The city of Tokyo-to is broken up into three distinct areas: Shibuya-cho, Benten-cho, Kogane-cho. The GG's begin their rise to prominence in the Shibuya-cho district, and you'll quickly find yourself recruiting your first two members, Gum and Tab. Then it's time to tune in to DJ Professor K, host of Tokyo's #1 pirate Radio Station, Jet Set Radio, as he blasts a smooth stream of supersonic sound over the 'hood, through the streets, and right into your brain. Professor K's underground station doesn't just pump out an eclectic mix of tunes, though. The dread'd DJ keeps tabs on all the Rudie activity in the city, and serves as a narrator for all the goings-on in Jet Set Radio -- on Jet Set Radio. Confused yet?
Once the GG ranks have been bolstered by Gum and Tab, your gang has to take on their turf rivals in Shibuya-cho, the Love Shockers. From there, the story branches out as you attempt to defend your holdings and expand your territory into Benten and Kogane, where the Noise Tanks and Poison Jam rule the streets. But if you're not familiar with Jet Set Radio (and haven't grasped the concept from the cover art), this gang warfare isn't of the traditional variety. There are no drive-bys or biker gangs -- it's all about graffiti.
Turf warfare is carried out through the art of tagging (which obviously originated in Japan's Edo period). Graffiti isn't just a form of delinquency; it's artistic expression, a territorial marking, and the basis of Jet Set Radio's gameplay. The game plays out in a series of short, arcadey missions that drop you in a section of Tokyo with a time limit and a set objective. In most of these missions, you'll roll around Tokyo on your magnetically-powered skates looking for the tags of rival gangs, generously marked with a large red arrow. And what do you do when a work of graffiti from one of your rivals is polluting the streets? Paint over it, of course!
Small tags can be covered with a single button press, but larger ones require a bit more finesse. Stopping in front of a big tag initiates a short motion-based mini-game, where you move the analog stick in certain directions to complete the tag. The faster you finish your tag, the more points you get, which ultimately impacts your high score for the level. Tagging isn't the only way to gain points, however -- you can also perform tricks. These range in difficulty and complexity, but after a short time with the game you'll find yourself grinding rails, walls, and any other edge you can find, making crazy jumps, and even skating against the sides of walls.
Being able to perform grinds and other tricks also serves another purpose. Because you aren't supplied with a bottomless can of spray paint, you're forced to constantly replenish your stock with pickups spread throughout each level. Most of the cans are placed along rails or in other places that require a little skating prowess to reach. And while small tags only require a single can of spray paint to complete, larger ones can eat up quite a few cans. There are even optional tagging opportunities in each level that offer you bonus points. Yellow cans are the basic paint pickup, while blue ones are worth five cans of paint. Red cans, which are a bit more rare, will refill some of your health gauge. Why the health gauge, you wonder? What could be out there to hurt an innocent Rudie? As it turns out, quite a bit.