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Game Review

by Myles Gibbs,

Kandagawa Jet Girls

PlayStation 4

Kandagawa Jet Girls
Kandagawa Jet Girls is a video game adaptation of the series of the same name and follows pairs of girls in their stories of forging bonds while competing in jet races. While there's some impressive focus on fanservice and general aesthetic in this title, the almost nonexistent gameplay, and lack thereof, leaves this title severely lacking in important ways.

When I first booted up Kandagawa Jet Girls, I had no idea what to expect. I watched the first half of its anime run as a primer, and I was looking forward to seeing how they would translate the premise into gameplay. If you haven't seen the show, it centers heavily around jet racing, a sport played out in teams of two. Each team consists of a Jetter, who pilots the jet machine, and a Shooter, who brandishes a highly powered water gun and uses it to impede other teams. It becomes something of a sports/yuri anime as the duos of girls become closer in the heat of competition and lines between friendship and romance begin to blur. As a game, however, the sport at the heart of Kandagawa Jet Girls' premise has interesting and unique potential in the vein of combining a waterborne kart-esque racer and a shooter. While the gameplay of Kandagawa is ambitious and unique, it feels like it only scratches the surface of what could have been, and winds up neglecting small but important aspects of gameplay that bring down the experience as a whole. Before I focus on the lack of attention to gameplay features, I'd like to get into what Kandagawa Jet Girls got absolutely right—aesthetic and fanservice.

From the moment the game opened up, the screen was bursting with the same vibrant and bubbly personality that was so present in the show. As you navigate the colorful menus, characters enthusiastically welcome you back or voice excitement about selecting whatever feature you choose to explore. The soundtrack for Kandagawa Jet Girls is a surprisingly strong one. While it certainly has a few weaker, more generic tracks, I always found myself impressed when it was showcasing its chill kawaii EDM chops. These tunes, which commonly grace menus and story dialogue, perfectly set the mood the game is trying to evoke. The tracks are cute, youthful, and upbeat, but pleasant all the same. It's no coincidence that the music is well produced. Since you'll be spending a lot of time navigating menus to scroll through unlockable content, the music really takes center stage. These menus, notably the shop and the garage, are also where the fanservice shows up to play. Everything in this game is completely customizable, ranging from the clothes for the girls and their skin tone, hair style and color to the skins and components for the jet machines. The character models in the garage are beautifully rendered, and taking time to customize the girls to your own styles and preferences can really be a treat. Customizations also carry over to the story mode as characters talk and emote in whatever outfit you put them in during their dialogues, which can be fun initially, but quickly grew stale as I began to seek more gameplay than progressing a dialogue box through conversations I wasn't all that invested in. Most of this extra content can be unlocked and then purchased in the shop using in-game points earned in races and a handful of minigames. But this is where the accolades for Kandagawa Jet Girls end as I dig into the messiest part of this game – the actual gameplay itself.

While the concept of a water-gun jet-ski racing game sounds fun, the basic necessities for an exciting racing game are so botched here that much of the enjoyment expected from that premise is simply nowhere to be found. For starters, the controls and mechanics of Kandagawa Jet Girls' gameplay fail to convey a proper sense of momentum and speed. Any and all boosts are short-lived and quickly dissipate, and in all my time playing, I never got used to the steering. The drifting mechanic was especially egregious, and I quickly learned that I could make tight corners much more consistently by not using it at all. The shooting consists of locking stronger interchangeable guns to an auto-aim while light projectiles fire off in the direction the jet-ski faces. While it's an interesting mechanic, it's not well polished, and you'll hardly ever get the chance to use it in story mode, since the AI-controlled opponents found there are so laughably easy to overcome. After blasting off from the starting line, I would seldom see another jet-ski for the entire duration of the race. I tried to see if I could get more of a challenge in the free race mode by cranking up the difficulty, and while I certainly enjoyed myself more than in story mode, it was too harsh of a shift in the other direction – I was no match for the AI. The mode I was most excited to try out was the online mode, in which I would be able to test my customized characters, skis, and team makeups against other players around the globe. However, this mode was easily the biggest letdown of the game. While I feel it would've been a highlight had it worked, I spent over two hours waiting in various ranked lobbies for a match to no avail. The game's online mode, in its current state, can be considered completely nonexistent. As far as gameplay is concerned, the only saving grace are the minigames, which are decently animated and polished, providing a secondary means to earn points for purchasing new outfits and the like in the store.

All in all, Kandagawa Jet Girls expends its energy in all the wrong places. While it delivers in droves with regards to fanservice and atmosphere, it lacks any amount of substantial gameplay. It might appeal to certain fans who are in it purely for fanservice purposes and just want to look at some gorgeously rendered oppai in different outfits, but for folks hoping for a fun and interesting racing game, the only news I have for you is that there largely isn't one.

Overall : D+
Graphics : B
Sound/Music : B+
Gameplay : D-
Presentation : A-

+ This game is massively customizable and provides some seriously kawaii, upbeat vibes. There is a deep focus on providing players with fanservice and the aesthetic of the show is well-replicated.
This game is severely lacking in the gameplay department. The races are missing a lot of details that make racing games fun, and once you've done a few of them and played the four minigames, you've already experienced everything this title has to offer.

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