Wave Race 64 (Nintendo 64) Second Opinion Review

By Athanasios 01.09.2021 3

Review for Wave Race 64 on Nintendo 64

Remember Wave Race? Probably not, as it was a somewhat forgettable, stock top-down racer for the Game Boy - good, but not that good to be remembered by most. The same can't be said about its sequel, the critically acclaimed Wave Race 64, which was one of the system's early titles, and one of those that "advertised" its 3D capabilities, and accurate analogue controls. Although immensely successful, though, not many additional instalments have seen the light of day these past 25 years. So, is this very old arcade racer a flawless gem, or is it simply a title that was well-made, but otherwise not as fantastic as people remember it to be? Time to go back to 1996, and take a dive at the clear, 64-bit waters of Nintendo's Jet Ski racer gem, to learn all about it.

Wave Race 64 is a simple arcade racer, for people with simple arcade racer needs. There are no innovations here, just a title that takes what makes the genre great, and almost perfects it. For starters, this has some of the best controls in any video game, and especially on the N64. Moving around with your Jet Ski feels natural, and is super-precise, which is definitely one of the biggest pros a racing title can have. Simply put, Wave Race 64 is a joy to play. What makes this even more entertaining are the waves - easily the most striking aspect here.

The areas you'll race aren't static tracks, but shallow or deep waters with waves that constantly move, while players try to ride them as they manoeuvre around the place, making this a much more dynamic affair, which results to Wave Race 64 being far more immersive than most games of its ilk. The physics are wonderful as well, and the crystal clear look of the water is great. It's important to note that, rather than going for a realistic look that wouldn't endure the test of time, the "fake," low-poly, and vibrantly coloured palette used here makes this much more striking. It's one of those… art style-over-graphics moments.

Screenshot for Wave Race 64 on Nintendo 64

Generally this is an audiovisual treat. There aren't many stages, but the few available ones are stunning, whether that's the initial sunny beach, the misty lake with its reflecting waters, or the nighttime city track, and the buildings in the distance. Audio-wise the splashing sounds are so darn good, that you'll almost feel the moisture on your cheeks, and the OST, while just an assortment of typical, upbeat, '80s JPop/Rock is generally kind on your ears… which is the exact opposite of what the obnoxious announcer is, who never seems eager to shut his mouth, constantly shouting each phrase with the energy that only a caffeine-heavy diet can provide.

Gameplay-wise don't expect anything fancy. As mentioned earlier, this is great, but not because it reinvents the wheel. You pick among a variety of vehicles, with the option to change their settings, and just start racing. In terms of mechanics, the only "extra" thing here, is how one needs to zigzag between buoys in order to reach the highest possible speed. Failing to ride past one from the correct side will result in that boost being lost, and too many mistakes leading to a racer's elimination.

So, in conclusion, Wave Race 64 is very entertaining. What keeps it from being perfect? The answer is definitely its replay value. There's a simple championship mode with a couple of difficulties, a time trial and a stunt mode, and finally a 2-Player, horizontal split-screen versus mode… and that's about it. Oh sure, Super Nintendo's Super Mario Kart was equally simple in terms of modes (and more so), but the actual gameplay was far more meatier, so few cared. In other words, a great racer, but a bit too light on content. Be sure to try it out if in look for a retro gem from the 32/64-bit era.

Screenshot for Wave Race 64 on Nintendo 64

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Wave Race 64 is neither a genre revolution, nor an evolution. This is just a joy to play. Sure, greater arcade racers have seen the light of day since then, with many of them being much better in regards to the content they have to offer, be it in the form of mods, additional mechanics, or a stronger focus on multiplayer action. With that being said, if a genre aficionado, do check it out. It definitely deserves the classic label.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

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

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Nuh uh! Wave Race 64 is a solid 10/10!

 even have the Shindou version of it which added Rumble pak support!

I remember at the time they were so big on the wave physics and that it couldn't be done on something like the PlayStation or Saturn. 

Also, as for the soundtrack I'd actually say it is one of my most listened to soundtracks of all time, and easily one of the best on the 64! 

To this day I prefer it over Blue Storm, although that was still fun!

EDIT: I also remember the day I got WaveRace, from Woolworths for £5, probably around 1999. The NOSTALGIA is strong with this one!

( Edited 01.09.2021 20:42 by Flynnie )

*sniff sniff* smells of Nostalgia Smilie

You like the soundtrack so much? It's nice and all, but maybe a bit too... generic.

( Edited 01.09.2021 21:09 by Ofisil )

Can't a fella drink in peace?

I think it was just one of those games that I fondly remember. The soundtrack is awesome, short overall but yea it I have to say one of my faves. 

The rumble on the Shindou version makes it better for sure! 

There weren't many games like it, but this was the golden age for Nintendo racers, when you think what Nintendo EAD were doing back then, WaveRace, Mario Kart, F-Zero and 1080 all within a year or two. Plus Rare's Diddy Kong Racing also released in the same window as these titles. I wish we could get that sort of treatment now! 

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