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  1. #1

    [PS4] Kandagawa Jet Girls

    Yet another franchise brainchild of Kenichiro Takaki, best known for Senran Kagura. Like one of his previous works, Valkyrie Drive, this game is part of a multimedia project involving also an anime series; the anime series had decent animation (something strange these days) but was nothing peculiar. To sum everything up, there are girls racing on jetsky around the waterways of Tokyo.
    I approached the game without too much expectation, I mean, it's not like Senran Kagura degenerated into nothing more than fan service and Valkyrie Drive was one of the worst games on the Vita, but I was left speechless by its deep mechanics, engaging storytelling, many game modes, and flawless multiplayer.

    Development has been carried over by Shade, best known for Bullet Girls series, now counting three games, the newest constantly better than the previous. Shade handled the change from third person shooter to racing extremely well, but didn't forgot to put a bit of what they're known for. In a clear homage to Mario Kart Double Dash, each jetsky in Kandagawa is crewed by two girls, a driver and a shooter. A character is not constrained by a role, despite story mode making clear of the opposite. Changing a driver into a gunner or viceversa is a purely cosmetic choice, the chosen jetsky is what influence maximum speed, handling, acceleration, and boost time.

    Tracks are scattered with speed gates which imprint a modest 1 or 2 Km/h improvement for a second, jumps on which you can do tricks, rings that build up you boost meter, and markers that will give your jetskyiing girls one random extra weapon. Teams start with a water rifle that does risible damage and can only shoot straight, while random weapons include water shootguns, water bazookas, water machine guns, and so one. Weapons find their use in popping air baloons floating on the course and break other team's shields, which will result in a temporary stun. Wisely, developers opted to place weapon crates few meters after the starting line in many tracks, giving anyone who reaches them first the ability to stun all other racers in one go if they get explosive weapons like bazookas and grenade launchers. This is very important, because without this initial skirmish, which usually sees you as a victor, is impossible to complete races by leading your closest opponent with 40 or more seconds: you'll have to settle for a mere 10 to 20 seconds lead, which is always disappointing after such tense races in which you hands grip the controller so hard it will hurt, as you speed along straight waterways with minimal obstacles and no chance to retribution from teams trying to catch you.
    And opposing teams try their best to gain lost ground, always by following strict fair-play rules which forces them not to use boost or drift to get a glimpse of extra speed that, unfortunately, won't be able to help much: all girls in this game love jetskyiing so much that buying their machine left them pennyless, so they can't afford glasses, and without this important aid, they end up colliding with static obstacles a lot.
    Advance racing techniques include boosting and drifting. Boosting and special attack share the same meter, and the special attack can only be used when the meter is full. This forces players to carefully manage their resources: do you use the boost to gain more ground on the many, many, many, many, straight corridors composing the tracks, or do you use an attack meant to give those lagging behind the hope to catch someone who's 20 or more seconds away?
    You start drifting by hitting L2 when curving, then hit the button again to dismiss the drift or, if you drifted long enough, get a small speed boost. This speed boost is modest at the first level, and drifting is mostly used to get good corners on the many 90 curves dotting the tracks. You can't snakeboost as in Mario Kart, and drifting state is well indicated by a meter, audio, and visual cues.
    Rubberbanding, whether by weapons, special attacks, or cheating AI, is not present in Kandagawa jet Girls. Nevertheless, races are always hearthpouding, you never know how far the closest opponet will end up: will you finally be able to lead the rest of the group by more than one minute? I was able to do it once, and it was simply majestic.

    The tracks are a masterpiece of design, with many varied settings. Taking place in Tokyo, the game uses Ochanomizu, Akihabara, Ichigaya, Tokyo Resort, and of course Kadagawa as backdrops, each location hosting three tracks. Or better, they host one track with three different routes of different difficulty, and some sections of the track are cordoned off depending on the race. The constant sense of deja vu helps in familiarizing with the tracks, which are composed by long straight stretches of water and 90 curves. The two elements, which favour jetskies with high maximum speed or better handling respectively, are perfectly balanced, and the drifting mechanic further levels the racing battlefield, as you soon learn when to start drifting in advance with the heaviest of jetskies to get an even higher maximum speed.
    A few tracks do have environmental obstacles, like water fountains that push you around of waterfalls that push you below the water surface; the latter is particularly fun, as your jetsky will spring out of the water, making you lose control for a brief period of time as your jetsky flies in the air, demostrating the tight physics engine Kandagawa Jet Girls uses.
    The crowning achievement of KJG's track design is Kandagawa Underground, a winding maze of twisting curves, narrow corridors, carefully placed objstacles, and placed bonus spots. This track is the perfect place where to show off all the skill accumulated in playin the game, and is the most interesting track in the whole game by far.

    As typical of Takaki franchises, KJG has an extensive story mode, divided by teams. Rin and Misa, the main heroines of the anime series, more or less follow the same narrative arc, with the two meeting up, progressively getting closer to each other, working out differencies, and finishing on top of the world of Tokyo jetskyiing.
    The other teams have their own exclusive storyline: as everyone else is an already established racing duo, their stories focuses on how fame, success, and failure can erode friendship. Teams go through a difficult phase in the midst of their story arc, which doesn't affect their racing performance, and in a gallant example of excellent sportmanship, the other teams help the suffering couple in mending the wounds. All story arcs are brought to conclusion with a custscene and an illustration, satisfying rewards for all your hard efforts. If you want to see the illustration again, you have to buy it with in-game credits in the gallery. Grinding for money is a necessary evil if you want to partake again in such heartfelt memories.
    All teams more or less follow this storyline, with the exception of Grindcore, a team of two new girls exclusive to the videogame. The Grindcore girls want to show how hard jetskyiing can be, and thus set on a journey to beat all other teams. This journey is also of self-discovery, and you'll be excused if such emotional heights will prompt you to skip story cutscenes, because it's very hard to remain impassible before such high level storytelling.

    In addition to story mode, KJG offers time trials and single races. No need to bog down players with a Gran Prix mode, with different cups composed by tracks of every-increasing difficulty, story mode is an epic adventure that will last for less than 10 hours and the raw excitement that mode brings, will leave you spent, unable to play any other mode.
    As a last treat, KJG has four minigames in which you can grind for money, should you think that racing is not giving enough points to buy any of the upgrades you unlock by going through story mode.

    Then there's multiplayer. Which I haven't tried yet.

    Now, how do I close the sarcasm tag again?

  2. #2
    Is this Double Dash insofar as Peach Beach Spash was like Splatoon?

  3. #3
    I had my jaw hanging open reading that until the final sentence. I had zero expectations for this and was stunned at the praise being heaped on it.

    Glad to know that in the end I wasn't wrong. I had the Amazon jp page open for it while I was reading. Dodged that bullet.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Asura View Post
    Is this Double Dash insofar as Peach Beach Spash was like Splatoon?
    Mhmmm...not quite, mostly because PBS wasn't as terrible. In fact, KJG isn't tertible either, it's just boring. In single player, once you get in first position (right after the start) there is noone who can stop you. You're left racing on your own, and with no rubberbanding you are not even pushed to drift or use the boost. Just hold down R2 and you win.

    I had my jaw hanging open reading that until the final sentence. I had zero expectations for this and was stunned at the praise being heaped on it.
    Back to the writing board, then. I think I'll do the review for my channel in this tone but I want to make it explicitly funny that's sarcasm.

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