Jetskis are fun. Water guns are fun. It follows, then, that a game combining the two would be fun. Enter Kandagawa Jet Girls, a jetski racing game that mixes in a healthy dose of water gun-based shooting action, from the creative minds behind Senran Kagura.
I know what you’re thinking: the people who made Senran Kagura turning their minds to a game about water sports are probably going to take lewd fanservice to a whole other level, but Kandagawa Jet Girls is—comparatively speaking—rather restrained. Kenichiro Takaki’s fascination with oppai is very much accounted for in Jet Girls‘ comically exaggerated jiggle physics, but beyond that, it mostly lets the game and its characters take centre stage. What could easily have turned into a non-stop wet T-shirt contest is, instead, an archetypal feel-good sports anime story with an eccentric cast and a solid racing game to go with it.
(This won’t be a surprise to anyone who’s actually played Senran Kagura, which itself has a lot more depth than you might expect from its boob-obsessed presentation. But for better or worse Senran Kagura has a certain reputation, while Jet Girls takes a little step back from that to give the strength of its cast and game design a more deserving share of the spotlight.)
The story is one that’ll be familiar to anyone who’s ever watched a sports anime: an underdog joins a sports team, hijinks ensue from the ragtag nature of the crew (in contrast to the very professional nature of their competitors), and they rise through the ranks despite the odds stacked against them. In this case, the sport is Jet Race: a futuristic jetski competition where watergunning your opponents is a big part of the game.
Rin Namiki dreams of being a champion racer like her mother, but she can’t form a Jet Race team unless she has a gunner to join her. She finds that partner in Misa Aoi, whose cold and aloof nature—or at least, the cold and aloof persona she tries her best to maintain—is a direct contrast for Rin’s bubbly attitude. Ragtag team, hijinks ensue.
The story of their friendship is at the heart of Kandagawa Jet Girls, with plenty of laughs (like Misa’s not-entirely-successful attempts to pretend she hates the nickname “Misa-chan”, when she actually likes it) and a little dose of coming-of-age drama. They both have their own personal reasons for racing and their own family connections to the sport, and from there, a bond is formed.
They’re surrounded by an eccentric bunch of other teams, like a pair of pop idols who race as part of their idol personas, a rich ojō-sama and her servant, and a team of foreigners that offer the best weeaboo caricature since Street Fighter Alpha‘s Sodom. Between their friendly (and sometimes not-so-friendly) rivalries and their own eccentricities, they bring a whole lot of colour to an otherwise simple story.
But the main attraction here is the racing. Kandagawa Jet Girls mostly follows the kart-racer formula, with weapon pickups and power slides being a big factor, but throws plenty of its own ideas into that mix. The big one, of course, is the water-guns: even without a special weapon pickup, you always have a basic rifle that you can use to drench the competition, slowing them down for a spell once you do enough damage. It can take a while to get used to aiming and driving at the same time, but once you get the hang of it, the genre mash-up mostly works well.
Other systems come into the mix to add a layer of light strategy. You have a power-up gauge called EPD that charges through various actions, and can be used either for a speed boost or to unleash a powerful special attack that locks onto the opponent (or opponents, in some cases) ahead of you. When you get some air from a jump, you can do one of a few different tricks that offer different short-term stat bonuses, and depending on how you angle your jet as you land, you’ll either submerge for a moment, slowing you down but gaining EPD, or maintain your speed. Choosing the rights tricks, the right landings, and the right use of EPD depending on the situation is a good way to give yourself the edge.
Kandagawa Jet Girls features eight different race courses, each with a few different layouts, but with the common theme of being vibrant renditions of a semi-futuristic Tokyo. Landmarks like Inokashira Park and Nihonbashi Bridge take centre stage, dressed up in all the bright colours and cheerful atmosphere that comes with Jet Girls outlook on life. The layouts themselves offer a good mix of different challenges, and they’re all scattered with lots of different obstacles (giant beach balls!), speed pads, jumps, and the like that you can use to your advantage.
Customisation also plays an important role, with a lot of different costumes, accessories, and jet skins and upgrades to unlock, including a few Senran Kagura collaborations. There’s the expected assortment of different game modes—story mode, time trials, free race, online multiplayer—and a couple of fun minigames that are the main source of points for unlocking customisation items. The one thing that’s missing that would have been great to see is a split-screen local multiplayer—this is the sort of racing game that’s always more fun with friends in the same room than random people online, so it’s a shame to not have an option that supports that.
I don’t doubt that some people will write off Kandagawa Jet Girls purely because of the reputation that Senran Kagura carries, but they’d be missing out on a game that’s a lot of fun and not nearly as lewd as you might expect. The racing/shooter mashup can take some getting used to, but when it clicks, it really clicks, and it’s easy to get swept up in the cheerful atmosphere and charming characters that Jet Girls brings.
Kandagawa Jet Girls is developed by Honey Parade Games and published by Marvelous Europe and XSEED Games. It’s available now for PlayStation 4 (reviewed) and PC.
A review copy was provided to Shindig by the publisher.