Warm up time, follow that Dolphin!
Retro Corner might as well be called N64 corner by now, no I refuse to stop talking about N64 games and this time it’s Wave Race 64. Besides Wave Race 64 is an absolute classic and I’m a bit of an idiot for waiting as long as I did to finally get round to it. It’s been a while since I played Wave Race 64 so I decided to load it up and see if it’s as awesome as I remember it, sometimes nostalgia can cloud your judgement but rest assured Wave Race 64 still holds up so on with the Retro Corner.
Wave Race 64 is a jet ski based racing game released for the Nintendo 64 in 1996 and is one of the earlier games on the system. Believe it or not Nintendo actually developed this one themselves, that’s right there was a time when Nintendo made a wide range of games instead of just Mario titles and mini game collections. It was a good time and games like Wave Race 64 are what really made me a Nintendo fan, 1080 Snowboarding is also another “not very Nintendo” game.
At the time Wave Race 64 was notable for being pretty much the only jet ski based racing game, it wasn’t simply a racing game that took place on water but rather a racing game centred all around water. The water in Wave Race 64 featured a truly impressive physics system that let players feel every little bump along the way meaning that it actually felt like you were racing on water. Getting around the track meant players actually had to pay close attention to the waves and find the best possible racing line.
The wave physics system also served other purposes such as making every lap in the game feel different, players were able to access hidden short-cuts in later laps. One of the best examples is the waves in some stages get so rough that it’s possible to pull off tricks such as a backflip just simply using the wave itself, some players still don’t know about that to this day.
Southern Island is a track in which during lap one a boat is underwater, by laps two and three the water level has changed so the boat is now floating. What’s great is that the ramp just in front of the boat has also risen meaning players are now able to use the ramp to jump over the boat. That’s what makes Nintendo great in my eyes, their attention to detail and never letting a gameplay element go to waste. They didn’t make a water based racing game just to be different, they did it because there’s obviously gameplay opportunities within and that’s the Nintendo difference in how they think.
To this day I would argue that you won’t find a better game when it comes to water physics save for say the sequel Blue Storm on the GameCube. Yes the water looks very pretty in modern games and if you fire a bullet it reacts realistically but no game does water physics quiet like Wave Race. Yes I played the jet ski part in Uncharted, it was awful and whilst Uncharted 3 had an impressive boat area with real physics it didn’t quiet impress me away the way Wave Race did.
We can’t talk about waves and water without mentioning just how visually stunning Wave Race 64 was at the time, it still holds up pretty nicely thanks to a smooth frame rate and bright colourful graphics. We all have our favourite stages in the game but the two that stood out to me were always Drake Lake and Sunset Bay. Drake Lake starts up in heavy fog conditions but clears up by the time you hit your third lap, the reflection on the water was a sight to behold. Sunset Bay is impressive simply because anything involving a sunset always looks good.
Controls in Wave Race 64 were and still are extremely easy to get used to, I may have scared you off with the wave talk but the game is far from a simulation. It’s a perfect balance between realistic and arcade, as mentioned it’s more about judging the waves rather than struggling to get the jet ski to do what you want it to do. Buoys are scattered around the track and depending on the colour players have to pass them on the right or left, pass five buoys incorrectly and you fail the race. It sounds like a fun killer but I honestly feel the game is better for it and couldn’t imagine a jet ski racing game without it.
There’s not really much to complain about in Wave Race 64, it’s one of those titles that’s perfectly designed. The graphics were amazing, the music extremely catchy, the announcer likeable in a silly way and the tracks were all memorable. The only real fault was sadly the game was the victim of one of the worst 50Hz PAL conversions ever seen, massive black boarders and much slower game than it’s NTSC counterpart. At the time I didn’t even know what 50Hz conversion was so it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the game but looking back, man Nintendo Europe really gave us a raw deal.
One of the reasons why Wave Race 64 is one of my favourites is down to the overall charm the game had, everything in Wave Race 64 just felt so happy and cheerful. Even the in game announcer was superb screaming “BONZAI, YOU DID IT!” as you crossed the line line in first place with a great victory tune to go with it. Look closely and in some tracks you can see dolphins swimming around, they even jump off ramps with you as you pull off a barrel roll in mid air with the lens flare shinning on you, that’s how I choose to remember Wave Race 64
Did I mention you can totally ride a Dolphin too and yes I used to laugh at Dave Mariner’s green patch on his ass.
Did you know?
Depending on the game I’ll add a little bit of trivia to these Retro Corners, just anything random I found interesting and want to share with you. Let’s be honest here, with Retro Corner all I’m doing is triggering memories of past games but nothing new is being said. Hopefully whenever I do a “Did you know?” you’ll walk away with a little extra knowledge in addition to a nostalgic flashback.
Itagaki Has Good Taste
Tomonobu Itagaki, the man behind the Dead or Alive games and the first two Ninja Gaiden games on Xbox is actually a big fan of Wave Race 64. The game was the inspiration for the jet ski portion of Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 which looks pretty but plays horribly. At least it gives us an idea of what a modern Wave Race game might look like.
Totaka’s Song Is STILL Undiscovered
Kazumi Totaka is a Japanese composer who has contributed to various Nintendo games over the years, you may have heard of “Totaka’s Song” before. If not then Totaka’s song is a small 19-note tune that is cleverly hidden in all the games he has worked on, to date the whereabouts of Totaka’s song in the following games remains a mystery.
- Wave Race 64
- Wii Music
- Wii Sports
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl
- Healthy Recipe Assistant 1000: DS Menu Anthology
As you can see nearly all of those titles are what we would consider fairly recent so perhaps it’s only a matter of time before Totaka’s song is discovered. What’s interesting is that Wave Race 64 came out in 1996 therefore making it the hardest undiscovered Totaka’s song yet.
Want to be a hero on the internet?
Find Totaka’s song on Wave Race 64.
Handheld Wave Race
To most people this one is common knowledge but there is a surprising amount of players who have never heard of the original Wave Race, yeah Wave Race 64 wasn’t the first. The original Wave Race came out in 1992 as a game for the original GameBoy if you can believe that.
Hydro Thunder 64?
Wave Race 64 originally looked like a completely different game in the earlier stages of development, the trademark Jet Skis are nowhere to be found. The original prototype for Wave Race 64 in 1995 looked more like Hydro Thunder than it did Wave Race even though Hydro Thunder wouldn’t arrive until 1999.
Wave Race 64 in 2013
After the success of Wave Race 64 Nintendo took it’s time doing a follow up but eventually gave us Wave Race Blue Storm for the GameCube, the game is good but it’s not Wave Race 64 good. It was developed but Nintendo Software Technology instead of Nintendo EAD in Japan meaning that it’s Wave Race 64 but without any of the magic. It’s still a very good sequel but sadly left me wanting a little more, at least the water physics were as impressive as ever.
In regards to the Wave Race series itself I have good news and bad news, I know everyone prefers the bad news first so just for the sake of pissing you off here’s the good news first. The good news is that everyone can enjoy Wave Race 64 thanks to the Virtual Console, if you own a Wii or Wii U then you can easily access the game on a modern system which is great. The horrible 50Hz conversion of the N64 version isn’t as bad in this version which is another plus. The bad news is that we’ve not seen a Wave Race game since 2001 and there hasn’t been any hints of another one ever being in development.
Nintendo did do a Wave Race style mini game for Wii Sports Resort in 2009 which is hopefully a sign that Nintendo has not forgotten about the series. I’m looking at the Wii U and thinking that an online enabled Wave Race game would be amazing.