Human beings have this natural attraction to water and that’s no different when it comes to video games. There have been a fair share of water-based racing games, but Wave Race: Blue Storm can still be considered one of the better offers available all these years later.
Making a splash
It’s hard to think that it’s now over 15 years ago that Wave Race: Blue Storm launched alongside the Nintendo Gamecube in March 2002. The exciting prospect of watercraft racing had hit the next generation and along with it came improved visuals and other tricks that weren’t quite possible on Wave Race 64 before it. As with most Nintendo games, there are various factors at play. Instead of each vehicle coming with unique stats, it follows the F-Zero recipe in that you get to know various characters a little better. Ryota Haymi comes with a great stat balance, while Rob Haywood is a powerhouse with fantastic top speed, stunt and power attributes, but pales to the competition when looking at handling and acceleration. Each character is unique. Choosing which character to play as is crucial to your progress in the game, as Wave Race: Blue Storm is one tough cookie.
Championship, as with most racing titles, is where you’ll be spending most of your time. It’s split up into an exhibition and three circuits whereby you’re tasked with building up a certain number of points to make it to the next race. Come in the last place twice in a row and you’ll be staring at the Game Over screen. It might sound a bit daft that I mention it, but it’s likely that you’ll see it very early on as Wave Race: Blue Storm will test all your various skills you’ve built up over the years. It comes down to the incredible level and physics design. Races are run over a total of three laps. Complete a lap and the level will dynamically change the next time around. For example, Southern Islands is your typical tropical paradise course with crystal clear water with dolphins and all the beauty you can think of. Head around the course for the first time and you’ll do so with ease, but come around for the second lap and the sea level might have dropped and as result has rocks, pillars and other obstacles now for you to change your normal route. That’s just the beginning.
If it’s a sunny day you can expect the water to be manageable, but if it’s raining or storming you are in for a rough ride.
Your number one objective is to come first, but to do so you need to steer past red and yellow buoys. Yellow buoys are passed on the left and red on the right. Miss one and you get a mark against your name. Miss five buoys in total and that’s the end of the race for you. It’s very, very unforgiving. To add to that dilemma you also have to contend with a dynamic weather forecast system in the game. If it’s a sunny day you can expect the water to be manageable, but if it’s raining or storming you are in for a rough ride. Waves will swell and throw your craft all over the show if it’s raining or storming. Passing a buoy on the left or right becomes a battle all unto itself.
There is a storm incoming
What Wave Race: Blue Storm requires from you is time, a lot of practice, patience and getting to know the controls inside-out. Handling the basics of your craft is easy to do and will come second-nature, but combining it with tighter turns and other stunts will take some getting used to. There are moments when you’ll perform what can only be considered a water slalom that’ll require you to press the L and R triggers in time with your turns. Turn too sharp and your rider will go flying off into the water, wasting precious time and watching the competitors fly by as you make your way back to your craft. Should you become a master at passing buoys there is a reward in place. Pass five buoys and you receive a turbo to catch up with the competition or leave them behind if you’re in the lead. As soon as the turbo is active turning is not much of an option, so using it on straights is recommended.
Head around the course for the first time and you’ll do so with ease, but come around for the second lap and the sea level might have dropped and as result has rocks, pillars and other obstacles.
Where Wave Race: Blue Storm can get highly annoying is when it comes to crashing into objects. There are times you’ll smash right up against an object without a reset button to get you on your way again. As a result, you sit there for a good few seconds trying to turn the craft around to get past whatever you misjudged. It’s excruciating when this happens on the last circuit in any tournament and can completely destroy your race.
Other modes include Time Trial, Stunt Mode, Free Roam and a Tutorial mode I highly recommend for beginners. If you can gather up to three more GameCube controllers you can race a 4-player split-screen race against friends too, which is something you just don’t see in this day and age anymore.
Wave Race: Blue Storm is as tough as it’s ever been. The controls and physics are still incredibly difficult to master. If you’re after some water-based sports it’s well worth playing, but be aware that it’s going to be challenging.