When working with a producer and game developer well-known for taking standard elements and putting a sexy or unique twist to them, there comes a certain level of expectation and this is especially true when it comes to Marvelous and Kenichiro Takaki who began work on Kandagawa Jet Girls as part of a multimedia project before leaving the company. This led to an anime debut for the jet-ski racing series prior to an eventual video game release in Japan earlier this year and now the title has made its way to Western shores. By already placing a number of female characters on jet-skis, it seems like Kandagawa Jet Girls is already poised to please fans of fan-service games but does it falter at the starting line?
Players are initially introduced to Rin Namiki and Misa Aoi, a pair of girls that, through happenstance and encountering a quick rival, decide to form a team together to take part in the popular Jet Racing sport with Rin being the Jetter and Misa handling the Shooter role. With Rin finding her dream of being a racer and Misa finding the shine of racing once again, the pair form the Kandagawa Jet Girls club and find themselves encountering a number of other racing pairs that are all after the coveted cup won through a series of tournament races.
In many ways the story of Rin and Misa serve as both the core storyline for Kandagawa Jet Girls as well as the introduction to the rest of the cast as the majority of their story episodes feature the pair coming across another pair of girls that they haven’t met before and racing against them for either practice, the rights to see who gets to see a mythical creature, and plenty of other odd reasons. These two girls do feature enough development on their own to be worthwhile but thankfully players will eventually have the options to play as the rest of the racing pairs’ storylines as well.
It is interesting to note that this does mean that everything that happens is far from “canonical” as some team storylines contradict what happens in another but this isn’t really an issue in any form. What really helps make these storylines shine, especially since they serve as the bulk of the game, are the way that the characters are portrayed and handled as they are not only well-written but feature quite a fittingly eclectic group of racers as well.
While the main pair of characters are fairly standard for a sports style series such as this one and there are a few other cookie cutter archetypes mixed into the group, the real standouts come in the form of a pair of American transfer students who have some of the best interactions with the rest of the cast as possible and the unique factor of seeing a gyaru style team set-up as well. This serves as a fairly unique set of personalities to come into contact with one another and makes for some rather humorous interactions.
Players will find that Kandagawa Jet Girls has a few different modes to play, though most of their time will be spent in the story mode as it features the majority of the unlocks for additional story content, customization options, and more. Outside of the story mode there are custom free races that can be modified in various ways and raced as whoever the player wishes, online multiplayer races, and the dressing room/garage that features mini-games that can be used to purchase customization pieces.
The racing in the game is fairly easy to learn and the game offers a solid tutorial, should players wish to try it out, that teaches them the ins and outs of how to properly control their watercraft. While standard racing techniques such as drifting around corners to build a boost and nailing various boost pads are second nature to many fans of arcade racers, Kandagawa Jet Girls also features a variety of stat boosting tricks that can be performed off of jumps that vary depending on the Jetter and Shooter that are paired up as well as the ability to control the angle of the watercraft’s nose to either point up or down while driving.
An upward facing nose allows the racer to go faster at the cost of control as well as land jumps smoothly while a downward facing nose will be a bit slower but allow for easier turning and a “dolphin dive” upon landing a jump that awards “EPD.” This EPD is used for a variety of factors, though players will likely only use it to trigger a temporary boost for the cost of twenty points, but a fully charged meter can be used to trigger a special attack with whatever weapon the player’s shooter is currently holding.
As mentioned before, every racer is set as a pair and while one girl is driving, the other is the shooter and players will control both at the same time through fairly simplistic controls. Players can shoot standard blasts of water at any time with one press of a button, though there is a reload required here, but while racing various other types of weapons can be picked up as well. These weapons can be targeted and locked on either to racers in the front, or in the back with the player taking control of the shooter here and the AI handling the racing. The AI is fairly smart when it comes to driving on its own but players shouldn’t give them too much leeway.
That being said, despite how solidly the racing controls once players get the hang of it and the simplicity of combat, it really doesn’t play too much of a factor into most of the actual game itself. The weapons that players use generally all have the same feeling to them unless a super move is used and this can generally only happen more than once on longer races and even then, it would require an opponent to actually be near you to matter. Nearly all of the story races that players will encounter in Kandagawa Jet Girls are far too easy to win to the point that, especially with an upgraded Jet Machine, it was easier to simply lap opponents and take an extra shot at them rather than trying to stay with the pack and see some action.
The game does try to offer extra challenge by providing various mini-missions in every race that, when all three are completed, unlock an item in the shop but it is disappointing to see that the only real challenge the game has to offer is when the player sets it up themselves either through performing poorly on purpose in story mode or setting up a difficult race in the aforementioned Free Race or Time Trial modes since currently the online matches seem to be impossible to find at the time of review.
Outside of the racing itself, players will find that there are a ton of customization options available to them through the dressing room as well as the garage. Every Jet Machine has unlockable parts that increase things such as speed, acceleration, handling, and provide unique boosts as well as plenty of cosmetic upgrades to create a machine that best fits your style. As for the dressing room, there is a rather shocking lack of interaction here compared to what fans of the Senran Kagura series may be used to an while there are certainly plenty of skimpier outfits available, even fans of pervier elements of past games will find the selection here lacking even though the customization itself is still nice and in-depth as one may expect.
All of the items purchased through either the dressing room or the garage must be done so using points made from races or mini-games though, oddly enough, a single mini-game can award as many points as an entire story’s worth of races. These mini-games feature a button-matching Jet Machine washing that is about as lewd as the game gets, an odd deck-mopping running game, and a button mashing treadmill running game that give players a chance to spend more time with their favorite characters but mostly serve as a way to earn more points.
Visuals & Audio
The highlight of Kandagawa Jet Girls is of course, the character designs as the developers have gone all out on making sure that the characters are as outstanding looking as possible. As mentioned before, there are a large amount of customization options for every character and the water crafts also can be customized to a certain extent with visual decals and even special effects once the player manages to unlock them. The presentation of the races is solid enough though there could be a bit more track variety to keep things feeling fresh and while there are some water effects that happen when coming off of jumps, it is disappointing that the water has almost no physics involved with it. It is also worth noting that fans of Marvelous’ other fan-service style games will be disappointed to hear that there is no type of “dress-break” of any kind as even damaging an enemy with a weapon only breaks their shields and slows them down with no actual visual change to the characters.
The release of the game in the West has retained only the original Japanese voice track for the game but thankfully all of the characters have seen the return of their original voice actresses back when the anime debuted so longer fans of the series will be happy in this regard and shockingly every bit of dialogue, even spoken by opponents while racing, is subtitled which is a real treat as many other developers do not go that extra mile. As for the soundtrack there is a solid collection of fitting tunes to race to though nothing that really stands out too much outside of the opening theme.
With a great cast of characters and a solid enough storyline full of humorous interactions, Kandagawa Jet Girls delivers a solid story spread across numerous storylines giving each of the racing pairs a chance to shine. The racing itself ends up being a bit too easy most of the time, making its many interesting mechanics something of a moot point unless players challenge themselves through free races. There may not be as much fan-service that fans of the developers are familiar with but customization options are still as plentiful as ever in this arcade racer that may not be much of a challenge but has plenty of unique elements that could easily have shown brighter in a more polished package.