The Video Game City: Jet Set Radio Future’s Skyscraper District Delivers a Bright Urban Night


Welcome to Video Game City Week. Where else would we go for our city rooftops? It must be Jet Set Radio Future.

The Skyscraper District

The level I go back to most often in Jet Set Radio Future – I’ve been going there for almost twenty years now – is also the level that has never really made sense to me. As the name suggests, The Skyscraper District and Pharaoh Park is one level that spans two areas – a honey-colored stone downtown filled with pedestrians, and then…? Well, I’ll get there.

Pharaoh Park is the track you never click on. It’s bright and a bit tacky, a bunch of little pyramids and obelisks leading up to a funny spiky building. Beneath it all is a kind of net, where you can skate around and find the whole area suspended above an endless drop, nearby superscrapers screaming down to the depths.

Mall? Crazy madness? Theme restaurant? Why are we all here? Very quickly, I tire of Pharaoh Park and head for the other part of the map.

I could spend an eternity here.

On the side. At the top of the obelisk, a grind then a jump. In front of me are a series of huge satellite dishes pointing straight up at the sky, their bowls forming platforms from which I can jump to reach the highest points of the level. That moment, by the way, a lone skater jumping between satellite dishes, might be the highlight of my games career. It’s such a wonderful thing to do.

And then there you are: the Skyscraper District. And there is no one there. The darkness and the feeling of being far above all other life. This – right here – is the best rooftop area in any video game, I’m sure. I walk around in the dark, moving from cable skyscrapers to huge construction cranes. It’s dark – it must be two or three in the morning – and the only lights are coming from the buildings I’m dancing on and from Pharaoh Park far below me.

Video game magic, suggestibility: every time I’m alone here, I get really cold – that gusty cold of the urban night.

Of course, typing everything now, I finally understand the level. I understand everything. Pharaoh Park exists to give you a place to get away, crowds to get away from, a place to move around and hang out. Pharaoh Park is the place that makes the urban non-place of the Skyscraper District so magical – so magical that I still come here after all these years, as if searching for one last elusive secret.

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