What a Rush
Have you ever been enjoying a game of Mario Kart: Double Dash!! and found yourself saying “man, I really like this game, but I wish that it took place on the water and had a roster consisting entirely of anime girls?” Nah, me either. Someone had to, though, because Kandagawa Jet Girls is very much a real thing. And, yes, it’s as ridiculous as you’d expect it to be. Then again, when was the last time Kenichiro Takaki made something that wasn’t ridiculous? Games like this one pretty much define who he is at this point. I say more power to him for sticking to his guns (to the best of his abilities) despite how things have been going recently. Anyway, you’re not here for social commentary on the video game industry; you’re here to learn about Wave Waifu 64. So let’s get on with it!
Jet Racing is Love, Jet Racing is Life
If you’re a fan of Senran Kagura games, then you’ll probably get what I mean when I say that Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ story is very similar in how it’s presented to the player. For the uninitiated, however, the easiest way to explain things is to say that the game tells a story that pays close attention to everyone involved. Technically speaking, the game does have a pair of protagonists in Rin Namiki and Misa Aoi—a racing team whose namesake is the inspiration for this game’s title. The game begins with the two meeting one another and hitting it off unexpectedly well, only to find themselves challenged by rival team DRESS, and, afterward, proceeding to challenge (almost) all of the game’s other teams and culminates into them participating in a tournament.
The Kandagawa Jet Girls may have enough protagonistic prowess to get the game named after them (or is it the other way around?), but they certainly aren’t the only ones in the spotlight. Similar to its Shinobi-centered sister series, each of the game’s seven teams get their own stories. In some ways, this kind of messes with the canon because some stories follow the same plot with different outcomes. Seeing as how a lot of games with multiple stories tend to do that, however (including Senran Kagura to some degree), I guess that that isn’t too big of a deal. Aside from that and the very end of the game, most of the stories are pretty slice-of-life (with a heavy emphasis on jet racing). They’re nothing entirely out of the ordinary, but they should suffice if you’re into this kind of thing.
While the game’s narrative is indeed important, it’s obvious that it’s not the main focus of the game; that honor would go to the girls of the game themselves. I would assume that if you’ve made as much walking eye candy as Takaki has, it would be hard to come up with new characters, especially new characters for a new IP. But I guess the ability to get past that problem is part of why Mr. Big Boobs Producer has gotten as popular as he has.
Admittedly, not every character feels entirely new. The Kandagawa Jet girls are basically just hot & cold variants on mainstream protagonist archetypes; sexy shrine maiden characters like Inori and Fuuka are a dime a dozen, and, for some reason, there’s an alternate reality version of Valkyrie Drive Bhikkuni‘s Manpukumaru-Chan walking around. But there are some pleasant surprises thrown into the mix as well. It was strangely refreshing to see ganguro-esque party girls Manatsu and Yuzu to be placed in in the spotlight for a time (although SK‘s Shiki somewhat treads this ground as well), and the Californian transfer students/hyper-weebs Jennifer and Emily were some of the funniest video game characters that I’ve seen in a long time. Sex appeal may be front and center a lot of time, but anyone who says that games like these don’t have well-written characters obviously hasn’t spent any time playing them.
All Revved Up
Despite being centered around racing, this game doesn’t act like its more traditionally-minded brethren. Once again deferring to Senran Kagura, Kandagawa Jet Girls foregoes traditional things like tournaments in favor of playing out via episodic arcs, which, in turn, are level-based. Each level plays out in a very formulaic Story > Race > Story format, which, while fine for SK, doesn’t work as well in this context. It’s not necessarily bad or anything, but when you’re used to racing games throwing several tracks at you at once, having to wait for a good ten or so minutes between each race might leave some people feeling a bit frustrated.
I’ve also got to question the way these story-related races play out. While most racing games out there continue regardless of player placement, proceeding in Kandagawa Jet Girls means coming in first. Personally, I’m okay with that. I’ve always been the type of person to restart a cup or track when I don’t win matches against the CPU. But the game makes it a little too easy on the player. Most races are embarrassingly easy—I typically finished races about 30 – 45 seconds faster than 2nd place, for reference—meaning that, aside from the handful of endgame races that, ironically, make the CPU too good, the only person that you’ll be competing against is yourself.
It seems like Marvelous was well aware of just how easy it is to win, however, because each race also includes a player rank as well as three missions for the player to compete. Player ranks, naturally, are a reflection of how good your overall performance is, with the highest grade being SSS (although it skips SS for some reason). In contrast to your opponents, obtaining the best rank on each level can be kind of challenging—something that I very much appreciated. Additionally, players are given three pre-determined missions to complete within each race. Consisting of things like going over a certain speed, performing tricks, and using different weapons, these challenges give players something fun to work toward and rewards them—usually in the form of accessories and bathing suits—when they’re successful.
Getting Into Gear
Races might be easy to win, but does that mean that racing itself is easy? No, actually, it doesn’t. My racing experience is limited to the Mario Kart franchise and the handful of racing games that I’ve reviewed for HPP, which, aside from this one, were all mediocre at best and awful at worst, meaning that I’m no racing aficionado. With that being said, however, it definitely feels like there’s a learning curve for those who actually want to get good at this game—and you don’t even need to look past the controls to see what I’m getting at.
Becoming proficient at racing in this game does take some getting used to if you’re inexperienced with games like these. Aside from going forward, going backward, and all of the other traditional racing game essentials, Kandagawa Jet Girls gives players the ability to tip the nose of their jet ski up and down on the fly, which enhances either speed or handling and diminishes the other. While it isn’t exactly a hard concept to master, doing it consistently and effectively in the middle of a race takes some practice. Furthermore, while I’m no stranger to the idea of drifting and drift-boosting, it took me a lot of practice (and several upgrades) to get to the point where I could do it reasonably well. Trust me when I say that it’s both fun and worthwhile once you can do it, though.
I also wasn’t being entirely sarcastic when I made that Double Dash joke, either. Each jet ski is operated in pairs. That, obviously, means that you have a driver. But it also means that you have a shooter! And, yes, for the most part, you operate them simultaneously. It isn’t as bad as it sounds, though. Despite consisting of two characters, each pair essentially acts as a single entity thanks to the game’s streamlined controls. The only real exception to this is when you shoot behind you, during which time your jet ski becomes AI-controlled. Don’t worry about the AI crashing or anything, though. I promise you that it’s competent! Also, you’ll most likely only need to worry about shooting behind you a lot when you’re playing against anything but the story CPUs. And playing against them is a large part of the game.
I want to finish this section by saying that Kandagwa Jet Girls is very much a game about delayed gratification (not that kind, you weirdo). A lot of time goes not only into getting a good feel for the controls, but also earning enough points through racing and mini-games to buy parts for your jet ski (or skimpy outfits, I guess). Some of it can be repetitive, and it does feel slow at times. However, once you’ve finally reached the point of having both a good skill set and a good jet ski, racing is so much fun. There was nothing more enjoyable to me than being able to make new records, and, thanks to the sizable amount of tracks that this game has, there’s a lot of record-setting to do. The payoff at the end is absolutely worth everything that you have to do to get there.
More than Just a Drop in the Bucket
Kandagawa Jet Girls might seem like it’s just a fanservice game. But that’s only part of it. Whether you love or hate games with an overflow of questionable outfits and provocative poses (not sure why you’d be playing it if you hated it, though), it shouldn’t be the only thing that you focus on with this game. Like with its sister series, Senran Kagura, there’s a legitimate game in here with some really fun and addictive gameplay. If you’re a diehard Marvelous and/or Takaki fan, you’re probably going to get the game regardless of what I say (which you should). But I also encourage people that might be a little gunshy around this kind of thing to dive in as well. After all, life isn’t any fun if you don’t let loose from time to time.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PC; Publisher: XSEED Games; Developer: Marvelous Entertainment Inc., HONEY∞PARADE GAMES; Players: 1 (Offline), 2 – 4 (Online); Released: August 25, 2020; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.