Hit the waves dude!
Wave Race 64 promises that you will get your very own Kawasaki JetSki, that you will get to race through beautiful courses, with realistic sound, while slaloming between buoys. The game delivers on all of these accounts, and is comparable, if not better, than Super Mario 64.
As soon as you turn on your Nintendo with Wave Race in the machine, you will be awed by the flawless looking water. The graphics are so good in Wave Race, that it blows even Mario away. When you look into the sun for the first time, you will be amazed by the effect. Other types of sun 'lens-flares' have been attempted before, but none come even close to Wave Race's. Dolphins, killer whales, abandoned boats, docks, ocean liners, tunnels, crates, and islands will come into view as you race through the courses, adding a realistic feel, previously unsurpassed in jet-ski racing games. The water's physics system is as realistic as life, as you bounce, turn, and flip your way across the courses. The waves even look different depending on the time of day. During a normal daytime course, the water is a clear blue, but at sunset, it is a dark orange, and at night, black. It's really amazing.
As astonishing as the water is, your racer doesn't look quite as good. While the movement is smooth, the polygon count seems a little low, giving your character a 'sqared-off' look around the edges.
The gameplay is superb. Nintendo's analog controller makes taking turns oh-so-smooth. There are a total of 4 racers to chose from, which seams meager considering that many other racing games allow many more characters to chose from. For example, JetMoto allows you to chose between 20 players. But, where it lacks in racers to chose from, it gains in customizability. You can pick any one of the 4 people at the start, then change them to your liking. You control handling, acceleration, and grip. The best part? It's automatically saved to the cartridge for you, along with all of your best times and scores!
The sound is wonderful. You can almost hear the gearshifts as your jet-ski accelerates. Do a barrel roll in the air, and hear the crowd scream. Knock someone off of their jet-ski, and hear them yelling as they fly. Or, just listen the dolphin squeak its way around the course. No matter what, you'll be pleased.
On the contrary, the background music is horrid. It sounds like some bad computer midi (since thats exactly what is is). There are one or two tunes you might like and remember (doubtful), but all the rest are just squeaky and irritating, with little or no bass. This is one of the reasons this game didn't get a higher rating, the music is just annoying to listen to at times.
There is a great deal of depth in Wave Race. When you first start out, the only skill level you can choose is amateur. You'll go through the first 6 courses with ease, and learn the ropes of wave jumping and turning tight corners. Then you're off to the professional level, where you have seven tracks, a new night-time course has also been opened for your use. Dominate the pro circuit, and expert will be opened, with a cool glacier course - no pun intended. One more time at expert, and you'll be able to race the courses backwards. Watch out! Left buoys mean right and right mean left!
What do you get when you win? Once you win a championship, you will be seen with the other two top racers on a Olympic-style 1st, 2nd, 3rd place platform. You'll see your self congratulating the others, in a happy little get together. But, finish fourth, and the camera will pan away from the winners to the beach, where you'll be laying on the ground whimpering and smashing your hands in the sand. This is Nintendo's answer to the Full Motion Video on the CD-based Playstation and Saturn, and although it's not as good, it's still a decent replacement.
You really won't be disappointed with this title. It's a great addition to the Nintendo64 library, and is probably going to be one of its classics. It is also a solid racing game. Considering how poor some of the other new titles on the system are - buying Wave Race may not be a bad bet at all.