Kandagawa Jet Girls
It Started As A Curious Guilty Pleasure...
After playing Hydro Thunder Hurricane yesterday, I decided to revisit another racing game in the water, this time involving jet skis. It’s not Riptide GP, the follow-up game that Vector Unit would develop. It’s not the classics including Wave Race 64 or the Jet Moto series either. Nope, it’s the anime-inspired jet ski racing title straight from the mind of Senran Kagura’s producer himself. At first glance, Kandagawa Jet Girls is the type of game that is very direct in what is advertised.
That is to say that it’s an anime game featuring attractive anime girls as they race on jet skis. Said girls also use high pressured water guns, which can also be used to attack other riders for “vantage” situations, but, it’s clear that it’s fanservice from the moment the player boots to the opening trailer.
None of these is necessarily a bad thing as this is par for the course for the series producer, Kenichiro Takaki. Takaki is best known for producing the Senran Kagura series, a 3D beat-em-up that features attractive anime ninja girls fighting rival attractive anime ninja girls, often engaging in very risque situations. Almost as an incentive for fans of Senran Kagura to try out the game, the shinobi girls are bonus unlockable DLC in Kandagawa Jet Girls, bumping the roster to a sizable amount.
To Be The Fastest On The Kandagawa
I began this preamble to segue into the game itself, as Kandagawa Jet Girls is based on the anime of the same name and, just like the Senran Kagura anime based on the video game series, it follows the source material in its most basic form and players who wish to understand the world of Kandagawa Jet Girls would be encouraged to watch the anime, just as much as playing the Senran Kagura games are a requirement to appreciate the anime more.
The story follows two high school girls, Rin and Misa, who represent the Asakusa Girls High School, on their journey to become the best “jetters” or racers on the Kandagawa River. Their story is heavily simplified when compared to the anime, which goes into detail on Rin and Misa’s past as well as their reasoning for wanting to become jetters, to begin with. Having watched the anime first, certain scenarios that were played in the Asa Girls story were severely abridged, for the sake of gameplay, but also because the Asa Girls aren’t the only story players will have to complete.
The Game Serves As A "Behind The Scenes" For The Anime
In total there are seven stories, each featuring a specific high school that is all featured in the anime save for one. The game-exclusive team, Grindcore, is unlocked after the main six teams are complete, concluding with an epilogue, totaling eight campaigns altogether. Aside from the Asa Girls, the other characters’ stories are short in comparison, although fans of the anime will appreciate the spotlight cast on other characters that simply don’t get much airtime in the anime. While the game may abridge the main characters’ story, it makes up for it by splitting even with the other girls in the series, their motivations to become jetters, and overall giving them more personality than the anime ever did.
With that said, both the anime and the game are not going to be for everyone as the game and anime fill all of the tropes including copious amounts of fanservice and provocative scenarios. Compared to the anime, and even Senran Kagura, the fanservice has been tamed considerably, not nearly shoved in the player’s face as much, but just enough to keep its target audience occupied. Options to customize your jetters in outfits that players desire, emphasis on specific “physics,” and camera options to get “up close and personal” are all present. Minigames involving “washing your jet ski” and “swabbing the decks” also exist, in which players can earn points to buy even more outfits, accessories, and jet parts.
KJG Is Equal Parts "Kart Racer" and "Arcade Racer"
Saving the best for last, the game is a racing game after all and it’s as good a time as any to talk about the gameplay of Kandagawa Jet Girls. In its simplest form, it’s a “kart racer” at its core as several familiar elements are featured, including drifting and boosting mechanics, weapon pickups, and tricking off of ramps. However, players who take a deeper dive to explore all that the game has to offer will be surprised to know that there are several hidden layers underneath.
Each team consists of two racers, a jetter and a shooter, with the jetter piloting the jet ski and the shooter providing cover fire for the jetter. In essence, it’s like Mario Kart Double Dash with the duo/tag team element baked in, but it’s more to it than that.
Depending on the jetter and shooter combination, tricking off of ramps will grant the team unique buffs. For example, the Asa Girls team has a unique trick animation and buff that’s exclusive to them, but a member from one high school and a different high school can form a team, with the shooter providing her unique buffs to the jetter.
The Customization Between Teams, Riders, And Jets Is Incredible
Different tricks offer different results as well, which are useful depending on the circumstances the race allows. A course with technical corners will require tricks that will give your team a handling stat buff, while courses with long straights may require a speed buff. Suppose the player is shy of achieving a full boost meter? There’s a trick to increasing the rate at which your boost gauge fills. While players can enter dogfights with other teams by manually firing at them, the keys to victory rely on your team composition, how you utilize your buffs, and your jet setup.
As players complete various stories, they will unlock more parts in the shop which will increase the top speed, acceleration, and handling of one’s jet. Other parts include sharper cornering and increased top speed when the nose is pushed up or down.
KJG Starts Rough But There's A Pleasant Surprise Underneath
However, these parts don’t come cheap as each jet has a maximum capacity of parts, meaning that players will have to sacrifice one beneficial stat for the sake of another. Is it better to have a higher top end over a jet that can slice through corners? Or is it more convenient to have a higher intake of turbo boost as players drift through the waves? These answers make planning for races on top of the skill and tech that comes with achieving near-perfect lines a separate game in its own right.
The game, unfortunately, does not have the staying power as other popular games in its genre although there is a somewhat dedicated competitive community for the game. It was hard to find online matches save for Discord meet-ups and the single-player experiences wane after completing all of the story campaigns, leaving only the aforementioned character dress-up mode and time trials for players to place on the leaderboards.
Bearing this in mind, Kandagawa Jet Girls is a tough one to recommend with flying colors, as the overabundance of fanservice and cliches will turn the average gamer off. Those who persevere and stick with the title past its first impressions will be surprised to learn that underneath all of the fluff and ecchi, there’s a solid racing game with just as much creativity and competition as the Mario Kart and Crash Team Racing franchises.
Kandagawa Jet Girls is available on the PC and PS4