Thursday, April 28, 2016

What Happened to Jet Moto?

Jet Moto was a flagship franchise for Sony as the PlayStation platform rose to dominance in the late 1990s. From October 1996 to August 1999, we saw the release of three entries into the Jet Moto franchise. The first two entries in the franchise became "Greatest Hits" for the PlayStation platform, meaning that the games sold relatively well. On a personal level, the first two games made quite the impression on me when I was a pre-teen.

Three sequels in a three year window is a lot of Jet Moto. So why did it sputter out so fast? I ponder on this question and the quality of the series overall after the break, so click through whydontcha?

The first game in the series caught my eye as soon as I got my PlayStation in the winter of 1996. The console came with a demo disc and it included a trailer for the game. I knew then that I had to have this game. Here is the trailer that came on that disc:

It hit all the right notes for a 10 year old boy, XTREME SPORTS, SICK 3D GRAPHICS, GUITAR SOLOS. Sold.

Eventually, I got the game and I poured a ton of time into it, learning its secrets, perfecting the art of the grapple system in the game, memorizing track layouts and optimal paths, etc. The game was hard as hell, but at that age I didn't really care.

One thing the series does pretty quickly is give up on logic and own its sci-fi bikes. It starts out innocently enough, with the tracks taking place in swamps and on beaches, but eventually it throws everything out the window by making you climb arctic mountains and race on tracks that float in the sky above cities.

Jet Moto 2, released one year after the original, follows much of the same formula. It, too, was developed by SingleTrac. It was a solid game that continued to throw any semblance of sense out the window and do even more crazy shit, by featuring tracks that took place on roller coasters and even one that sent you from Heaven into HELL.

Of course bad ass metal music plays when you go to hell.
One of the criticisms of the first game was that it was just too damn hard. It was a common line in reviews at the time, so what did SingleTrac do? They made the sequel even harder.

This brings us to Jet Moto 3. Unlike the first two games, this game was released by 989 Studios, who stepped in with the franchise after SingleTrac began the process of shutting its doors. Looking at the reviews of this game, many seemed to enjoy the game overall and praised its graphical upgrades and the like, but like many 989 Studios games at the time, I had next to no fun playing it,

The controls and vehicles were floaty as hell and moved way too fast. You can select the heaviest vehicle in the game and it still moves like a piece of paper floating down a stream. The first two games do a great job of making each hoverbike feel like the stats attached to it were accurate. This game just felt sloppy and rushed. 989 Studios also did this to another beloved SingleTrac franchise, Twisted Metal. They took over for Twisted Metal 3 and 4 and nearly killed the series in the process.

The tracks went to several unique destinations, such as a lost city, a subway, and other planets. But the core game was so sloppy that I couldn't enjoy it.

Judging from my crappy research, Jet Moto 3 sold well initially but it didn't have the legs that the first two games had and fell off the charts relatively quickly. 989 spent two years working on a sequel called Jet Moto 2124, but it was ultimately canceled. Check out this video from the stellar PlayStation Museum on YouTube to see it in action:

In concept, it is a franchise that embodies what was cool in the late 1990s. Perhaps that is why the franchise drifted away as we moved into the 2000s. Perhaps we just go too much too fast. Or perhaps 989 Studios just wants to watch the world burn. Regardless, it was enjoyable for what it was and now that 90s nostalgia is in full force in pop culture, maybe Jet Moto will make a return to cash in.

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