Wave Race 64Wave Race 64 belongs with Wipeout XL and Sega Rally
in the pantheon as one of the best racers ever.
Publisher: Nintendo |
Despite the slew of entrees in the racing genre, there are very few fantastic games on the market for any console. Granted, there are many good ones, but very few really brilliant efforts. The developers behind each title hope to capture the essence of speed, a particular kind of racing, or perhaps unmatched control or graphic lushness. Usually, two out of the four elements work well, while the other two fall short somehow. An original title with no prequel, Wave Race 64 succeeds in every category it applies itself to, and then goes beyond the normal call of great gameplay, superb graphics, or intuitive control, delivering possibly the greatest driving game ever.
Wave Race, the third N64 title on the U.S. market, is a lush jetski racing game that sets players in nine different courses with constantly changing waves patterns and tides that affect your race every time you play. Optional changes can be made to smooth out waves or increase their power, and by altering handling, speed, and grip, players can further control the way in which they attack the courses (not to mention choosing four different racers). Championship Mode pits gamers in a eight course, point-based race, Time Trials enable gamers to vie for top score, Stunt Mode is where players show off moves like handstands, barrel roles, or the like, and Two-player Mode uses a horizontal split-screen for competitive play.
The oceanic force of nature never felt so real or has ever affected the gameplay in a title in such a degree as it does in Wave Race. The way in which jetskis cut into the ocean's surface, lift off ramps, bounce into and off oncoming waves, or slide on icy surfaces is not only believable and engaging, but simply unparalleled. And oh, the feel of Wave Race is phenomenal. Few polygonal glitches occur despite the speed with which the racers are moving, and graphic highlights are abundant, ranging from the crystal clear water or heavy fog in Drake Lake, to the bright glare and reflections of Sunset Bay to the glimmering night lights in Twilight City.
Control is solid, learnable, and neither too loose nor to tight, and yes, there is a learning curve. But it's more or less like familiarizing oneself with any new game. PlayStation's Jet Moto doesn't hold a candle to it graphically or in terms of gameplay, nor do the three major arcade jetski simulations -- a heavy-handed but, in our humble opinion, true statement about the game and the Nintendo 64.
Wave Race is weaker than, say, Psygnosis' Wipeout XL in regard to musical soundtrack, and at least one of the Mary Tyler Moore retread themes can be bothersome after a short period, but other soundtracks are appropriate to the environment, and are far more appealing than the cheese found in PilotWings 64. Regardless, the sound effects are phenomenal, making up for the soundtrack with realistic engine sounds, the call of seagulls, the roar of the crowd, waves, and even dolphins -- which, by the way, can be played by following the code (See N-Codes).
With a game like this, the good outweighs the bad to such a degree that every minor weakness is forgivable, and the gameplay, control, replay value, and graphics are superb examples of Shigeru Miyamoto and team's enormous ability to create great games in every category they choose. Simply put, Wave Race 64 stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Wipeout XL and Sega Rally in the pantheon as one of the best racers ever.