Wave Race: Blue Storm is a solid follow-up to one of the best N64 racing titles ever. Instead of changing everything, the series has simply evolved in a predictable direction. While this installment isnít revolutionary, there are significant improvements to the graphics and gameplay that keep the series fresh. Nintendo hasnít messed with success and since the original was so much fun, it doesnít matter. As for now, this release is a tad disappointing and doesnít change enough but WRBS still remains at the top of the Nintendo Gamecube lineup as far as sheer entertainment value is concerned. Take a dip as we dive into this entertaining racing title.
Wave Race Blue Storm is a solid, entertaining racer that showcases the power of Nintendoís new Gamecube console while also adding several new elements to the series. Hewing very closely to the successful formula, the layout and challenge of the game is similar though there are a few minor enhancements that make things more interesting. The most significant aspect thatís been refined comes in the racing system which is much more exciting. Another major change comes in the graphics which are much richer but just as colorful as the original Ė and thankfully not letterboxed this time. Still, for the most part, the game remains largely the same which means that the solid gameplay of the first game remains intact which is a good thing. Sometimes, the best things are the simple things and Wave Race is an excellent example of this philosophy in action.
At the beginning of each game, there are several modes of play including the usual championship, stunt and free race modes. Championship mode is the main game where you have to win a succession of races on a circuit in order to win the series. Players get points after each race and the cumulative amount determines whether you advance. Itís not necessary to win each individual race, just to earn enough points to advance. Gaining enough points through the race will also unlock the next level. The stunt mode is surprisingly straightforward Ė here you have to compete against yourself by performing the biggest stunts while also passing through rings on each level for bonus points Ė this is quite challenging and as always the biggest problem is navigating the courses themselves. There are a surprisingly large number of stunts and tricks in the game, some of which include diving, spinning and grabs which makes for a deeper, more challenging title. In addition, 4 players can play simultaneously via split-screen mode which is a really excellent, with little slowdown in each window. This makes Wave Race a good choice for either solo or multiplayer action.
Of course, this is Nintendo weíre talking about and Wave Race: Blue Storm is at its best in the gameplay department which delivers a consistent gaming experience that is both challenging and, most importantly, fun. At the start of each race, you select one of 8 well-balanced characters some of whom are easier to play and are aimed at novices and others who are more powerful but harder to control and aimed at the more experienced gamer. During each race, in addition to passing the checkpoints and other racers, players also have to pass the yellow and red buoys on either the left or the right side. This isnít difficult, but you can only miss 6 of these or you forfeit the race. In a new twist for the series, Nintendo has implemented a turbo system which rewards skilled players. Unlike the first game where passing the buoys simply increased your power, the system is now more fully integrated into the game. In Blue Storm, If you pass enough of buoys in a row correctly, then you gain a turbo boost which is an important advantage to give you an extra push when you need a little more kick. One thing you need to know going in is that if you pass a buoy on the wrong side, you also lose all your progress along with any turbo boost you may have earned so use these wisely.
Wave Race also features some impressive course layouts which range from the simple to the complex and challenging while taking you through a variety of locales. The courses seem a little short and most races last three laps. This time out, the courses are less constricted and more complicated Ė there are more hidden areas and the courses generally offer more challenges, particularly in the later rounds. This adds some depth to the title without sacrificing its appealing simplicity. Nintendo has struck a good balance in this area that makes for an appealing game for all ages and skill levels. Wave Race: Blue Stormís enemy AI seems about the same, and isnít onerously difficult. On the early levels, your rivals donít put up too much of a fight when theyíre about to be passed. They get a tad more aggressive in the later levels, but the real challenge is fighting the waves themselves which is where the fun truly lies.
Wave Raceís biggest asset is its solid graphics which are quite impressive and really showcase the processing ability of the GameCube. The levels themselves look sharp and have an impressive amount of trackside details, though they seem a bit plain in comparison to other titles. Whatís most important is getting the feel of being in liquid right. This has tripped up a lot of other aquatic racers in the past, but Wave Race: Blue Stormís water effects are spectacular. The waves roll and churn in a realistic fashion giving a the player a convincing sense of gliding over water on fast jet-skis. Whatís more impressive is that they also have a much greater effect on the vehiclesí controls. One of the great things is how responsive the vehicles are to the large breakers and waves, giving Wave Race an excellent sense of realism. Of course, this sense of realism lasts approximately three seconds until you jump off one of the large ramps and into a spinning ring. Still, no one said this was a simulation. Even more impressive, is that the game doesnít take place entirely on sunny days, though the original had a few foggy starts. This time, weather plays a much larger factor and has been enhanced by new effects including drizzle or driving rain which reduces visibility and wind which increases the size and magnitude of waves. The wave physics play a much greater role in gameplay this time around as theyíre a much larger factor during the race Ė they can either impede your progress or make the races much easier. Youíll have to learn to moves with the waves instead of against them in order to get the fastest times which isnít as easy as it sounds because you need to anticipate where riptides will occur in order to ride over them effectively without slowing down or getting turned into the wrong direction.
This is made much easier thanks to the intuitive controls which are very simple to understand and exceptionally well-suited to the GameCubeís controller. Controlling the vehicles is a snap and movement and stunts are simple to perform with an excellent interface used throughout to make for a consistent and logical gaming environment. Whatís great about the GCN is that the analog stick is a quite comfortable steering device and makes playing a joy and is a big improvement over the N64 pad. While all of this is great and the game is spectacular from a technical standpoint, the one major problem is the gameís depth. Wave Race: Blue Storm is too short for its own good and while itís fun, it doesnít last nearly long enough. Experienced players should be able to beat it in a few sessions. This isnít a fatal flaw, since there is a very high degree of value thanks to the extra modes and multiplayer sessions which add to the longevity. Most importantly, the biggest changes work well, enhancing an already solid gaming experience. The new turbo boosts add a new layer of strategy, excitement and challenge to each race. Factor in the excellent graphics, and you have a really enjoyable game that takes Wave Race to the next level. Itís a lot of fun and isnít overly taxing and has that classic Nintendo feel all over it and despite the short length, the replay value and sheer fun of the game makes it one of the more enjoyable racers to come out this year.