Mario Kart, jet skis, and anime girls. Combine all three and you get Kandagawa Jet Girls, the latest offering from the same studio that does the Senran Kagura series. As a fan of that series, I had to check this one out.
Solid racing mechanics. For a studio that usually does hack and slash action games, I gotta give them some credit for actually doing a decent job with the racing mechanics here. Drifting, boosting, tricks, they’ve pretty much got all of the basics on lock for an arcade racer. Each jet racer, for example, has a nice sense of weight to it and feels good to control. You not only have to control its horizontal movement, but the position of the nose as well in order to turn effectively and get maximum speed.
Once you’ve really got the hang of things, you’ll be drifting around bends, landing various tricks off of ramps, and taking that first place with ease. The map designs (although limited) are nice as well and definitely add to the experience here. Although the game may have its issues (which I’ll get into soon), the foundation for a decent racing game is here.
Great port. Another XSEED game, another great PC port. There’s fullscreen and resolution settings, an unlimited framerate option, customizable button prompts, multiple language support, and a bunch of other minor graphical settings not often present in these PC ports, such as bloom, depth of field, and anti-aliasing. I tested the game on both controller and keyboard and mouse and had no issues with either. They are fully rebindable as well, so you can customize them to your liking.
As for optimization, I have no complaints there. I played through the entire game at 1440p with an uncapped framerate that ended up hovering around 100 or so fps on my 1070 Ti. I didn’t run into any massive frame drops, crashes, freezes, or even bugs, it’s yet another polished PC port courtesy of XSEED.
Laughable difficulty and AI. Half of the experience in Kandagawa Jet Girls is using the various weapons and abilities to attack other racers, that’s why there are two characters on each machine. Unfortunately, this is a half that I hardly got to experience, as the game is so laughably easy that there was never really an opportunity for me to even use the weapons. At first, I thought “okay, maybe it’s just the first campaign arc”, but no, it’s literally the entire game from start to finish. There are 64 campaign races and, aside from the final 2, I had no issues getting first in all of them on my first try, and most of the time it wasn’t even close.
The problem is twofold. On one hand, you have the lack of a difficulty setting for the campaign mode and, on the other, you have the sheer stupidity of the game’s AI. Whether that be the AI not drifting when appropriate, taking the longer route on purpose, or just running into random objects, they’re not exactly great at this whole racing thing. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for me to begin a race and watch the AI immediately run itself into a pole.
It’s not like they can’t be difficult though, as the final two campaign races I actually had to struggle with. Although, in those cases, the AI also had a much better jet racer stat-wise while I was stuck with a slower one, so there was already a handicap present. It’s a shame really, as the weapon system is great in theory and it feels like the gameplay was purposefully slowed down to accommodate for it, but it simply isn’t useful for the bulk of the game. At least in the free race mode the AI can be set to “strong”, but for the campaign you’re stuck with some of the easiest AI I’ve seen in years.
Generic storyline. Now I wouldn’t say that the story here is necessarily “bad”, but rather that it’s just kinda “there”. The campaign is divided into arcs and each arc has you go down a little story route for each team, with visual novel segments taking place before and after every race. These can be anything from random slice of life bits to more serious, yet still simple story developments.
Despite how long some of these scenes last, they don’t really do anything noteworthy. The writing isn’t all that good and the story development is pretty much the embodiment of the term “generic”. I can’t say I was expecting much given the subpar anime that aired last year, but if you’re familiar with the Senran Kagura series, it kinda has that same feel to it. It’s there to serve the gameplay and doesn’t really add much to the experience outside of some occasionally interesting character interactions. This might not even be a problem for some, but to me, it was just boring.
Lack of substance. After completing the first couple campaign arcs, I started to wonder “is this it?”. Is this entire game just going to be repeat races on the same set of maps with nothing to shake things up? To answer my own question, yes. Although it took me 13 hours to beat the game, that 13 hours was pretty much just a loop of “enter race, read VN segment, complete race, read VN segment, and repeat”. There is absolutely nothing that changes that core loop for the entirety of the game’s 64 levels.
Sure, the actual races cycle through a set of 7 different maps (and a special one for the final two), but that’s simply not enough to get rid of this feeling of monotony. There are no other game modes and your objective is the same on every map. Compare this to other arcade racers where you have time trial missions, drift challenges, battle modes, and elimination matches and you can see the problem here. Granted, the game does have a time trial mode, but it exists as its own thing outside of the campaign.
In fact, while I’m on that topic, I should point out that there isn’t a whole lot to the game outside of the campaign either. You’ve got free race, time trial, multiplayer lobbies, and a customization mode. I can’t speak for the multiplayer as I was unable to try it out before release, but I Imagine the game is going to have difficulty maintaining an active player base past the first month or so, so that’s something to keep in mind.
The customization mode probably has the most depth out of all of these but is an overall step down from the Senran Kagura series. For example, you’re unable to fine-tune the placement of accessories, instead being locked to a pre-determined position for each. That and the minigames present in this mode are just simple Mario Party-esque ones, nothing to really get excited about. Honestly, all of this is just a massive disappointment, especially given that the studio has done good with previous Senran Kagura games.
As a fan of the studio’s previous work, I have to say that I’m disappointed. Kandagawa Jet Girls has the foundation for a decent racing game, but it simply has too many problems weighing down the experience. From the laughable difficulty and AI to the overall lack of substance, it’s simply not worth the recommendation. I’ll give XSEED some credit for giving us another great PC port, but the game itself is just not that good.
You can buy Kandagawa Jet Girls on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.