Konami's launch titles are some of the high-profile games available for the GBA. While the focus of most Konami fans' excitement is definitely on the newest 2D Castlevania title, Wai Wai Racing is a surprisingly competent kart racer that shouldn't be overlooked.
Starting a new game gives players access to their homepage, a menu screen of sorts that lets players access single races, tournament races for the Cup, multiplayer modes, license tests, the scientist's upgrade shop where players can purchase weapon power-ups, and an e-mail utility. The e-mail received informs players of the races they can compete in, and regularly updates them on when licenses have been passed and new options are made available.
Wai Wai Racing features eight initial characters recognizable by their starring roles in other, more recognizable Konami titles. Goemon has a starring role, racing alongside the likes of Castlevania's Dracula, the Easter Island statue Moai, and Metal Gear Solid's popular ninja, Grey Fox. The atmosphere is definitely that of a cartoony, tongue-in-cheek parody, as characters have oversized heads and appear more like children than the heroes and villains of their respective brands.
Very much like Super Mario Kart, Wai Wai Racing has rock solid control, with intuitive hopping, braking and power sliding being key to repeat success. There's a real sense of speed when players race over the speed boost areas, and flying over ramps across the pseudo-3D mode-7 powered courses is quite exhilarating. Weapons littered across the game are represented by red and blue bell icons, the blue bells always netting players a turbo boost. The red bells give you a weapon that's randomly chosen. There are homing missiles, triple missile volleys, bombs, force fields, and more esoteric devices, such as the mole transformation, pit placement, and a fighting spirit that protects a player's character for a short time before flying off to pummel the leader.
The beauty and design of the levels is on par with some of the best seen on any kart racing game. Winning license tests during competition on the four initial courses: a beach, forest, lunar ramp, and sky-course, unlock a series of other maps and more difficult races. Players can then proceed to zip along a baseball diamond in an impressive stadium, across a snowfield in an arctic world, and on to a mine-littered and seemingly abandoned factory. There are at least 16 unlockable races to be challenged, the more difficult only available for A-class license holders.
In addition to standard race modes, there are two alternative play modes: stop! and bomb. In bomb mode, a variation of playground Tag, one racer is stuck with a bomb, set with a two-minute timer. In order to pass the bomb to an opponent, players need to collide with their kart, hopefully causing it to detonate in their possession. The timer adds a few seconds with each pass, so every player gets a chance to make someone else "It" by tagging someone else on one of the special bomb-mode courses. Stop! is similar to the braking license tests found in the Grand Turismo PlayStation titles, wherein the four competing racers speed along a 400-meter course and are challenged to brake and stop as close to the 400-meter mark as possible, without actually going over. While not as exciting as the bomb mode, it does add another option for head-to-head competition. The lack of a true free-for-all battle mode is also apparent, although this may be available for friends with multiple copies of the cartridge as Wai Wai Racing does not support single-cart multiplayer.
Since Super Mario Kart has been delayed until summer, Wai Wai Racing is the current choice for Kart racing fans looking for a high-speed romp. Japanese sales will be key for Wai Wai Racing's success, as so far a U.S. release date hasn't been announced.