One of the first real 3D games to ever grace our beloved gaming world is not too shabby. Wave Race actually got its kick off 4 years before in a Game Boy release. Going from the extreme simplicity of a legacy handheld system to one of the first games in Nintendo’s first true venture in 3D was a task that was ultimately well-accomplished.
Something that might have stuck into the head of many early-adopters was how beautiful the water looked right from the get-go. This was probably one of the reasons Nintendo chose to release this title as some kind of special premiere. The graphics had much to be shown and the realism of water is still one of the best aspects one can chose to demonstrate such power due to how complex liquid movements are to replicate through programming.
The game offered its good share of challenge. Four racers were available to be chosen, an all-rounder, a turner, a speeder and a girl who controlled much like the turner. You could choose to race in default settings for each racer or tune any choice of more sophisticated settings. These weren’t sophisticated at all, simply three bars that had the player choose setting it to left or right, changing radically how the jet-ski would react.
The three settings were handling, engine and grip. For handling you could go all the way left resulting in light maneuvering or all the way to the right resulting in a harder to control heavier machine. Obviously a lighter machine would turn better but lose speed much easier as well. For engine you could set for dash, giving it full acceleration, or top end, for a better top speed. The grip had the loose and tight aspects attached to it. Loose meant the jet-ski was wobblier, more susceptible to be thrown off its axis, while tight meant it was more likely to go straight without problems.
Given the differing nature of tracks and how revolting the waves could be the right tweaking of these settings could avoid headaches, especially on higher difficulty levels. The most notable change when it came to difficulty levels was the fact that newer tracks were being thrown in while still retaining the final track. For example, in medium setting Twilight City would be one of the tracks while the hardest difficulty had Gacier Coat added together. You had not only to face tougher enemies, but also play more, harder courses.
Some courses even had different weather effects during each laps which resulted in completely different paths you had to take each time. The championship was the regular whoever had the most points in the end wins it all with some problems in the mix. For instance, you had to take the official course by maneuvering around the buoys indicating the left or the right side, if you crossed the buoy on the wrong side you were penalized, after 5 misses you were disqualified, no questions asked.
The buoy system works pretty much like alpine skiing where the competing athlete had to snake around the flags, only in this case, the sea. By making correct turns around the buoys you fill a bar low on the screen which controls how fast you can go, after 5 hits you reached maximum speed and would hold that until the end of the race or until you missed a buoy, requiring the player to cross 5 correct corner all over again.
Aside from the main racing campaign there was a stunt mode which had you doing flips and tricks as fast as you could while passing through loops around the tracks to rank up points. Ramps could be used to make the few air-borne tricks present. Another mode had you simply jet-skiing around an island while dolphins came and went, another good argument to the fact Nintendo really meant users to see what the Nintendo 64 was capable of at the time, and since, along with Super Mario 64, this was probably the first game a lot of gamers played on their Nintendo 64, I’d say it was a good move.
The multiplayer was good, basic but good nonetheless; and since Super Mario 64 didn’t have a multiplayer mode, it was made sure to deliver at least some experience when it came to multiple players. Unfortunately, probably because the framerate would sink down to the depths of the Pacific Ocean, it only featured 2 player multiplayer. Seeing as one of the most distinctive features, physically, of the Nintendo 64 was the 4-plug front which at the time was absolutely exclusive, it was probably a shame that some people din’t get to fully enjoy a 4-player mode. Still, from a technical standpoint, it was understandable.
When it comes to primordial racing Wave Race is a pretty good choice. It was one of the first ventures of Nintendo into 3D and it didn’t disappoint. Sure it might not look as hot and cool today as it was back in the day, the controls might not have aged well enough especially taking in consideration that you would have to go back to the Nintendo 64 analog stick and it was one of the first games to feature controls for it, this fact alone might scare off even the bravest of the brave.