Some video game projects are just a match made in heaven, and Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is a perfect example. It’s clear by now that SEGA isn’t interested in further developing the Jet Set Radio franchise. If we were to see a new JSR game hit the market, someone else would have to step up.
That’s where Team Reptile comes in. Given their pedigree with games like Lethal League, which matches the same street art-inspired visuals and audio of JSR, they’d be the perfect choice to continue the series. And they’ve done so with their latest game, albeit unofficially.
Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is essentially the next Jet Set Radio game in everything but name. It retains the same skating and graffiti gameplay as before while polishing the graphics for the HD era. And despite a few hitches along the way, it feels great to strap your skates on once again.
Where’s your head at?
Bomb Rush Cyberfunk takes place in the world of New Amsterdam, a megacity where the rebellious youth fight against corrupt cops and other street gangs for control of their turf. You play as a mysterious writer (or graffiti tagger) who escapes from prison one day only to get their head chopped off by the equally enigmatic DJ Cyber.
You wake up with a brand-new cyberhead and a new identity: Red. Tryce and Bel, the crew members of the Bomb Rush Crew, take you in and set you loose into the world. To reclaim your head and discover your identity, you need to take on all the street gangs and become All City King.
Despite the more absurd elements of this story, it’s a relatively simple plot. Mostly, it’s just a justification for invading other gangs’ turf and taking it from them. You’ll do so by taking on their challenges and earning REP points by leaving your mark around the city. With five districts to control and plenty of skaters standing in your way, Red has his work cut out for him.
But you’ll be treated to some excellent music along the way. Hideki Naganuma’s soundtrack was a huge reason why the original Jet Set Radio is fondly remembered, and his new tunes for this game are outstanding. Plenty of other musicians also contributed tracks, and alongside the beautiful retro aesthetics, it feels like we’re back on the streets of Tokyo-to. Even though, of course, it’s a whole new ballgame.
Hit the streets in Bomb Rush Cyberfunk
When I played Jet Set Radio for the first time, I was shocked by how little the skating actually shaped the core gameplay loop. It was more of an adventure game where skating was how you moved rather than the arcade-style game I assumed it was. With that newfound knowledge, I was able to ease into Bomb Rush Cyberfunk much easier.
Skating lines and combos is much easier to pull off thanks to the polished gameplay. If you’re familiar with JSR or even a more skating-focused franchise like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, you’ll feel right at home. The mechanics give you plenty of speed and height without going overboard; linking tricks together and getting a high combo, for instance, feels really great.
Being familiar with JSR will certainly help you get started with BRC. But even if you aren’t, the controls are solid and the gameplay feels tight enough to let newcomers in easily. It might feel weird if you’re used to a different style for skating games (like myself), but it doesn’t take long to adjust.
Switch up your style
New to this game are the various movestyles, which get you on a different set of wheels. The traditional inline skating is back, but skateboards and BMXs have also been added to the mix. In practice, they aren’t any different; you’ll do unique tricks, but the core gameplay remains the same. This, I think, is a lost opportunity to vary up the gameplay, though it’s not a huge loss.
What does make Bomb Rush Cyberfunk more unique are your boostpacks, which give you a burst of speed. They’re great for getting across gaps, and also allow you to do special tricks. As a method of keeping your combo going, it feels pretty solid even at speed.
Speaking of combos, that can be a little tricky to figure out at first. Unlike other skating games, your combo multiplier isn’t tied to how many tricks you pull off. Instead, you need to bank into corners during a grind or do a wallrun to increase the multiplier. There’s plenty of great lines to get your combo running high, and in the right spots, you can absolutely demolish the score meter. It does lead to Bomb Rush Cyberfunk leaning on the easy side, but it’s not a huge issue.
Skate or die
For most of your adventure, this game is a comfortable and engaging ride. But occasionally, you’ll feel the stress of the gameplay bearing down on you.
It started with the dream sequences for me. Without spoiling anything, these are key story moments that reveal a little more about the plot. Before you get to that, though, you have to take on skating challenges in bizarre landscapes with floating platforms and obstacles. The idea of a surreal skater’s heaven level is cool, but in practice, it’s more annoying than awe-inspiring thanks to odd level geometry.
Speaking of which, the levels in New Amsterdam also leave something to be desired. The art of transforming a level into a skate park is difficult, and Bomb Rush Cyberfunk unfortunately left me feeling empty on that front. The levels are designed well enough, but nothing really let me connect with the stage. Plus, some of the lines feel very confusing or non-obvious to get started, leaving the combo challenges especially cryptic sometimes.
Another area of disappointment that I was half-expecting was the boss fights. BRC isn’t the type of game that benefits from boss battles, and the ones in here don’t handle super well. Most are too simple or have complex arenas that make getting a bead on your target frustrating. Incorporating the skating gameplay into them is a great idea, but it doesn’t work as well in the heat of the moment.
Bomb Rush Cyberfunk kicks it old-school
What’s great about BRC is that it knows how to integrate a retro game into the modern era. Despite its excellently crisp visuals and tighter control scheme, it also feels retro in all the right ways. With tight skating and great aesthetics, it rises above its wonky level design and poor boss battles. We’d love to see Team Reptile tackle this kind of gameplay again; even if they don’t, they’ve crafted a labor of love that mostly succeeds on its own merits.
Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is developed and published by Team Reptile. It is available now for PC via Steam and Nintendo Switch. It will also be available for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S on Sept. 1.
Have you had the chance to rip it up in Bomb Rush Cyberfunk yet? Let us know!
Thanks to Team Reptile for providing a review key!