By: Roger Taylor
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
fun when everything goes right, but...
- ...just plain
frustrating when it doesn't.
- Control is
lousy at best.
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.