Kandagawa Jet Girls comes to us from the people behind the Senran Kagura games, and although those roots are visible this is a very different gameplay experience. Out now for the PlayStation 4 and PC (through Steam), we playtested the game on a PS4.
As with the Senran Kagura games, Kandagawa Jet Girls features plenty of young anime-style girls, but although they bring plenty of curves this is a game that doesn’t rely on over-sexualization and being provocative nearly as much as Senran Kagura. Instead, this feels more like a jet ski racing game with a sprinkling of that other franchise as an attempt to cater to that niche audience.
Looking past the racing, there’s also a narrative that is based on a dozen episodes of a recent anime focused on the girls and teams taking place in the sport of jet-based water races. I hadn’t seen the anime prior to playing Kandagawa Jet Girls, but there is plenty of story content to introduce you to the core elements of the narrative within the game. Basically there are teams that, despite healthy rivalries, compete against each other while also interacting with each other outside of the races.
Issues can occur within a team as well, as the driver and shooter (each jet ski has a water gun mounted to it) don’t necessarily get along. This really only applies to situations outside of a race though, and these relationships don’t affect how the game plays outside of the visual novel-type sequences that unfold in between racing events. Outside of the campaign events, you can also mix and match with these characters, and although characters are pre-defined in terms of personality, you can customize their look with a selection of accessories and styles (which you’ll need to unlock by playing).
The racing itself isn’t great though, and made me yearn for the days of games like Splashdown or even the more recent Aqua Moto Racing Utopia. The difficulty level feels off in Kandagawa Jet Girls, with a lack of challenge that makes too many events feel like you’re just phoning it in. This is a shame, because there are plenty of fun mechanics to play around with. Performing a long drift or pulling off a stylish move in the air earns you potential boosts or even super attacks, but the reality of many races is that you end up not needing either one.
This makes racing less exciting that it should be, and the physics model for the water also doesn’t seem to allow you to make use of someone else’s slipstream or push them off balance with a well-timed wave of your own making. As a result, this feels like a game that doesn’t capitalize on the genre it’s in and ends up feeling like a formulaic racer.
With a bit more polish on the racing side of things, the narrative elements and Senran Kagura-inspired presentation could have made this a real cross-over product to drive in racing fans while also catering to longtime Senran-fans. Now, the end result will most likely satisfy neither, just offering a brief but lackluster alternative that’s stuck in the middle.