Whether it’s the warming sensation of the sun beating down on glistening water or the thrill of carving through waves, something is enticing about jet ski racing games. Kandagawa Jet Girls has the additional pull of surprisingly sharp and vibrant visuals, along with playful menu design featuring icons bobbing on water. Where presentation is concerned, it knows how to make a splash.
Based on a recent anime, Kandagawa Jet Girls stars a cast of feuding professional racers. They work in teams of two – the ‘Jetter’ pilots a futuristic-style watercraft, some of which are oddly angular, while the ‘Shooter’ fires water-gun style weaponry at the opposition. The weapon assortment reads like the Super Soaker 2020 summer catalogue, being a mixture of rifles, grenades, and launchers.
Make no mistake – we’re in fantasy territory here, edging on sci-fi. The tracks feature boost gates and power-up icons, while racers are protected by glowing neon shields. Giant cash-bestowing beach balls also litter the vibrantly decorated courses, which you can either plough into or use the default water gun to clear the path ahead. During combat, the majority of time is spent attacking the opposition from behind, with the camera automatically spinning around when locking on.
The story mode spans over a hundred chapters (read: races) across several character arcs, with dialogue-heavy cut-scenes taking place before each event. It’s typical anime fare – the girls talk about their hopes and dreams, settling rivalries and making friends along the way. Each race gives a score ranking, with extra stars earned by meeting certain criteria. This mode is the main campaign – elsewhere there are time trials with downloadable ghosts, online play, and a handful of ‘extracurricular’ activities which take the form of button matching mini-games.
Characters and their accompanying watercraft are both customisable too, with some upgrades improving vehicle stats. We should probably note that the girls are all rather busty and their clothing is tight-fitting – this racer comes from the team behind the Senran Kagura games.
The racing itself is considerably arcade-like. The vehicles have wide turning circles and accumulate boost when drifting via the shoulder buttons, and there’s no chance of becoming dismounted. Aside from drifting, the only other nuance is that the craft’s nose can be tilted when landing, effecting impact. A handful of simple tricks can be performed when launching off a ramp, but somewhat annoyingly, they take control away for a few seconds while an animation plays.
For a water-based racer there’s a lack of fluidity to the core mechanics. Everything here works perfectly well but feels slightly rigid, and the game’s good looks seems to be at the cost of speed.
The biggest downer is that you’re never forced to battle the elements – there are no wild and unpredictable waves. The racetracks are all purpose-designed, like a Formula One track or similar, and so the water is always calm and still. So much so that it feels like the crafts aren’t clashing with the water, but rather merely gliding along it. The only respite comes from the events with strategically placed water cannons and waterfalls, intended to propel you off course. Sadly, these events are uncommon. A lot of the tracks blur into one another too, lacking standout features.
The fact that Kandagawa Jet Girls is light-hearted and casual is both its biggest strength and its downfall. It’s considerably easy going, to the point where you don’t need to rely on weapons to win – hitting boost gates and drifting at every turn is usually enough to take pole position, leading to predictable outcomes. The lenient difficulty level isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. If you’re up for something light and arcade-like, by all means, dip a toe in – Kandagawa Jet Girls is eager to please and has a reasonable amount of content.
While we’d hesitate to call it charming, it’s one of the more comical racers of recent times too. Just don’t expect it to quench the thirst for a new Wave Race. Or even a new Jet Moto, for that matter.
Kandagawa Jet Girls is out now on Steam and PS4.