"You press buttons and you wonder if you're holding the wrong controller and behind you, somewhere you can't see, there's a drunk controlling things. Your vehicle bounces about, into rocks, against walls...everywhere but where it should be going."
I was a Nintendo 64 fan before it even released. I preached its goodness, and then I played my first game for the system, Wave Race 64. I loved it, enough that I bought the system. Though I seldom played the game again, I had fantastic memories of that first session and the fun I had.
The reason I tell you all of this is so you know my background. I was expecting a lot out of Wave Race: Blue Storm. Not the game of the year, but something that I would love, that friends would love to play with me. And it certainly has the visuals to inspire someone to pick it up and play. However, everyone who plays it with me soon wants to try something else. As in...within a few games. And I don't blame them. Despite its amazing visuals, Wave Race: Blue Storm is so disappointing that it's the title in my collection most likely to end up sold if ever I find myself short for cash.
The visuals, as I've said, are amazing. Perhaps that deserves more, since graphics are the only thing that is likely to keep you tuned into this game for more than a few minutes. Water is gorgeous, as you would expect. I read that Nintendo used the same engine this time around, and I can't debate that. The GameCube's power, though, makes things look so much nicer. Waves lap against rocks, plant life swirls in the water, schools of tiny fish dart about beneath you, and dolphins surge out of the water about you. Even the sky looks nice, and the lush greenery, and the skyscrapers that tear against a darkening skyline. Your vehicles and riders look wonderful, too. I have absolutely no complaint about graphics.
Sound is good, as well. Depending on who you choose, you get a different announcer. All of them are annoying, but at least there's some variety. And when those waves lap against rock like I mentioned above, you can hear the sound, as you can when gulls pass by overhead or when your craft grates against rock, ships, crates, ledges, other riders, buoys...there's a lot of grating.
Which brings me to the game's weaknesses. When you play, you typically feel like you have no control. At first, this is astoundingly bad. You press buttons and you wonder if you're holding the wrong controller and behind you, somewhere you can't see, there's a drunk controlling things. Your vehicle bounces about, into rocks, against walls...everywhere but where it should be going. You head toward a buoy and then suddenly ride the opposite direction you should. If you don't go out of bounds--something that happens frequently, especially at first--you'll still most certainly miss the stupid buoy. And as before, you have to go on a certain side of most all buoys. Miss five and you disqualify.
The controls are the root of the problem. It's true that when you're riding on water, you're not in full control. This game captures that perfectly. Too perfectly. Seldom are there times when you feel as if you have genuine control over your craft. You're best when you're going in as straight a line as the waves will allow, but even that's robbed from you. And if you have to make a sharp corner, give up hope. Too often, I go around one buoy and I'm at the wrong angle. Another is just ahead of me, so I try and correct but I end up either not adjusting at all (as waves bounce me further to the right, opposite the way I need to head), or I end up turning around. At this point, everyone and their dog have just flown by me and left me in their wake. Of course, the wake only makes things worse. As I recover nearly sufficiently, I head for that next buoy, but I just can't get to the side. I crash against it and my rider falls into the water. A few seconds later, I'm going again, but I've missed the buoy and I'm not really lined up all that well if I want to pass by the next one on the correct side.
Even if there weren't buoys, though, this would be a truly frustrating game. That's because there are so many other things against which you can bump. And the waves have a devilish tendency to set you in that direction. Bits of wood just out of the water. Wham! Down you go. Everyone passes you. There's a rock and you graze it on the way past. Repeat. You are going around a ship and a particularly nasty wave comes out of nowhere. Wham! On and on it goes. Get the lead and hope you keep it, because there's another thing you have to avoid if you're not at the head of the pack: other riders' wakes.
This is particularly annoying. I was doing good, one game I can remember. Somehow, I had managed to avoid all the debris and I was coming around one of the last corners in third place. I was ducked down on my vehicle to give me better cornering ability, and then it slid into someone's wake. My rider instantly fell off. Everyone flew by me within a split second. I finished last. Such moments are disgustingly common.
Because of the horrifically bad controls, then, I find it hard to play this game for more than a few minutes at a time. Instead of the fun experience it should be, a play session with Wave Race: Blue Storm is a drudgery. I'm not sure why this is the case. Nintendo--even the American team that made this update--knows what it is doing. There are small signs of that throughout, like the fact that if you enter your initials once, it will remember then for a next session. Load times are not bad at all, and you can play around while the screen endures. Nearly everything comes together. Even multi-player isn't bad, in so many words. There's really no huge hit to graphics like one could expect on the Nintendo 64, and you can see your way around mostly. It's just that the same awful physics are present. There's no way around that, I suppose. The physics are part of a game, and when they're so bad as they are here, the whole game suffers. In short, you should definitely rent this before buying. Play it two hours and then let it sit on a shelf for an hour. Chances are, you won't be tempted to pick it back up for another play.
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Staff review by Jason Venter (Date unavailable)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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