By: Jac Bakley, Staff Writer
What N64 racing game did you grow up with? Mario Kart 64? Cruis’n USA? Diddy Kong Racing? 1080 Snowboarding? How about Wave Race 64?
Wave Race 64 was an early N64 title, released in December 1996, serving as a sequel to Wave Race on the Game Boy. Since I haven’t played the original Game Boy game, I can’t make any comparison or point out any improvements, besides the obvious shift to 3D graphics. All I know is that it was released to much critical praise and holds a whopping 9.7 on IGN.
We are greeted with an opening cinematic, along with our first product placement (Kawasaki).On the main menu, you have a few different modes: Championship, Time Trials, Stunt Mode, Dolphin Ride, and the usual Options Menu.
In Championship, you’re tasked to race through six courses against three other racers. There’s one rule that makes this kind of game unique from other racers: you have to follow a specific path on the course in order to beat the race. There are red and yellow buoys throughout the course, and they indicate which side of the course you need to be on in order to pass without cheating. You have to stay to the right of red buoys, and to the left of yellow buoys. If you pass them on the wrong side, you will receive an “X”. Receive five X’s, and you’re disqualified.
Another admirable aspect of the game is, the physics. Accurate wave physics are known for being difficult to implement, but this game shows that the people who programmed them tried their hardest, and they definitely nailed it. They make the racing look smooth and realistic and the action more exhilarating.
The weather conditions differ for each course, being either clear, foggy, or stormy. Depending on the weather condition, the intensity of the waves change. Southern Island’s and several other courses’ wave conditions are average- Drake Lake’s waves are more calm, and Marine Fortress’ waves are more wild. The different conditions don’t hinder your progress that much, although they can make it difficult to pass a buoy the correct way. However, they can also create helpful shortcuts if you ride them the correct way. For instance, in Marine Fortress, if your timing is right, you can actually jump clear over the breakwater.
For an early N64 game, the graphics are fine. They’re fairly detailed, and they’re a step up from other such early titles as Pilotwings 64. Of course, the system’s capabilities are limited, so there are a few 2D sprites throughout the game, but those aren’t very significant in this case. The music is great, too. Every track in the game is nice to hear, and some of them are enough to be memorable after you turn off your N64. The most memorable song, at least for me, is Sunset Bay. I
Like any other grand prix racing game, you are awarded with points after finishing a course. You can earn a maximum of 7 points per round, and if you finish with the most points, you unlock a new course and a new championship level. As expected, each cup is significantly harder than the last, and it’s going to require quite a bit of skill to get the most points in all of them. I must mention that unlike in most other racing games, you need a certain amount of points to advance to the next race in a cup. If one race requires 20 points to advance, but you only have 18, it’s the end of the championship for you. That’s another aspect that makes this unique for a racing game.
In Stunt Mode, you’re tasked to pass through rings as you progress through the course, much like the Practice Mode in Star Fox. The purpose of this is being, to help you improve your cornering and handling. You don’t have to go through every ring, but you still want to get as many as possible to achieve the highest score. This mode also allows you to play the course Dolphin Park, which is not available in Championship or Time Trials.
Honestly, there isn’t anything negative I can say about Wave Race 64. It’s challenging, it’s fast-paced, and it’s overall a really fun game. It deserves that 9.7 on IGN and every word of praise spoken about it, and I highly recommend it to any gamer.