Kandagawa Jet Girls promises exciting races through Tokyo’s waterways on futuristic jet machines, with aquatic-themed weaponry to blow your opponents out of the water. Will this anime jetski racer sink or will it swim?
I’ve been incredibly excited about getting my hands on another water racing game. My love for videogame water and arcade racing is a well-kept secret to literally no one and you can add a keen interest in anything anime unto the list of things that made this game appealing to me.
There is apparently also a full-blown Kandagawa Jet Girls anime available out there, but I haven’t had the pleasure of encountering it on TV or any of the streaming websites I frequent yet. This should perhaps give you some kind of hope that there is a decent story to be found here, but sadly that wasn’t present in the game.
The game’s single-player is split up into 8 girl-pairings, each representing their own school. You play through 8-12 chapters per storyline that each have a single race with some conversations before and after them. (expect a ton of loading screens in between them)
While the girls themselves have varying personalities, they do stay within the typical anime schoolgirl tropes and the story itself doesn’t take any risks. Their motivations rarely exceed “I want to be the best Jetracer” and there is rarely a real conflict to be seen.
The total range of characters that you’ll see talking is regrettably limited to the 16 female racers that you can play as. Luckily, they’re all fully voiced in Japanese and the cutscenes aren’t overly long, so they don’t really feel like they’re dragging on. You just don’t really care about the characters and their fate as much as you should. I found myself skipping past some of the dialogs after the 3rd story arc.
But perhaps we’ve spent too much time talking about the story in a game all about exciting jet-fueled wave-races? Let’s get down to the gameplay!
You control both the racer and the gunner in Kandagawa Jet Girls, but this takes almost no time to get used to. The controls are responsive enough for the most part, but I did find myself avoiding the drifts because those would lead me to crash into the sidewalls and the boost in speed gained from it was rarely worth it.
Instead you’ll be weaving between boost pads and needling through gates to pick up extra EDP charges with a few ramps in between to perform trick jumps on. The EPD you collect can then be used to boost when needed, or you can save it up for a special attack once you reach a 100% full bar.
You also have water-based weapons that you can pick up along the way to attack your opponents with, but there was rarely any need. You see, the game offers almost no resistance whatsoever and you’ll have to actually make an effort not to finish first. I’ve even tried giving the other girls a 20 second head-start and still manged to take the gold medal. On the other hand, I do appreciate the lack of any rubber banding for a change.
Because of the above, I found myself attacking the opponents behind me more often than any that had surpassed me in the race. You can aim backwards at any time and press the square button to use your equipped weapon. Though getting their shield down and hitting them enough times to actually stop them in their tracks does take a considerable amount of hits.
As I mentioned before, you can also save your EPD bar to 100%, which will allow you to unleash a special attack based on your current weapon. It has a really short animation and I felt like it could have used a Burnout like camera to show the damage you wreak on the opponents. That would have gone a long way to give them more of a noticeable impact.
Funny enough, I found the best Special to become available when you have nothing equipped at all: It’ll provide you with a prolonged boost that will increase your lead by another 10 seconds.
Each race does have a few optional missions that may motivate you to play with a certain style, ranging from maintaining a certain speed, to used X amount of weapons or avoiding them. As a reward, you’ll get a cosmetic item to customize the girls with.
Your vehicle will also receive parts and upgrades as you win more races, giving you more speed or allowing you to make sharper turns. The strange thing is that you have to buy these from a well-hidden shop nested somewhere in the main menu. I only discovered it after playing through the first two storylines and seeing various “new parts available in the shop” prompts.
Similarly, you’ll get a ton of new outfits for the girls to equip, both their casual wear as their racing ensembles. I was hoping for the girl-duos to each have their own strengths and weaknesses, but they all control identically with the only difference being their appearance and their special jump animation.
Visually the game has its ups and downs. The character models are simply amazing and while the “bouncy” bodyparts may be exaggerated, it’s hard to look away.
Sadly most of the tracks didn’t get the same amount of attention: the majority of them are just flatwater races with only a few jumps & floating balloons to add any flavour. Don’t expect exciting spectacles like you’d see in Hydro Thunder for example. The final chapters did start including more colour variation and some extravagant jumps, I just wish there were more of these.
After playing through four complete storylines, I found myself getting tired of the gameplay as I never felt challenged at all. There are some neat mechanics here, especially those super attacks, but they never come into play against the AI opponents. At the time of writing, there were no people playing online to test against and there was also no split-screen multiplayer, so I turned to the minigames for some distraction.
The score attack was just the same jumps from the main game again, and with only 4 different ones to use, I quickly grew tired of it and maxed out the challenges in no-time. Luckily the three other minigames offered some variation. You have a deck-wiping obstacle course, running on a trainer and my favourite: washing your jet. Again, the difficulty here is surprisingly low and I managed to clear the hardest variation with an SSS rank on the first attempt. At least it was fun while it lasted.
On paper, a jetski racing game with anime storytelling slapped on sounded like a dream come true, but an overly easy difficulty destroyed any chances of truly having fun. When all is said and done, Kandagawa Jet Girls really only has the attractive titular women going for it, so if that’s your cup of tea, you may still find some enjoyment in this title.
*Disclosure: a PS4 review copy was provided by the publisher.
Prefer to see the game in action? We’ve got you covered: