Review – Kandagawa Jet Girls

When I first read about Marvelous and XSEED’s Kandagawa Jet Girls game, I shivered. The reason was simple, this game was created by the same people behind the Senran Kagura titles. I’ve had a brief experience with this franchise and oh boy I wish I hadn’t. Both games I played, Shinobi Refle and Peach Ball, can hardly be called games. They’re nothing more than blatant fanservice, featuring jailbait waifus with the bare minimum of interactivity and gameplay to be considered viable video games. Suffice to say, I wasn’t looking forward to playing yet another game by the same developers.

However, I guess I shouldn’t always judge a book by its waifu-infested cover. Sure, Kandagawa Jet Girls is still occasionally cringeworthy, but there is a legit decent jet ski racing game in here if you can look past its layer of fanservice.

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Don’t avoid these balls, hit them! You can actually earn in-game currency to purchase new parts for your jet ski. Or a bikini, if that’s what you really want.

My guess is that someone in the Kandagawa Jet Girls dev team is a big fan of both Wave Race 64 and Mario Kart: Double Dash. This game is basically an amalgamation of these two titles, with the addition of the aforementioned waifus. There are always two pilots riding one jet ski. One being responsible for the steering and acceleration, while the other is a gunner responsible for wreaking havoc upon anyone who dares to get close to her. Although, gunners can only wield water-based weaponry. They are high schoolers after all, we don’t want to promote violence among minors.

The gameplay is a lot deeper and way more strategic than what I could have ever expected. This isn’t simply a barebones Wave Race clone with some questionable waifu themes. You need to pay attention to an energy meter that grants you temporary boosts when you fill it up by doing tricks and drifts. You have a standard (and by that, I mean weak) shooter, but you can collect different weapons just like you’d pick up an item in a Mario Kart game. You can either shoot at someone in front of you, wait for your energy meter to fill up to the maximum and unleash a special attack, or do a button combination to take control of your gunner and manually aim at racers behind you. All this while remembering to steer and accelerate at the same time.

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Let’s just say that these minigames aren’t here for you to improve your abilities as a square button masher.

Drifting also allows for you to fill up another boost meter, just like in any other kart racer released after 1992. If you jump off a ramp and perform a special trick, you’ll stay in the air for an extra second or two, allowing you jet ski to reach previously inaccessible rings that can fill your energy meter up faster. Depending on how you land, you’ll also earn more or less energy points, with a small penalty on your overall speed if you decide to briefly dive after landing. You also need to pay attention to your shield gauge. If you get constantly attacked by your foes, your shield will break and you’ll briefly lose a lot of speed and momentum. Finally, you can even buy new parts and upgrade your jet ski’s stats!

It is overwhelming at first and the overall controls are a bit too stiff for a wave racing game. However, Kandagawa Jet Girls features an extensive tutorial mode that teaches all of its mechanics in a very intuitive way. You just need to get used to the fact that you use a brake button, not the the rider’s weight and center of gravity, in order to perform sharp turns. It plays more like a kart racer than an actual jet ski simulator. This wasn’t too much of an issue once I got accustomed to the gameplay. I do wish the game ran at a higher framerate, though. I haven’t experienced any framerate issues, but it’s locked at 30fps, not 60fps, meaning that the game didn’t provide me with a satisfactory sensation of speed that’s absolutely mandatory in titles like this.

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Not gonna lie, getting a turbo boost after drifting feels super rewarding.

Kandagawa Jet Girls features an impressive assortment of content. Besides your typical free race and online modes, there are tons of different story campaigns, each one focused on a different girl duo. There is also an extensive customization mode, as to be expected on a game like this. You can edit your jet ski’s parts and looks, but the real kicker is being able to customize your waifus. The game features a nonsensical amount of clothes, hairdos, and accessories for you to play dress up with these girls. It even allows you to unlock even more items for them through some minigames, which, sadly, are less about gameplay mechanics and more about seeing breasts jiggle around…

At the risk of sounding like a prude, the amount of fanservice in Kandagawa Jet Girls is irritating. Not because of the amount of skin showcased onscreen, but because the game clearly states that these chicks are all highschoolers. Yet it freely lets you dress them up in bikinis just to see their spine-wrecking boobs fly around with physics that would make Isaac Newton question his own discoveries.

It’s nowhere near as irritating as the fanservice in Senran Kagura, thankfully enough. Unlike its stepsister, Kandagawa Jet Girls knows it’s a game and features enough normal racing gameplay to make you enjoy it as a full-fledged and occasionally quite innocent, anime wave racer. Just ignore the customization mode and pay little attention to its cutscenes. It’s not like the plot is interesting anyway.

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Yeah, well, it’s made by the same people behind Senran Kagura, what were you expecting? Kumbaya?

Behind an questionable amount of fanservice and forgettable anime plotlines, lies a surprisingly decent mix between Wave Race and Mario Kart: Double Dash. Kandagawa Jet Girls is a legit fun title with interesting strategy mechanics in its gameplay loop, some colorful graphics, and passable soundtrack. It can easily be enjoyed if you just ignore its borderline jailbait imagery. I just wish it ran at twice the framerate in order to provide a true sensation of speed, though.

 

Graphics: 7.0

The anime visuals are crisp and colorful, and the game runs at a steady framerate. Sadly, it’s a steady 30fps, not 60fps.

Gameplay: 7.0

The gameplay is pretty solid, although not as fast-paced as one would expect from an over-the-top racing game like this. There is a surprising degree of planning and strategy when racing, especially regarding the usage of weapons.

Sound: 7.0

The soundtrack is what you would expect from an anime game like this: shiny, happy, bubblegum pop. It’s not all bad, surprisingly enough. There is also a ton of voice acting, although it lies on the “exaggerated anime” side of the spectrum.

Fun Factor: 7.5

If you get past the silly fanservice and the forgettable storylines, you’ll actually realize this is a pretty robust wave racing game with a surprising amount of content and some unique gameplay ideas. I wish it ran at twice the framerate, though.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Kandagawa Jet Girls is available now on PS4 and PC.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Kandagawa Jet Girls was provided by the publisher.