Review by matt91486

"Should you use Wave Race 64 or Dr. Pepper to quench your thirst? Well, it depends on whether or not you are going on a long car trip"

For the first few months of the Nintendo 64’s life, very few games were released, so any time one came about it was cause for celebration. So, here came Wave Race 64 very early on, almost at launch. Almost everyone who had a Nintendo 64 stampeded out and bought the game. I did not, because I was skeptical of whether or not it would be a good game or not. The Game Boy version of Wave Race was fun enough, but Nintendo had enough marketing sense to know that they could easily sell out Wave Race 64 even if it was horrible. But, when I headed over to a friends house to play the game for the first time, I immediately began calling myself stupid. And, to make a long story short, it sits there next to Mario Kart 64, Super Mario 64, and the other gems of old.

Before you saw many games based on Jet-Ski racing, it was just Wave Race 64 and Jet Moto, so the sub-genre of racing games was still fairly original. In Wave Race 64 you ride your little Jet-Ski around five courses, complete with obstacles to impede your progress and shortcuts to make up lost ground. Each of the riders have different statistics, for things like acceleration and handling as well, so picking your rider is a vital part of winning your race.

Also, to help make Wave Race 64 a more fun (and to make the game talked about more), Nintendo also threw in some tricks. Sure these tricks are not really useful for anything but the occasional two-player trick race, but they are a nice little diversion in between races. (Or when you are getting killed in a race by the computer and you really just do not want to retire.)

Sure, if you look at Wave Race 64 today the game is not all that impressive. But when it was first released, in the fall of 1996, it was one of the most breathtaking games ever. The biggest reason for these amazing graphics were the water effects. Never before had water seemed so lifelike. And the way that Nintendo represented the water differently in arenas of different temperatures was more amazing still. When in Dolphin Park, you can see the bottom of the water, while in the harbor race (forgive me, the name is escaping me) the waters are deep blue and you cannot see over the waves.

The riders fit in very well with the environments. They are a little on the blocky side, but all early Nintendo 64 games were. The coloring of them, however, was spectacular, and the shades of them and their Jet-Skis changed in the various levels, just like the shades of water do. And, of course, the environments are a bit on the foggy side, but they do a nice job of adding to the watery atmosphere of each race.


The music in Wave Race 64 is fairly mediocre. It was also the first harbinger of better making known the fact that the Nintendo 64’s audio capabilities are far worse than the CD-Quality sound of the PlayStation. Yes, the songs are slightly scratchy, and unless you listen carefully it is difficult to notice. It was merely a sign for the future, however, as the disparity between the two system’s sound abilities just became more apparent. Anyway, back to the music. Most of it is your typical racing game music. In other words, it is fast, driving, and fairly bouncy. Most of it could easily be done on a keyboard by any decent musician.

The sound effects are much better. There may not be very many of them, but the ones that there are fit with the game extremely well, and no more are really needed. Some more variety in the engine noises and such would have been nice, but it is not required, especially for a game this early in a console’s life cycle, when it’s capabilities are just getting tapped for the first time. They may not be innovative, but they are effective nonetheless.

Controlling Wave Race 64 is a breeze. The Control Stick makes turning very simple, and ‘A’ works very well for accelerating. The configuration was set up flawlessly, and the Nintendo 64’s controller seems to have been designed with racing games in mind. Your Jet-Ski responds instantly to your commands. While the slight scratchiness in the music may have been a bad omen for the future, Wave Race 64 just furthered the legacy of Nintendo making games that control great.

Wave Race 64 is one of the more fun games on the Nintendo 64 to play, even now, when its sequel has been released on a far more powerful console. Even with out four-player support (which was hardly mandatory at the time of this game’s release) it is still a great multiplayer game. And playing through the game alone is quite fun too. Sure, there are only about a half-dozen riders, five tracks, and a couple of game modes. But when a game is as well-designed as this is, you have got to have fun playing it.

This is actually the biggest problem with Wave Race 64. The game is far too easy to complete, no matter how hard you attempt to make it. The artificial intelligence sucks horribly. I have actually stopped in races for quite a while, and then restarted again, and still won. Nintendo luckily fixed this problem for the sequel and substantially beefed up the computer racer’s skills. But, let’s just say that you can substantially boost your self esteem by beating Wave Race 64 insanely quickly.

Wave Race 64 is still good for the occasional spin six years after it has been released. And I have Wave Race: Blue Storm. If you do not have the GameCube sequel you will probably play the original even more than I do. Of course, four-player support and a couple of more bonus game modes would have added to this and truly made it one of the classic Nintendo 64 multiplayer games, but what we have is still great for playing every now and then.

*For its time, the most beautiful water effects scene.
*Control is spot on and completely accurate.
*Still good for the occasional play six years after its release.

*Far too easy to present a challenge for any decent gamer.
*Four-player support would have been greatly appreciated.
*The music is mediocre and repetitive.

Wave Race 64 is one of those games that boosts little used genres into the limelight, like Command and Conquer and Super Mario Kart did before it. We can hardly remember times now, when Jet-Ski racing was an innovative and new concept. Well, the times existed, and Wave Race 64 brought about the end of them.


Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 01/01/02, Updated 01/01/02

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