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Wave Race: Blue Storm

Review By:  Roger Taylor

Developer:  NST
Publisher:  Nintendo
# of Players:  1-4
Genre:  Racing
ESRB:  Everyone
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  12-01-01

Wave Race 64 was and is considered by many critics and fans alike to be one of the greatest racing games ever crafted. Using an original approach to racing (doing it on realistic looking and acting water), and featuring breathtaking graphics (for its time) and great track design, Wave Race 64 was an instant classic. The only complaints logged against the game were that it took a long to get used to the controls and that it was too short, featuring only 9 courses.

Wave Race: Blue Storm builds on what the first game started, but suffers from the same minor mistakes. However, minor mistakes suddenly become a lot more noticeable when considering that this is a sequel and that all the groundwork was done for developers NST.

The realistic water physics that made the original Wave Race so impressive in 1996 have been improved upon to incorporate weather, which means that the size of the waves will change greatly depending on whether itís raining or not. In a severe thunderstorm, the waves can be absolutely brutal. This is easily the best new addition to Wave Race: Blue Storm, since it adds to replay value quite a bit. When starting a circuit you never know if you will get serene peaceful water with 1-foot waves, or a raging nightmare with 9-foot swells. While on some levels the changes in weather have minimal effect, in others it changes the gameplay immensely.

The other major improvement in Wave Race: Blue Storm is the inclusion of a turbo. Like in the original Wave Race, the object of the game is to race around a course for three laps, passing buoys along the way. Red buoys must be passed on the right, yellow buoys on the left. With every buoy you pass your maximum speed will go up a few MPH, maxing out after you pass five buoys. The change in Blue Storm is that now after you pass five buoys you have the option to use a turbo. Using the turbo will give you a short boost of speed, but after it runs out you are back down to minimum power. This adds a tremendous amount of strategy to the game, since it is not always beneficial to use the turbo, especially since it can send you careening into a rock or wall.

Which brings us to perhaps Wave Race: Blue Stormís biggest problem. Many have complained that in the game, it is nearly impossible to recover from mistakes (like the aforementioned boost-into-wall scenario, which happens to me far more often than Iíd like to admit). Iím sorry to say that those complaints are justified. For those who arenít familiar with the term, this is part what we reviewers are talking about when we mention gameplay. Wave Race: Blue Storm has imperfect, uneven gameplay. In a game with nearly perfect gameplay, like, say, F-Zero X, small mistakes will result in small repercussions, with larger mistakes, obviously, resulting in larger repercussions. However the smallest of mistakes in Blue Storm can be the difference between first and last place, which is an inexcusable mistake in execution on the part of NST.

If you played the original Wave Race extensively, you shouldnít have too much trouble adapting to the unique control style of Blue Storm. However, if you havenít, youíre in for lots of frustrating game time before you finally nail the controls down. Either way, the controls are one of the downsides of the game. There are numerous selectable racers, but they are also useless, barring 2 or 3, because their Jet Skis control so poorly. If the "maneuvering" rating is low for a craft, it will steer far too slowly to win even the easiest races. If that same rating is too high, the controls become so touchy that it becomes nearly impossible to control the craft. I found the default character Ryoto Hyami to be the only one with a Jet Ski worth using, since his has maneuverability that is at least acceptable. Yes, these represent how real wave racers in real life handle. But that does not excuse NST for making something with such funky control that it becomes unplayable without a great deal of practice.

That said, Wave Race: Blue Storm certainly has its high points. While there are technically only seven courses, each is constantly changing depending on weather, difficulty level and even what lap you are on. There are lots of great short cuts in each course, some of which are obvious, others that arenít. The four courses available when you turn the game on for the first time (and that new game smell is still fresh in your nose) are Lost Temple Lagoon, which is influenced by Chinese architecture, and even has the Chinese characters for left and right on the buoys; Southern Island, which is ripped straight from the first game; Aspen Lake, which is similar to the Drake Lake level in Wave Race 64; and Ocean City Harbor, in which you must dodge boats and barges with the bright lights of the city in the background. The Dolphin Park course returns, and is once again used for warming up and training. There are three even more exotic tracks that must be unlocked, but Iíll let you discover those for yourself.

The graphics in Wave Race: Blue Storm are the most instantly noticeable thing about the game. And with good reason, too. While the backgrounds may not adequately show the power of the GameCube, the character models are sharp and the water and weather effects are nothing short of startling in their beauty. The waves of Ocean City Harbor will toss your craft from side to side with unparalleled realism; the clear, calm waters of Aspen Lake too reflective to be believable, but it wonít matter because youíll be too busy marveling at their splendor; and you havenít experienced what gaming art can be until youíve see the sunset over Lost Temple Lagoon. Even with all the action on-screen the framerate is smooth. Rouge Leader may make the most use of the GameCubeís power of all the launch games, but Blue Storm is the most visually stunning.

Sound is one area in which Blue Storm makes a huge jump over its 64-bit counterpart. The sound effects are very well done, and the music is a huge jump over the midi-ized garbage in the first Wave Race. Not all of the tracks work, but most fit the mood of the race.

NST obviously worked long and hard on the stunt mode, which ends up being just as fun as the main game. In the stunt mode you must pass through giant rings of varying worth (50, 100 or 150 points) while performing tricks off of ramps, or while in the water. Once again, each level changes with difficulty level. This adds a lot of replay value to an otherwise short game.

With better control and more balanced gameplay, Wave Race: Blue Storm could have been one of the defining games for the GameCube. Instead, it will likely be forgotten as soon as some more racing games hit the market. NST still has to work on their execution and spend a bit more time on games before they can reach the level of some of Nintendoís other first party teams.

Highs:

  • Beautiful graphics.
  • Incredibly fun when everything goes right, but...

Lows:

  • ...just plain frustrating when it doesn't.
  • Control is lousy at best.

Final Verdict:

If you own Wave Race 64, thereís not much reason to buy this game. If you donít own it, go out and buy that version instead. Itís a lot cheaper. Still, if you donít own an N64, or if you are a hardcore fan of the original, give Blue Storm a shot. If you can get past the controls and get used to "you better not make a mistake" gameplay, Blue Storm is actually a very fun game.

Overall Score: 8.3

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