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Splatoon 2 Is The Dreamcast Game I Never Knew I Wanted

I am loath to make comparisons between the commercial flop Sega Dreamcast and the commercial darling Nintendo Switch but the latest first-party offering from Nintendo on its home/portable console hybrid might as well be the home of DJ Professor K. I’m comparing, of course, the paint-splattering Splatoon 2 with the flashy Jet Grind Radio on the Dreamcast.

I could give you a surface level analysis and discuss how both games involve a metric-ton of paint sloshing but at the ‘Yard we like to go a little bit deeper. Splatoon 2 is a vibrant online shooter with compressed matches that resemble the rhythm and pointedness of Dreamcast’s library of competitive games and not just the amazing Jet Grind Radio. Ooga Booga. Outtrigger. Power Stone. Hydro Thunder. The Dreamcast is home to a healthy supply of arcade-style games that require minimal investment and an honest desire for amusement. Journalists in the ‘90s categorized the Dreamcast as the last 'hobby' console, i.e., a fun little box that - not obsessive types that like to achievement hunt and spend hundreds of hours gawking at Geralt’s platinum hair - could enjoy. The Dreamcast represented the end of an era. Its games were a testament to the hobbyist philosophy.
But let’s get back to Jet Grind Radio for a moment. In Jet Grind Radio you play as a variety of rollerblading hoodlums (as I’m sure President Trump would call them, I like to call them artists) who skate around the streets of Tokyo-to looking for areas to spraypaint their tags. In order to achieve this, you must battle a crescendo of Tokyo-to police forces up to and including a damn tank. Apparently vandalism is punishable by tank in the streets of Tokyo-to. The spraying and skating is accompanied by a funky soundtrack from DJ Professor K. Poppy hip-hop and female Japanese chanting fills your ears while you race around the cell-shaded environment.

Once you pop-in Splatoon 2 on the Nintendo Switch you’re immediately greeted by a DJ with a tentacle for a head that speaks very matter-of-fact. The DJ bounces general game information text to her cohort (who sadly doesn’t maintain a glorious tentacle head) all while a funky tune is playing. Okay. That sounds familiar. After parading through the hubworld you jump into a game and battle very mobile human/squid enemies intent on painting as much of the stage as possible.
Image credit: @pomegd
Characters in Jet Grind Radio have a very difficult time standing still. A body in motion stays in motion and a body at rest stays at rest, but I’m pretty sure everyone in Jet Grind Radio suffers from Parkinson’s disease. I’m not a medical doctor, mind you, but I am a clumsy gamer that loses balance quite often (I’m having a flashback of my recent trip to Iceland where I fell nearly face-forward through a waterfall) so I know what I’m talking about. You’ll notice that characters in Splatoon 2 suffer from the same disease. Whether they’re dancing to the beat blasting from their headphones or transforming into squid people surfing through paint, Splatoon 2 is constantly in motion. Even placid billboards in the hubworld are teeming with animation and snap, crackle and POP.
Yes, Jet Grind Radio has an indescribable POP (didn’t I just describe it in the previous paragraph?). The spirted inhabitants, the electrifying soundtrack and vibrant color palette results in an experience best described as a weird paint concoction you asked the nice gentleman from Home Depot to mix for you. Modern video games can be sobering experiences in dark, oppressive worlds. How often am I smiling while playing Bloodborne? Statistically, never. How often am I cheesing when I power up Splatoon 2 or Jet Grind Radio? Statistically, all the damn time. There’s a time and place for a Bloodborne but living in an America where people are mowed down for literally opposing bigotry and racism, sometimes it’s nice to have the type of gleeful escapism from games like Splatoon 2 and Jet Grind Radio. I promise this won’t spoil into a political discussion!
Splatoon 2 will never replace my burning desire for a modern Jet Grind Radio but it satisfies an itch that shaking a spraypaint can in the real world simply doesn’t compete with.  I like to think that the genius game designers at Nintendo spent all of pre-production mastering Jet Grind Radio and its sequel but I suspect we’ll never receive that type of declaration. Instead, the ramblings of a Dreamcast-loving madman will have to suffice.

Or Sega could simply port Jet Grind Radio to Switch. Whichever.

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