In a word, wow. The team at Nintendo Software Technology Corporation, consisting mostly of graduates from Digipen, has done some truly astounding work with Wave Race: Blue Storm, the follow-up to 1996’s Wave Race 64.
Naturally, the graphical highlight of this latest entry in the Wave Race series is the fantastic water physics. While the predecessor simply mimicked the appearance of an aquatic surface, Blue Storm successfully makes me rub my eyes in sheer disbelief. Based on precipitation, waterfalls, rooster tails, tidal shifts, or even giant objects being dropped into the drink, waves in this title have the potential to be the extra opponent out on the track. When not knocking racers silly, the surface of the water can have an almost glassy, mirror-like quality to it that reflects absolutely everything on land and in the air. Foam sprays and spouts of water emanate from the rear of each watercraft. In many cases and especially on clear days, one can even see all the submarine terrain and the mind-boggling amounts of marine life faithfully replicated here. Drops of rain can be seen hitting the water and creating small, concentric circles. Further, rain actually looks and behaves like rain; rather than just present a foreground layer, the drops streak towards the outer extremities of the screen with increasing speed. Likewise, snow isn’t just the flurry here and there as seen in Super Mario 64, but can be a full-on blizzard that’ll remind one of a long drive at night up to grandma’s house. Kudos are especially in order for the sheer graphical quality, attention to detail, level design, and rockin’ music presented in each of the 8 overall areas.
The first thing that really struck me about Wave Race: Blue Storm when I picked my jaw up off the ground and actually started playing it was its level of challenge. Having successfully mastered Wave Race 64 several years prior, I’d expected mostly smooth sailing, but such was not the case. Trickier buoy layouts, computer-controlled opponents punching and kicking me off course, and massive waves made for some surprisingly tough racing through the normal, hard, and expert circuits. Also back by popular demand are the stunt and time attack modes, which will offer many more hours of entertainment when not engaged in the traditional 4-player deathmatch. Since this game was made right here in America, the character design, voice work, and music all have a distinctively domestic look and feel to them, making for an easy import choice for those who might otherwise be afraid of the Japanese language.
As those who’ve imported already know, Wave Race: Blue Storm is one of several can’t-miss titles for anyone who’ll be picking up their GameCube in the coming weeks and months.
I came to Wave Race expecting that the ‘BS’ suffix of its title would be perfect to describe it. I came away more in love with the water than ever. Admittedly, the finished version we played added little new to the original – but it’s hard to imagine how a sequel to Wave Race could be any more perfect.
Obviously, as with the original, graphics are the selling point – and a strong selling point they are. The power of GCN is clearly put to good use – eight racers, at last; a four player mode, at last; and waves bigger than anything the N64 could handle. See what we mean when we say it’s hard to imagine a better sequel?
The much-trumpeted weather changes are used to great effect – for example, a simple trip around Aspen Lake started in light drizzle and built up to a stunning storm, culminating in a terrific thunderclap as you cross the line for the final lap. While it looks a lot more realistic than the original, it still has the somewhat cartoony, primary coloured look to it – making it uniquely bright and cheerful in a world of dull super-realism. The five courses we played seemed a tad low; there were at least two more to be unlocked, though, and hopefully a good few more.
As some have already noticed, the controls seem a little loose; though by our third or fourth ten minute session we had gotten to grips with them. Our major gripe with the game is the presence of the irritating announcer, who we hope to God can be turned off. Oddly, one version of the game featured an even more irritating English announcer, whose phrases such as “You go to the right of the red buoys, hello?” got irritating after about, ooooh, .5 of a nanosecond. Who this English toff was and what he doing remains a mystery – perhaps it was just some bloke talking over our shoulder.
Wave Race: Blue Storm is the perfect sequel, but therein lies its major problem. It is a sequel and thus, no matter how good, it will never have the jaw-dropping impact of the original. Though we plainly love this game – a lot more than we thought we would – we can’t help but think that the GCN needs its own Wave Race, that is, a unique racer with the same impact of the original. Blue Storm can’t deliver that, but it’ll be a fun way to while away the time until one comes along.
After less than a minute of playing, my jaw was dangling – literally – from the stunning water effects. I couldn’t believe the things Nintendo had gotten the game to do. I resumed someone’s training mode, but I scoffed at the requirements and skied around aimlessly. The wakes, the water splashing on the camera lens, the bouys, it was all just too much. I entered a championship, and took a look at all four tracks. I’m not sure which it was, but (I think it was called something like Ethnic Lake) as I rounded the turn for the finish line on the first lap, it began to rain. Lightly at first, but soon it turned into a friggin' storm! The rain drops would splash on the camera lens, and at the end of the third lap, I couldn’t see the driver because of all the water on the camera.
The backgrounds, the foregrounds, the ground below the water, there’s more eye candy here than on the FMVs you’ll see advertising Square’s latest Final Fantasy game.
This game is a graphical masterpeice.
Once I got the hang of the "loose" controls, the game was a blast. Several play testers at the Toy Test also noted the control being far too "loose" and hopefully Nintendo will fine tune the controls before the game's release. The current controls are designed so that the motion of the waves will affect the movement of the player's jet ski. A negative to this is if a player is on the right side of a steep wave, the gamer will have trouble steering left. Not being able to turn left in a racing game can cause problems. Hopefully Nintendo will listen to their Seattle gamers and make the game more controllable.
Even if the controls aren’t fixed, I’m going to get this game. It’s fun to no end. Bad controls? I’ll get used to them. Let me put it this way, the graphics are beyond anything I’ve seen, and while the controls detract from gameplay, the game is still fun enough to play under them.
While my interest in this game was originally relatively low, Wave Race has now joined my future 0 pile of GameCube purchases. You can’t deny a game like this.
Wave Race: Blue Storm demonstrated some unbelievable water effects and physics at the show. The Nintendo rep let me know that there will be 11-12 tracks in the game. Only about three of those will be from the original game. In addition, if you hold the B button and toggle the analog stick you'll be able to pull off dozens of stunts really easily.
One major innovation in the gameplay was the fact that once you made it past a couple of buoys you're boost meter was charged up just like in the original title. However, you'll now be able to activate a turbo boost (ala Mario Kart) manually with the press of a button. This adds a lot more strategy to the game.
Graphically speaking, Blue Storm is incredible. However, there are still some issues that need to be addressed. The most pressing is that the spray from the jet ski looks far to Playstation-like for my taste. The water effects of the environment are so unreal and then there's this white poopoo trail behind your jet ski. It's probably going to be addressed before launch.
Finally, a cool thing that I noted was that the audio takes a page out of F1WGP. You'll hear "headset" speak from a spotter who tells you your position and if you've been passed or not.
A solid looking title that has some great promise. I hope it can rival the original game's brilliance!
word on the street
press release notes