Review by so_hai
"Does This Sequel To The 1992 Gameboy Title Hold Water?"
In 1992, Shigeru Miyamoto would have to wait another four years for his concept of an accurate 3D jet ski racer to come alive. "Wave Race", (the top-view racer released for the Gameboy) was a only a vague hint at what would come in 1996. "Wave Race 64" for the Nintendo 64, saw a fully real-time wave modeling engine, brilliant game play, and an appreciative audience. As with many Nintendo titles, "Wave Race 64" saw the transition into the third-dimension not only with ease, but with an exceptional addition to the game's spirit and theme.
The addition of this title to the Wii Virtual Console has a possible hidden advantage. Above the added convenience and versatility the download provides for players, "Wave Race 64" can now be played with later generation analogue controllers. Many gamers found the original Nintendo 64 controller's stick to be sub-par, and so now modern gamers have the unique opportunity to replay this title with the kind of control that this title both deserves and demands.
A water-themed racer, this title asks player to choose (in this order), a game-mode, a racer, and jet-ski options. As with many racer-style games, there are more than a few courses to play though. Championship Mode plays through these sequentially, and, depending on your initial difficulty setting, this mode will add and adjust various courses to improve the experience. Thankfully, Nintendo have offered a respectable array of environments in which to wet your vessel. A simple shoreline frolic, a night-time city-scape course, and a foggy and sleeting glacial setting are but a few of the scenarios presented.
By today's standards, you could argue that the modeling of the characters and their craft as blocky and possibly even chunky, but those who have been followers of Nintendo's consoles will surely see past these somewhat dated graphics and may even find a charm in them. After all, it's not as if the developers or designers disrespected the game by offering lazily created or dull characters - they made use of what was available well. The four (skiers?) from which you can choose are different enough, and do represent a thoughtfulness towards game play longevity.
Speaking of which, the game play itself is really top notch. I must admit, the idea of jet-skiing in a video game holds little appeal as an idea in itself, but the actual execution of this title just goes to show that genre really doesn't matter, but game design does. This title puts players (sometimes neck-deep) in a rich, dynamic, and living ocean. The cushioning effect of the water is accurate, and the sheer throwing-power of the same water becomes immediately apparent. For a jet-skier, you get major air, and if timed correctly, you can use these slingshot-like effects to leap across obstacles, all with the option of dive-bombing on your landing.
"Wave Race 64" sets it's courses' boundaries and "track", for lack of a better word, by arranging various red and yellow-coloured buoys about the circuit. These indicate to the player that he is required to either pass on the left or right of the floating arrows. So in essence, you'll be doing a lot of weaving! However, this is what sets the game apart from the standard racer. The ability to cut short, or slide out wide make a huge difference. Finding the optimum line for your rider while keeping control is what the game is constantly asking players to do. It's difficult to begin with, but the idea makes for some deeper game play that might be originally assumed. Figure into this the relentless splashing and smashing of the water and your rivals, and you've got a very challenging racer.
Musically, this game is under-stated. Thankfully, the in-your-face "EA Trax"-style soundtrack was unavailable in 1996, so this title made use of some almost "Pilotwings" style music, and takes players to a different view of wave-racing. The on board chip is put to some unusually gentle and almost whimsical style music. Compare this to say "Wave Race: Blue Storm", and you can see that the game would not of necessarily benefited from a fully licensed soundtrack anyway! (Players of "'Blue Storm" will know the contrast between these two soundtrack styles well).
While there may not be quite enough options for a modern gamer to tweak, the time trial mode may hold interest beyond what other games of this ilk may offer. After all, the tracks are so indefinite and somewhat undefined that you can almost always catch a break and improve your time. Don't count on re-living that glorious moment though, as the ghost data is missing from the Wii edition.
Everything about this game has dated except for the game-play. Compare it to say the terrible "Kawasaki Jet Ski" game released on the Wii, and you have a superiour game that is twelve years older and virtually handicapped in it's technological prowess. Nintendo's foresight in creating a game with replay value and true-to-life physics is still paying off for them!
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/28/08
Game Release: Wave Race 64 (EU, 08/17/07)
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