A Kandagawa Jet Girls review for the PlayStation 4, here’s Marvelous’ Games latest title that spawns from a recent anime series.
First an anime, Kandagawa Jet Girls initially follows the story of Rin and Misa in their pursuit to be the champions of jet racing. Rin’s mother was a legendary jetter (essentially the driver of a 2-person jet ski), and the schoolgirl wants to follow in her mother’s success.
Building their bond through one race after the next, dashing through the jet racing circuits of Japan, they soon become inseparable and more like each other than they had first thought. Yeah, but how does the game play out, eh?
Kandagawa Jet Girls Review
I feel like a bit of a goon admitting this, but Kandagawa Jet Girls is one of the few games where I’ve been unable to stick with the tutorial. The shooting element was so infuriating that I genuinely lost my composure.
In a game where you take charge of two players with just one controller, you’re limited to what you can do. There was the tease of an over-the-shoulder shot when aiming, but doing this while maintaining the lead ends up being a little irksome.
This wasn’t the main issue however, instead it was the constant spinning out. Your vehicle has a shield and once down, you’ll slow right down, which is understandably a handicap that you can play to your advantage on the AI, but awful when it happens to you. Each time I lined up a shot and either tapped circle to fire my gun or square to use a special weapon, I would be hit by a sniper rifle and spin out.
After what seemed like 15 minutes on one tutorial section, I was ready to bail on the game, but thankfully I could bypass the training and start the story mode. I’m glad I stuck with it, and a cautionary tale that if you can overlook this, Kandagawa Jet Girls is better once you get into it.
In the story, you take on rival schools of jetters and shooters, and the races are mixed with visual novel segments. Not my forte, but the artwork is top-notch, and putting the cute talk to one side, the rivalry between teams was alright.
You don’t have a say in these dialogue sections as they’re more like cutscenes, but it adds to the story and the character development between each team. By the time you start the races, you’re invested enough to go and win.
Each team consists of a jetter and a shooter. The jetter controls your jet machine (read ‘jet ski of the future’) and the shooter, well, I’ll give you a hint: they don’t play the piano. Predominantly you control the jetter by default but can switch to either an auto or manual third-person viewpoint of the shooter and attack your pursuers.
Controls are much like any other type of racing game: R2 accelerates, left and right steers, and you have a nitro boost with the cross button. You can push up and down to increase or decrease your speed, potentially sacrificing how the machine handles if you’ve got the nose up (it makes you go fractionally faster).
In these authentic places in Japan (I lived there for some time and familiar with the locations – let’s say the circuits are on the imaginative side), you speed through various rivers that feature ramps, rings and boosts to add a bit of variety into each race.
With the ramps, you can perform some tricks by pressing the analogue sticks in multiple directions to pull off a set-piece that is ranked on execution, handling and speed. With that in mind, there’s a lot of score-taking in the game.
Lower Back Complaints
Other than obviously winning, each race has three goals, or missions to complete. These vary from coming in first place, not using a weapon, attacking all other racers and much more. If you complete all three missions, represented by a star, you unlock a new accessory or piece of clothing.
The unlockables in the game play a significant part as you can customise your characters by changing their clothing, hairstyles and give them accessories that you can place around their necks, arms, etc. More importantly, you can upgrade your jet machine with better battery capacity, acceleration and, of course, decals.
Customisation in Kandagawa Jet Girls is insane and reminds me a little of Code Vein, minus the hair porn. I misunderstood the story initially thinking that the ‘Kandagawa Jet Girls’ were the starting characters Rin and Misa so customised them first, little realising that you play all of the girls through various character arcs.
Getting back to customisation, you can switch out signature looks from other teams and save them as presets to use on other players. It’s all very cool, but, here comes the dad bit; I wished they’d toned down the jubblies.
There’s clearly a market for manga and anime and the schoolgirl aesthetic. Name dropping again, when in Japan, it was the norm to see this sort of stuff everywhere, but there’s something that feels a bit too deviant about seeing schoolgirls with norks the size of beachballs wobbling each time they only fractionally move.
Kandagawa Jet Girls is a good game, and yes, I’m including the visual novel bits in that, but I just found that the ecchi elements a bit too much – especially when I had got my kids to play it, who liked it. There’s no violence, blood and guts or profanity in it, but this was a little overkill and made Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball look like Teletubbies.
Same Track Different Day/Team
The actual racing part of the game was the best bit – which is a good sign. While Wave Race 64 still feels like the benchmark for me, Kandagawa Jet Girls is satisfying to play when holding L2 to drift around the corner and receive an additional boost or charging up your special to fire a tornado or watermelon missile to wreak havoc on your opponents, though it does rely more on your upgrades than skill.
I eventually got the hang of the shooting side of things, but perhaps missed out on that part a bit and focused more on the racing – dodging attacks and maintaining speed. The canal-like waters of Japan certainly looked the part.
There are a decent amount of tracks, and they have a good deal of variations too as they can be played at different times of the day and follow alternative routes. Of course, when you play through each arc which is split into a dozen or so chapters, you get to pick out the characteristics of the other girls with their special moves or their signature jet machine.
Between races and customising your characters and machines, there are also mini-games available, time attacks, free mode and online play. Kandagawa Jet Girls resembles it’s lead characters somewhat in their wetsuits as it’s so full of extras that it’s almost bursting out the front.
Ignoring the tutorial (which I still haven’t revisited), once I got into my third consecutive race, I binged each arc in rapid succession as it was just so enjoyable, if a bit of a grind at times. Do note that there are a lot of loading screens in the game which slows down the progression just a tad, but the races are worth it.
Outside of the somewhat surplus shooting sections and the sheer frustration of hitting a wall and having to turn around, losing multiple places in swift succession, the handling of the jet machine is decent enough and makes a nice change to the typical driving game.
In terms of replay value, there’s so much on offer here, but does err on the repetitive side. While I would have liked to have seen a local split-screen mode, the AI is reasonable enough, and there are many trophies to unlock through a multitude of time attacks and rankings (SSS anyone?!) that Kandagawa Jet Girls will keep you going for some time.