After three long years, Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is finally nearing the finish line. Developer Team Reptile first announced this spiritual successor to the Jet Set Radio series (because for some reason Sega just won’t do it) back in July 2020. It suffered a series of setbacks since then, being pushed out of its 2021 launch window as a timed Nintendo Switch exclusive in 2022, before being delayed once again in August 2022 to the vague window of summer 2023. Now slated for release on both Switch and PC via Steam, the game showed off a hands-on demo at the Day of the Devs booth at GDC 2023, where I had the chance to take it through its paces.
"Shape Da Future"
As a refresher, Bomb Rush Cyberfunk plays pretty much exactly the way you expect a funky-fresh Jet Set Radio sequel would. It stars a graffiti writer named Red whose head is replaced by a robotic one, in perhaps a nod to Cantido Joseph Nandaba from the anime FLCL, and joins the Bomb Rush Crew in search of his roots. Along with members Tryce and Bel, he hopes to tag the walls of New Amsterdam while discovering the one responsible for removing his head. If Red can spray graffiti all over the city — and look stylish while he does it of course — his crew will earn the Rep they need to gain control of the streets.
The demo I played didn’t go through much of the story at all, choosing instead to throw me straight into the deep end in what was essentially a free mode. Between the inside of a wide-open shopping mall and an adjacent lot that was pretty much a skate park where Red’s crew hangs out, I had plenty of space to shred. A handy boost meter also lets me dash quickly around the map and connect tricks together that wouldn’t normally be feasible.
"Humming The Baseline"
Whether I put on some inline skates, hopped onto a BMX-style bike, or rode a skateboard, I found tricky lines where I could grind rails and power lines while popping sick manuals and 360-degree tricks for long strings of stylish combos. One time, I defied gravity by grinding up a pole, following the rail around sharp corners, jumping and boosting across a gap, wall-riding across a billboard, and then launching myself up a half-pipe. If I found any spots where I could spray a tag, all it took was getting close to the highlighted spot and moving the thumbstick around in a quick mini-game to cover the area.
In the middle of a run, I was able to stop and pop open the navi-menu, which acts like a smartphone, to change outfits or music tracks. I could grab CD collectibles spinning around each level to broaden the selection of tunes as I progressed through the demo. If I wanted to switch up my gear, I could head back to the hideout, where the bike, skates, and skateboard were all patiently waiting for me to take them out for a spin.
On the downside, the demo didn’t show how the police mechanics work. In the Jet Set Radio series, the cops chase after you and try to grab you from behind to choke you out. They’ll even send police vehicles, dogs, and helicopters to try and stop you from vandalizing public spaces. Several screenshots of Bomb Rush Cyberfunk reveal that there will be cops wielding batons and one enemy in particular who wields a high-tech sniper rifle while wearing riot gear and a helmet with four creepy red lights. It looks like there will be a heat-based threat system, like in Grand Theft Auto, where the militarized police will scale up its response as Red continues to tag each of the five boroughs of New Amsterdam. How this system all works in practice, though, is still by and large a mystery.
Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is scheduled to arrive in Summer 2023 based on a tweet from Team Reptile. However, on Steam the release date is Q3 2023, while it’s TBD on the game’s official entry on Nintendo Switch. So while the release platforms are clear, the release dates still aren’t. Hopefully, these details will be ironed out and synced across platforms soon.
This preview is based on a hands-on PC demo provided by the publisher at GDC 2023.