Typing Jet: The lost Jet Set Radio game?

Recently I was perusing one of my favourite subreddits - r/lostmedia - and I came across a post from a user named u/step-ladder. The post was enquiring about a little known Jet Set Radio game that was developed for mobile phones back in 2001. The game, titled Typing Jet, was released as part of a collection of Sega spin offs for the Japanese J-Phone range of devices, and prior to reading this post on Reddit I was oblivious to Typing Jet's existence. The post also makes reference to a single image (below) that is available of Typing Jet online, and as someone who loves a good mystery, I needed to know more.

Typing Jet appears to be a rather simplistic typing game, in which the player types words in order to make the onscreen character (resembling JSR favourite Beat) trick over obstacles as they approach. Several other users had posted replies, but alas the question had remained unanswered - is Typing Jet really a lost game? Inspired, I used what scant information other users had posted and off I went, tumbling down what turned out to be something of a Wayback Machine sponsored rabbit hole.

Armed with the knowledge that Typing Jet had been released alongside a title called Ulala's Channel J and a variant of The Typing of the Dead on a service called Sega Parade, I first tried searching for that name, and was served up with the url www.segaparade.com/nz. It's a dead link, and the site is not stored on the Wayback Machine either. However, using the Google 'cached' feature and several variations of the url, I was able to surface quite a bit of information on the games released. Alas, none of the hits gave me the elusive Typing Jet.

At this point, it's probably worth discussing J-Phone. Indeed, J-Phone is an interesting topic in and of itself and could probably spawn an entire article were I so inclined to research and write such a thing, but I'll keep it fairly brief in this instance, just to give a bit of context (and because I'm in no way an expert on the topic!). In an nutshell, J-Phone was a mobile phone technology launched in Japan in the late 1990s which allowed compatible devices to connect to an online service similar to iMode - a sort of precursor to high speed mobile internet such as 3G. J-Phone enabled devices could access this service via a menu, and then through a portal exclusive games, email and other online options were all accessible. It is through this portal that the games referenced above could be played, for a monthly fee of several hundred Yen a piece. According to this article, linked to in the original r/lostmedia post, the price of Typing Jet was set at ¥200 per month (which is about £1.32/$1.84/€1.51 at the time of writing).

I mention all of this because my next port of call was the J-Phone website, the url for which I gleaned from a photo posted on the Ulala Channel J Fandom page. Further down the page, there is a shot of a promotional hand held fan with the J-Phone logo and url. As you can probably tell, Columbo ain't got sh*t on me. Again, using the Wayback Machine I perused the Japanese version of the site from around the time of the release of Typing Jet, but wasn't really able to find any mention of the game - only stuff relating the differing models of handset and references to Vodafone, Sha-Mail and things called J-Sky Photo and J-Sky Editor. Interesting, I'm sure you'll agree...but not really relevant to Typing Jet.

Following this dead end, I turned my attention to some other names mentioned in the preliminary stages of this deep dive - Wow Entertainment and of course Smilebit - the developer of Jet Set Radio. I won't bore you with the details as it pretty much follows the same pattern as the rest of this nonsense - clicking on random links in Japanese, trying to find any reference to anything that looked like 'Typing Jet' and using Google Translate to copy and paste entire pages of text to see if there was any reference. 

Eventually, a breakthrough came on an archived Sega Japan page from 2002, where various games were listed alongside their release platform. Using this, I found a page detailing mobile games, and at long last (well, after about an hour of trawling random pages) I found what I was looking for - Typing Jet. Here's the page.

Both the Sega Typing Jet landing page and the dedicated Smilebit page give a pretty similar description of the game:

The Dreamcast software "Jet Set Radio", which has gained great popularity for its cool visuals and tricky actions and has won numerous awards, has been reborn as a typing game on mobile phones! Dodge obstacles with quick typing to escape from Inspector Onishima and decide on vivid tricks! Collect graffiti souls that appear in the game and get new words and other benefits!

Further, there is also a nice 'breadcrumb' description of how you would access Typng Jet from the J-Phone J-Sky portal:

If you have a Java [TM] compatible terminal of J-PHONE, access it now!

Typing Jet Access Method: J Phone Menu → J-Sky Main → Game Game → Link by Maker → Sega Parade → Typing Jet Information Fee: 200 yen per month Brilliant typing for brilliant tricks!

There are a few really tiny images too, along with an AVI video file which sadly no longer loads. And that's about it. On the plus side, these images (along with the title image above - also used at the top of this article) put to rest the notion that there is only one image available online of Typing Jet, so there's that at least.

Looking at these screens, it appears that correctly matching the words which appear initiates a familiar yellow can of spray paint as a drawing/writing cursor; and you can clearly see Inspector Onishima's grinning mug at the bottom of the screen, hot on the tail of Beat. I'm also guessing the S and the G denote the start and the goal of the stage in question.

The TL;DR version of all of this is that after an hour or so of traipsing around cached Google pages and the Wayback Machine, I eventually discovered several long defunct pages detailing Typing Jet. There's even a (dead) link to a promotional video on one of them. Alas, the actual game file - the thing the OP of the initial r/lostmedia post was asking about - does not appear to be hosted, and that's probably because it was only available through the J-Phone portal. A bit of an anti-climax, I know. I did find a huge dump of Java mobile games on the Internet Archive and went through each file searching for Typing Jet...but alas it is not included.

As a bit of an addendum to this whole thing, after a bit more digging around I did discover a 2015 tweet from Hideki Naganuma referencing his involvement with Typing Jet (above), which in turn references this rather brilliant 2014 deep dive on the wider Jet Set Radio series from our friends over at SEGAbits.

So yeah. This is by no means the first article ever published on Typing Jet, but hopefully this trip into the depths of long forgotten websites will at least have entertained if nothing else. Oh, and turned up some new images of this most enigmatic of sojourns to Tokyo-To. Finally, to answer the question posed at the very start of this article (and in the r/lostmedia thread): it appears that yes, Typing Jet is indeed lost to the mists of time.

Unless anyone out there still has a working J-Phone device with Typing Jet somehow stored on it, that is...


Christopher Morin said...

Hehehe, cool. I was expecting an actual typing game, which had me worried what with not many phones at the time actually having keyboards. But from the screenshots it looks more like you are tracing characters with a keypad instead?

Christopher Morin said...

Hehehe, very interesting. I was actually expecting a typing game, but from the screen shots, it looks more like you were using the control pad to trace characters?

Anonymous said...

This game had a story mode and was it located in a city? I remember it with a style of missions similar to gansta crime city. You had to do graffiti, errands, etc. And it was in Spanish. I don't know if it's this game or it was similar, maybe some information appears on a page in Spanish.