As a long-time fan of the Jet Set Radio games, Hover: Revolt of Gamers immediately caught my eyes and ears. It’s easy to see why it is being dubbed the spiritual successor to the JSR series. Does it contain eye-catching, cartoonishly colorful graphics? Yup. An infectiously cheerful soundtrack that even contains a few tracks from Jet Set Radio composer Hideki Naganuma? Definitely. How about rebellious youngsters racing around an urban sprawl busting out tricks, wall slides, and graffiti? Of course it does! As you may already know (either due to the fact that you are also a Jet Set Radio fan, or that you see it talked about a lot on the internet) there are plenty of people out there pining for a new Jet Set Radio game, or at least remasters of the ones already made. Does Hover manage to fill the gaping hole left by JSR’s prolonged absence, or is it simply an attempt to cash in on the nostalgia of a much-beloved series? Let’s see how Hover stacks up.
In the city of ECP17, or “Hover City” as it’s more commonly known as, things are not ok. The Great Admin has passed a law making the act of having fun illegal and banning things like video games. He then blocked off all communication with the Galactic Union, further cementing his tyrannical rule. It is all up to a rebellious, fun-loving gang called The Gamers to find a way to get to the Orbital Station, contact the Galactic Union, and take down The Great Admin to bring fun and happiness back into Hover City. The light-hearted plot isn’t going to win any awards, but I find it captures the fun nature of the game perfectly.
Now enters the new guy. You start off by naming your gang and then selecting a character. There are only two basic ones to start off with; the other nine have to be unlocked. You can then name him/her and customize their color scheme. You can create up to 5 characters per gang. By leveling up, you can customize the stats of your character as well. Completing missions and other tasks grants you experience and by leveling up your character, you unlock more spaces on your skill grid to insert chips. Special chips can be earned by completing missions, found around the city in containers, and created by using the swap machines that you will encounter throughout your game. They are essential to increasing the performance of essential abilities such as max speed, jumping, friction, and so forth. There is even a slot for graffiti. You can only have one piece of graffiti equipped at a time. You can find other unique graffiti the same way you find skill chips: either as a mission reward or by finding it in a chest. As of this writing, there is no way of creating your own pieces of custom graffiti.
After a brief tutorial to teach you the basics, you are plopped into Hover City with very little direction. There is a vague set of story missions to follow, but the real fun is in exploring every nook and cranny of the open world playground that is Hover City while running into other players doing the same. Although you can turn it off and play solo if you want, Hover supports seamless online multiplayer. You can cruise around and explore the city with friends and strangers alike, taking on missions or doing other activities together. And what a city it is to explore! Hover City was created with a large amount of verticality in mind. Your characters come equipped with special gear that allows them to run, jump, grind, and generally just parkour all over the place much better than regular human abilities would allow. That, and the fact that you take no damage from falling means that the sky is the limit in terms of where you want to go. Another handy feature is the bubble. Holding down a certain button encases your character in a bubble and rewinds his movement back to a certain point. This is incredibly useful if you miss a jump or accidentally fall from a tricky to get to spot and want to get back there with as little fuss as possible. I personally think this option is awesome since it saved me from more than a couple annoying situations. The one thing I don’t like about exploring Hover City is the lack of even the most basic of maps to help orient yourself and at least let you know your current position. I find the lack a bit strange because the sewer area of the game has its own map you can use.
Activity-wise, there is more to do around the city than just cruising. Certain Gamers and other NPCs can offer you missions or challenges. These are usually in the form of racing through checkpoints, although there are a few other types of missions such as making deliveries, doing tricks, and trapping secure-bots. As for the activities, each region of the city has their own set of activities to complete. These usually consist of scoring the required amount of points in one combo, covering up propaganda posters with graffiti, finding all the gamegirl collectibles, and capturing spy drones. Catching spy drones is almost like a game of tag. You have to hit it a certain amount of times to get it. Each time you hit it, it relocates. If you don’t hit it fast enough it resets back to its original position. I saved the best for last. Gameball! Gameball is a game that takes place between two teams. The objective is to get the gameball past the other team and throw it into their goal to score points. You can bang into the player carrying the gameball to steal it from him; it plays a lot like basketball, but with more parkour involved. I thought it was a weird inclusion at first, but it quickly grew on me and now I enjoy having a game or two in my spare time.
The funky soundtrack and the cel-shaded graphics are where Jet Set Radio’s influence is most heavily felt. Hover has some of the most vibrant and colorful graphics that I’ve ever seen. And to top it off, it runs smooth as butter. My computer was clocking a steady 60 fps with the settings on the highest level and it never spluttered or dropped a frame. There are also very few loading screens when roaming the city. The music is exactly what you would expect if you have ever played a JSR game. The tracks are a mix of pulse-pounding beats and techno funk, with a couple of slower, more ominous tunes in there. While Hideki Naganuma created a couple of songs for the game, Cedric Menendez composed the bulk of the soundtrack.
I had a hell of a fun time exploring Hover City trying to do all the activities, but I found the missions kind of average. However, Hover is a great game to just load up and play around in, and the community is super-friendly. It also managed to scratch my nostalgic Jet Set Radio itch for the time being. Even if you’ve never played a JSR game, I’m positive that you’ll have a blast running around Hover City and busting out parkour moves while enjoying the beautiful graphics and a great soundtrack.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review
Final Score: 8.5/10
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