By: Jac Bakley, Video Game Critic
Wave Race: Blue Storm was released for the Nintendo GameCube in November 2001, serving as a launch title for the system and a sequel to the critically-acclaimed Wave Race 64. The question is, does it deserve as much praise as its predecessor? Let’s find out.
Like Wave Race 64, we are given several different gameplay options: Championship, Time Attack, Stunt Mode, Multiplayer, and two new additions: Free Roam and Tutorial. Another nice addition is a doubled character roster. This time you can select Ryota from Japan, David from the United States, Akari from Japan, Nigel from England, Ayumi from the United States, Rob from the United States, Ricky from Canada, and Serena from Brazil. And yes, in case you’re wondering, those are the same Akari, Rob, and Ricky from 1080 Snowboarding. You can also select palette swaps for your character, like in the Super Smash Bros. games. Doesn’t serve much purpose, but it’s pretty cool.
Getting to the gameplay, it’s still the same jet ski racing game as its predecessor, but with a few changes. One of these changes is the Maximum Power mechanic. In the original game, correctly passing five buoys in a row would give you max speed. However, here, if you pass five buoys correctly, you will be given a turbo function (in other words, a speed boost). You press “Z” to use the speed boost, and after that your boost counter is reset. Rinse and repeat. If you press “A” at the right time before the race begins, you will be given a speed boost to get a head start. The only downside to the turbo function is that your jet ski will be very hard to control, and you’ll only be able to make very slight turns when holding the “L” and “R” buttons. So if you don’t use your turbo at the right time, you may end up slamming face-first into a rock.
So yeah, gameplay is still the same, but let’s talk about changes made to the courses. The courses in this game are all brand-new, with the exception of Southern Island, which has its original design from Wave Race 64. There are still shortcuts placed throughout the courses that you can use with a speed boost (again, do this at your own risk). And probably the best change is that the design for each course changes depending on the difficulty level. Another nice change is that the Championship mode is no longer linear; you can actually choose which order you want to play each course.
Another nice feature is that each racer has a different crew chief, meaning they’ll have a different voice with a different personality commenting on their progress. But now let’s nitpick and talk about one of the few problems in this game: the product placement. In Wave Race 64, the product placement was fine because it was actually relevant to the game. However, Blue Storm focuses on a rather strange choice: McDonald’s. There are two reasons why I don’t like this— one; McDonald’s is a terrible company, so promoting it is like promoting cigarettes to children. Two; the product placement seems a bit whorish, seeing how the product is not relevant in any way.
Okay, enough with my rant. While Wave Race: Blue Storm does have some neat additions and improvements, it does suffer from one problem: the difficulty. While the courses have better design than the first game, they are also ridden with more obstacles. Even when you are not using the turbo function, you are still at risk of crashing into obstacles, since it requires good timing a bit of effort to make a good turn. You won’t even be able to see some obstacles until you’re right up close to them, because they’ll be sticking right out of the water only by a margin. You can use the “L” or “R” buttons to make a good turn, but you have to lightly tap them to do so. If you jam on the “L” or “R” buttons or hold them for too long, you will risk being launched off your jet ski. Riding waves is also dangerous, because it will be harder to control your jet ski when in mid-air, and this puts you at risk of crashing into the water or onto a rock. Also, for some reason, it’s easier for opponents to catch up to you during the race, and it’s harder for you to catch up to them sometimes, even with the turbo function.
The course design also gets harder with each level, but some of the harder course designs border on ridiculous and unfair. For example, most of Rizzo Canal’s expert-level design is a very narrow and curvy path, and it will require some insane memorization and twitch reflexes to get through it without crashing. There are also shortcuts that require a precise jump to successfully use, or you’ll just… well, you know.
Being a racing game, Wave Race: Blue Storm doesn’t have any groundbreaking features; just race to the end and progress, and that’s it. To conclude, it’s a pretty good sequel to Wave Race 64, though it fails to be the “perfect” game that its predecessor was. It suffers from the same problem as F-Zero GX: its high sense of speed makes it too difficult. However, it’s still enjoyable to play, so I recommend it to those who are looking for a better challenge.