Kandagawa Jet Girls is the latest game from the studio that brought you the long-running series of games about scantily clad ninja girls – that’s right, suckers, you’ve been tricked into reading a Senran Kagura review! Well, kind of. This time they’ve ditched the world of ninja school girls for water jetbike racing school girls, but in any ways, Kandagawa Jet Girls feels right at home in the lineage of Senran Kagura.
Both focus on multiple schools that are home to school girls with incredible talents in whatever their respective games are about, and Senran Kagura even previously dabbled in a similar setting with their water-gun focused third-person shooter spin-off Peach Beach Splash. Kandagawa Jet Girls, unfortunately, also shares an all too common trait with the Senran Kagura series; an impressive gameplay idea that is ultimately under baked and cracked at the seams.
Set in near-future Tokyo, the hottest sport around is high-tech jet races through unnaturally large urban waterway courses. Plenty of people across the country come from a storied lineage of jet racers, and protagonist Rin Namiki wants to make that kind of name for herself too. She teams up with reluctant classmate Misa Aoi to make that dream a reality, because jet-racing requires both a Jetter to pilot and a Shooter. Much like the double duty of Mario Kart: Double Dash, you’ll be controlling both athletes during your races.
At first, this proposition seems a little daunting. Having to navigate highspeed waterways and jump pads while performing tricks and drifts to boost my speed seemed like enough to wrap my head around. The added layer of shooting is a lot to handle on top of that. The default gun shoots wherever the front of your jetbike points, but you can also hold down a button to let your driver automatically steer through oncoming pathways while you aim your shooter more precisely. It’s something that, with enough practice and execution, can eventually become second nature to you as you blast away enemy shields to slow them down on your cruise into victory.
Unfortunately, the game rarely gave me the chance to earn that kind of experience or practice. Races throug most of the story mode in Kandagawa Jet Girls are mind-numbingly easy. I have plenty of experience with racing games, but I’ve never experienced AI lenient enough to let me beat them by nearly a full minute. Most races had me reaching first place and staying there within a dozen seconds, never having anyone to even fire a gun or special ability at for the duration of the race.
The opposite issue came to pass when I tried hopping into free races. There are three difficulty options here, but these options don’t dictate race speed or AI skill. Instead, they simply equip the opponents with better jetbike upgrades that automatically make them go faster than you, meaning that until you unlock the same upgrades for your own bike, you simply will not be able to catch up to them in any way, shape, or form.
Another major issue with the gameplay is that it just does not feel great. You would expect futuristic jet-skis to give you a wild sense of speed and ultra-smooth control, but racing in Kandagawa Jet Girls feels like you’re racing through pudding. Taking corners feels like you’re moving at two miles per hour, and even activating boosters and going over jet pads barely adds to the sense of speed. Even when you’re rocking those impressive end-game bike upgrades, it doesn’t do much to make the races feel as swift or responsive as they should be.
I struggled to come to terms with how frustrating the gameplay of Kandagawa Jet Girls is, because everything else about the game is an absolute delight. Menus have gorgeous, sleek designs and every screen and races are accompanied by bright and energetic music that I can’t get out of my head. Plus, I’m a sucker for customization, and Kandagawa Jet Girls has it in spades. You can customize the outfits, hairstyles, accessories and color coordination of every character, and even equip a bunch of skins, decals, and particle effects on your bikes.
Better yet, Kandagawa Jet Girls does something I’ve been clamoring for the Senran Kagura series to do for years and actually gives the characters varied, unique proportions. Rather than having the entire cast rock the same generic anime girl body with a different numerical value assigned to their chests, each character looks wholly unique. Even the Senran Kagura characters included as bonus racers are rocking new character models that look better than they ever have. Kandagawa Jet Girls has plenty of style, but it just doesn’t balance out the rough, inconsistent and frustrating gameplay.