Bomb Rush Cyberfunk Review – The Vibes Are Strong With This One

Bomb Rush Cyberfunk Review – The Vibes Are Strong With This One

If you’ve ever heard about Jet Set Radio, it’s always accompanied by torrents of praise, which may be difficult to understand if you lack a history with it. To put it simply, this Dreamcast title’s music, presentation, and unique gameplay loop were astounding for the time, making it a highly impressionable experience for those who grew up with it.

Many projects have attempted to recapture that title’s magic, yet mimicking the past is never wise on its own. Still, the Team Reptile-developed Bomb Rush Cyberfunk has been highly anticipated as a spiritual successor that carries on the legacy of Jet Set Radio. And despite a couple of odd design choices, I’ve found the game distinct enough on its own without letting its inspirations define it.

Bomb Rush Cyberfunk initially stars protagonist Faux who, after getting freed from imprisonment by the leader of the Bomb Rush Crew, Tryce, is decapitated by the leader of the Futurism Crew, DJ Cyber. However, he’s not conventionally dead since, in this setting, some get their organic heads replaced by cyberheads. And the body of Faux is one such person, except they now go by Red. Interestingly, because the head houses the brain, Red is a different person from Faux despite housing the same body.

Following introductory preambles, Red decides to join Tryce’s Bomb Rush Crew, all in an effort to overtake the dominance of Futurism by going “All City,” meaning complete graffiti control over the locale. By achieving this feat, Red can supposedly claim Faux’s decapitated head so he can understand his “roots.”

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The narrative of Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is an unexpected high point as it boasts a pretty captivating premise right from the outset. Red’s newly formed identity is a compelling plight that is engaging enough all on its own, with the antagonists and supporting cast breathing further life into the decidedly grim tone that sets this title apart from others like it. It’s not as if the story is necessarily dreary, but the stakes and consequences feel impressively grounded, given the implemented science-fiction elements.

Still, the pacing feels all over the place at times. The way the story beats are handled, especially in the beginning hours, can feel slotted in without any effective transitions, so vital scenes can come across suddenly. Thankfully, the pacing hits a relative stride later, so you just have to be patient before you’re really hooked. The cast is similarly approached, with just a few characters standing out in the introductory segments before a handful can be eventually perceived with genuine depth.

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However, the gameplay systems are where Bomb Rush Cyberfunk truly shines. Players will find themselves skating and platforming around the boroughs of the city to paint graffiti, with excellent momentum, rhythm, and tricks accompanying these treks. Momentum is the keyword here since you’re able to build upon it from manuals, slopes, and grind rails, assuming you grasp the particulars of these movements. For instance, while grinding, you can alternate the direction you’re leaning in to gain speed boosts that successively make the process immeasurably swifter. You also have an air boost that is integral for horizontal feats when attempting to ride across parts of walls.

Summatively, the movement of Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is easily approachable yet takes a good while to master. Because aside from needing to understand the techniques at your disposal, terrain cognizance is also paramount, requiring patience, chiefly in the later areas. Still, I was never overwhelmed, as the title takes time to explain the mechanics in ways that don’t feel at all restrictive and untethered to what the actual gameplay experience is like.

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Exploring an area for graffiti and such after getting a decent lay of the land is immensely satisfying, made quicker by the implementation of a non-intrusive map that you can turn on and off at your leisure. Other tasks involve new members to recruit and finding new music to play from your phone, all coalescing to create a dangerously addictive gameplay loop.

However, there’s one avenue of gameplay that I didn’t quite enjoy much, that being the combat. While nowhere near as prominent as the skating and platforming, there are instances where you battle enemies, and it’s certainly there. Aside from select story bouts, military police can spawn once you vandalize with enough graffiti. There isn’t much to say about the battles here because they’re all dull and made bizarrely non-impactful. While the intention is to spray graffiti on foes, rendering them largely ineffective, your physical hits all feel hollow.

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For whatever reason, effective sound effects aren’t produced when hitting an enemy, which reduces the weight of these encounters by a considerable margin. You have to purposefully lower the music by a decent chunk for them to be hearable. This is admittedly speculative reasoning, but I think this may have been done to constantly highlight the music, another key facet of the game. Regardless, I don’t believe it should take precedence over something that provides continual auditory reinforcement.

Speaking of, the music in Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is by Jet Set Radio composer Hideki Naganuma. So, players can anticipate experimental hip-hop that perfectly fits the ambiance of this setting. To be candid, none of the music here is really my thing, but it’s impossible to deny how strongly it encapsulates the sort of underdog narrative and nostalgic urban aesthetic that’s pursued. The latter is bolstered by a strong, distinctive presentation that carries evident similarities with Jet Set Radio. Still, the tone and cast do enough to differentiate this entry, and the cleaner high-resolution gives the title an identity all its own.

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Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is a love letter that undoubtedly does more than enough to captivate Jet Set Radio veterans and those who have no idea what it is. Between the contextually stellar soundtrack, fantastic movement system, and intricate narrative, you’re bound to find yourself attached to some part of this experience that boasts its heart on its sleeve. Even though the combat scenarios can overstay their welcome, and the pacing can be a turn-off, looking past those faults provides a one-of-a-kind skating dream.

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