Welcome to Living in the Past, a weekly column about what's new in old games. Now get off our lawn.
The HD port of Jet Set Radio arrives today on PS3 via PlayStation Plus. A new credit appears on the updated version: it was ported by a company called Blit Software, who also handled the downloadable versions of Sonic CD. The original, of course, was done by Sega's Smilebit team, who couldn't be brought in to handle the port on account of not existing anymore.
Despite a spectacular career on the Dreamcast, during which it created both JSR and The Typing of the Dead, along with a standout performance record on Xbox (Gunvalkyrie, Panzer Dragoon Orta, and, of course, Jet Set Radio Future), Smilebit was disbanded in 2004.
After playing Jet Set Radio, I assumed everyone involved with it would go on to even brighter things, in terms of both critical and financial success and explosive creativity. They've certainly achieved success, at the very least.
After Smilebit was closed in a shakeup of all Sega development teams, its team was divided up into "New Entertainment R&D Dept," which also housed staff from Amusement Vision (now known as Amusement Vision), and Sega Sports Japan. Sega Sports Japan went on to great sales as the developer of the Mario & Sonic sports series.
Director Masayoshi Kikuchi used his experience building stylized versions of Tokyo, and put it to use as part of the core team that created the Yakuza series, led by Amusement Vision head Toshihiro Nagoshi. Kikuchi became executive producer of the series, and also produced Binary Domain as part of the Ryu ga Gotoku Studio that formed in 2011. Kikuchi joked in a GamesTM interview that Yakuza and Jet Set Radio were part of the same universe, because JSR final boss Goji Rokkaku appears in Yakuza as a guy who desperately needs toilet paper. "See, right there. The same universe," Kikuchi said. On a personal note, I actually interviewed Kikuchi in 2010, but entirely about the Yakuza series. What a missed opportunity.
Art director Ryuta Ueda was responsible for the character design and art style of Jet Set Radio, with his drawings even inspiring the use of cel-shading. He also joined the Yakuza team, as lead designer/director on the first two Yakuza games for PS2. Most recently, he directed, wrote, and did the art design for the 2011 Kinect game Rise of Nightmares.
Hideki Naganuma composed most of the original music for Jet Set Radio, including "Humming the Bassline," "Sweet Soul Brother" and "That's Enough." His mixture of hip-hop beats, mashed-up vocal samples and catchy melodies defined the world of Jet Set Radio. Following Jet Set Radio and Future, Naganuma continued composing for Sega games, including the skating arcade game Ollie King, Sonic Rush, and the Sega Rally series. The most recent credit on his Facebook page is a contribution to Beatmania IIDX 20 Tricoro, a 2012 arcade music game from Konami.
While the creative staff behind Jet Set Radio is not all still together making new Jet Set Radio games, they have proven their ability to make well-received, well-selling games. In fact, Mario & Sonic and the Yakuza series are pretty much the only things keeping Sega's retail business alive. Not a bad legacy.