It may not have been the very first cel shaded video game, but Jet Set Radio was the game that truly brought the idea of giving 3D games a cartoon quality to the mainstream, and in doing so it became one of the defining games of Sega's ill fated Dreamcast platform.
Later games like The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, and Borderlands have broadened the audience of cel-shaded titles and today it's common place both among games targeted at young kids and more adult productions. The techniques have been improved upon, but Jet Set Radio still stands as one of the greatest examples of what cel-shading can achieve.
Developed by Smilebit, formerly known as Team Andromeda and responsible for the Panzer Dragoon series, the game was premiered at Tokyo Game Show in 1999 and as it was during the height of the Dreamcast era the hype was immense.
Jet Set Radio was the perfect blend of aesthetics with the visual style, the sense of youth culture and urban expression, along with a soundtrack that perfectly captured and underlined the vibe of the game. It was funky, catchy, and with that somewhat, strange and naïve Japanese quality.
We followed the GG's, Beat, Gum, and Tab, as they went up against rival gangs The Noise Tanks, Poison Jam, and the Love Shockers, as well as the police led by Captain Onishima. The levels saw the player tag a set number of spots to win the map, while trying to stay alive at the same time. The game required both a good sense of navigation in the sometimes cluttered maps as well as skills grinding and jumping to difficult to rach tag spots.