Publisher: XSEED, Marvelous
Platform: PS4, PC(Steam)
Price: $49,99 USD
Release Date: August 25th, 2020
A completely new IP by the makers of Senran Kagura, which you probably already knew because it’s written all over the advertisement. Whether that is a positive thing is up for debate but it does help get across what Kandagawa is about. Cute girls in swimwear.
Kandagawa Jet Girls is a cross-media project that also includes an anime project(that has already aired). The plot is fairly simple, it’s a sport anime about girls racing in jet skis while firing water guns at each other. The cute-girls-do-cute-things genre is well known and established genre in anime and games. Could this IP become the new hotness?
The single player mode is split into arcs, each telling a narrative from the perspective of each of the rival schools. The stories are not interconnected and each exist in their own timeline where that particular school wins the Kandagawa Cup.
It’s here that we find one of the major issues with this game: the plot and narrative are terrible. Usually I would refrain from using such a strong word but this time, it is the truth. The characters, their motives, and the events that take place are so simple, straight forward and stereotypical that it comes off as lazy and uninspired.
It’s comical how bad the writing, characterization and narrative unfold. Not in a silly and deconstructive sense, but rather in a dumb, saturday-morning cartoon way. It adds nothing to the gameplay, everything is just an excuse for Jet Racing.
Even if a game has a bad plot, it can still be salvaged by having interesting characters. But alas, none of that can be found here. Each of the schools represents a different character stereotype. You have shrine maidens, the sheltered ojou-sama with an accompanying maid, a gyaru duo, and even an idol group that’s into Jet Racing for some reason.
As you read through each arc the only thing you find out about each of those characters is how they’re nice people and they love Jet Racing, nothing else. Half of the characters don’t even have backstories.
It’s not like I was expecting a masterpiece but my already shallow expectations were not met. It feels like several steps down compared to Senran Kagura where, although all characters also fit stereotypes, they had enough secondary traits and sufficiently colorful personalities that made them memorable and likeable.
Fundamentally, Kandagawa Jet Girls is a Drift Boost Racer, meaning that drifting results in a boost exit out of curves. On top of that you have a kart-racer style of combat, where you pick up consumable items and use them to thwart your adversaries. On a technical level it is decent racing game. However….
There is never any reason or opportunity to use any of these systems. And here we have the #1 flaw in Kandagawa Jet Girls, the fact that the game is so braindead easy that it’s not enjoyable. I never had to use any weapon or tricks or drift boosts, just steering lazily through the courses is enough to win every race with 30 seconds advantage over the next racer.
It was jarring. I kept looking for a difficulty selector option somewhere in the game, hoping I was stuck on easy mode. There wasn’t one, the game is just completely unbalanced. There wasn’t even a single moment where I felt threatened by other racers, you just spend 5 minutes racing all alone until crossing the finish line in first place, every time.
This totally killed any enjoyment I could have gotten out of this game. Advancing the story arcs became a boring chore because it involved finishing 10 races where nothing happens. You boost past everyone in the first stretch and never see them again.
There’s an assortment of mini-games you can do in order to acquire currency. A rhythm game, a button masher and an obstacle course. I thought it was an alright feature but after I got the trophies for them, I just forgot they existed altogether.
Speaking of currency, you’ll need a lot of it in order to buy all the jet ski parts and character cosmetics. The modules seem to fit every character, meaning that if you buy a suit or hair style, it becomes available on everyone. There’s an almost redundant amount of customization that can be done. Colors, decals, effects and more.
Sound and Graphics
By reading this review so far it should have already been made clear that I did not enjoy playing this game. The most regrettable thing is that I desperately wanted to enjoy it because everything about the presentation was excellent.
The courses are nothing short of beautiful. I won’t comment on the track outline because I’m no expert in racing games but I absolutely loved the feel and aesthetic of the game world. The scenery around tracks is a mixture of modern urban, traditional Japanese and tropical nature. Despite the low quality graphics it just has so much soul and style poured into it.
And then there’s the user interface. I love the bouncy and artistic feel in all the menus. There isn’t a whole lot but ironically, it feels like the most polished aspect of the entire game. The loading screens could be a bit long sometimes but it wasn’t too bad. Overall it’s one of the best UIs I’ve seen this generation.
Character models look fine. They aren’t terribly complex because we’re talking about a low budget game but I’ve seen worse. I liked the music a lot, it was catchy and memorable. The game is fully voiced by a talented cast.
The terrific presentation and themes are bogged down by the mind-numbing boring gameplay and the negative quality writing. It’s a rare for me to not be able to force myself to play a game to the end but this time I just couldn’t. Maybe if the AI could put up a challenge I might have liked it enough to not wish I could get my time back.