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Wave Race 64 (Nintendo 64) Review

Review for Wave Race 64 on Nintendo 64 - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Forget about all the trouble that the Nintendo 64 faced during its stunted lifespan and think back to when it was originally announced with Piltowings and Super Mario 64. Then cast your mind to some of the other games in the launch window line-up, such as Wave Race and its amazing physics, visuals and sense of speed. People were enamoured even before release, but just how has its quality held up over the years?

The Nintendo 64 was such a massive step up from the humble 16-bit Super NES, as Super Mario 64 had demonstrated with its spectacular three-dimensional graphical world, complete with fast and furious gameplay. However, some of Silicon Graphics' internal console techniques were only initially utilised in Wave Race. The water-based racing title was full of undulating waves that looked far more beautiful than ANY other water-related game on the market at that time. Even now it is truly amazing to watch others play the game, with a definite sense of being amidst the thunderous waves being portrayed. The only drawback was the racers themselves, but the water bikes (originally to be sponsored by Kawasaki before the company changed its mind at the Eleventh Hour), covered in various advertising slogans, plus the gorgeous lighting effects for the various times of day that races took place. Nintendo knew how to take advantage of its system right from the start, and Wave Race was a key example of this.

Audio-wise everything is above par as well, although considering the mixed opinions that other reviewers seem to have on this matter it could well just be personal preference talking here. What you basically have is cheesy Japanese rock and synth music that whilst might prove grating to some, comes off as extremely catchy, bright and breezy, which fits in perfectly with the watery conditions of the game. The only major drawback, though, as the sound effects are all well placed and suited (crowd noises, rushing waves and engine sounds that amazingly do not grate!), is that of the voice-overs. Terribly cheesy (this time in the bad sense of the word...), thick-accented Americans repeatedly holler at you as the race starts and for the rest of the challenge. Oh, my ears...

Screenshot for Wave Race 64 on Nintendo 64 - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Now, it is reported on certain publications that Wave Race 64 was the first ever in the series, which is a somewhat flawed piece of information as it all originally began with a lame top-down version on the old Game Boy...which actually received a re-release on the back of this N64 sequel's success. Therefore, Nintendo's EAD, headed by none other than Shigeru Miyamoto himself, was set the task of taking the woeful handheld game and working it into something special for the launch of the new home console. Thankfully it succeeded on so many levels...

You are faced with nine various courses, each one with waves that are constantly undulating like crazy, sometimes so powerful that the strength of the bump will send you flying from your watercraft, whilst others are so gentle that they simply ASK for you to slide round corners to skim a little more time off your final result. The frequent changes to your surroundings means that there is great potential for fun on the limited amount of tracks, no matter how often you charge around them. That really shows the class difference between Nintendo First Party and Third Party efforts.

Screenshot for Wave Race 64 on Nintendo 64 - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The Nintendo 64's ergonomic controller helps to maintain the perfect level of control and handling all the while, no matter which racer you choose to compete with. Each of the four characters has their own special traits, as would be expected from a quality racer, and the key is not just picking the easiest feeling one, but being able to finally master using the big brute that is David Mariner! And it IS possible thanks to the brilliantly intuitive mechanics and handling. Leaning into corners to avoid losing too much speed, positioning the nose of your Jet Ski when landing from large heights to prevent falling off and knowing how to use the changing wave patterns to your advantage for shortcuts (as an example), are all imperative for true mastery and aspects that do not frustrate, but encourage repeat plays.

The game is broken down into the Championship Mode that has players racing across eight courses, aiming to gain enough points to progress to the next round and striving to maintain top speed by manoeuvring around the Left and Right buoys that bob up and down in the sometimes treacherous waters. Other than that, on offer is the Time Trials, two player split-screen (which is quite slow in terms of frame-rate, and many wondered why it had not been made into a four-player outing considering how the N64 was being deemed as a multiplayer king) and a Stunt Mode. This last mode was particularly appealing due to the fluidity with which the spins, loops, and crazy moves such as riding whilst sat on the handlebars could be carried out. With great variety between the tracks as well -- ranging from foggy conditions to dark inner city locales and even icy tracks, Wave Race 64 was (and still remains) the best water-based racing game ever.

Screenshot for Wave Race 64 on Nintendo 64 - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Unfortunately there are only a handful of different watercourses to play on and despite the varying difficulty levels this would normally not suffice in terms of replayability for solo players. However, the beauty of the gameplay means that trying to shave seconds off your Time Trial results becomes almost as addictive as when playing Super Mario Kart on the SNES. Then there is also the added inclusion of a wonderful stunt mode, secret Dolphin riding option and a (albeit limited) two-player split-screen challenge. It may not last you as long as you would like, but there is definitely enough to keep players placated and filled with delight for couple of months. And the most surprising factor is that it has survived time much better than its NST-developed GameCube sequel!

Screenshot for Wave Race 64 on Nintendo 64- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

If there was ever a game to show exactly how wonderful the N64 controller was in its time it was this game. The movement of the water may have been treacherous at times, but the controls are so intuitive that frustration will never consume you.

Graphics

Whilst the GameCube version had more weight behind it to produce realistic water effects, for a first generation N64 game, this epitomised what the next generation should be like back in 1996.

Sound

The music may come across as too cheese-filled at times, but what is on offer is bright and breezy, fitting the atmosphere perfectly, along with the spectacular sound effects. Just forget about the voice-overs...

Value

The only real drawback of Wave Race was that the number of courses available was too limited and the slow frame-rate for two-player racing removed the fun aspect somewhat. However, the main Championship, Time Trial and Stunt modes helped somewhat...

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

About this score
Rated 9 out of 10

For a launch window game to not only remain one of the finest games on that system, but to retain the crown in its sub-genre is quite phenomenal, but that is the power of Shigeru Miyamoto and his team of experts. Wave Race 64 is the pinnacle of water-based racing and a contender for the Top 10 best racers ever, full stop! Do not be put off by its lacklustre GameCube successor...

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24.03.2006

5

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Developer

Nintendo

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Driving

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (9 Votes)

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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

It's amazing how I still today love this more than WR: Blue Storm on the GC. NST cocked up the Cube version right royally...all I can hope is that Miyamoto and EAD get back behind the series for the Revolution.

Freehand controlling of the jet-bikes *drools*

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

What! I love Blue Storm! Really, the only thing that I hate about it is Stunt Mode, which I find too difficult and therefore frustrating.
I rented '64 once and had great fun with it back in the day, but I really don't understand why you slate BS!

Awesome game, one of my favourite titles on the N64. Rock solid, stupidly difficult - awesome :-D

Trying to think of a witty signature after 'Hacker-gate'...

Having alot of fun with it, I would definitely reccomend this title as a alternative to MK64{LS].

This was one of the best racing games of 1997. The graphics on the N64 make it even better. The fact that the levels change depending on the weather is just amazing.Smilie



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3DS friend code 2878-9581-8999

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