The surfing game genre may be sparse, but there are still several surfing games that are more worth your time than Surfing H3O.
When an anime or kung fu film is released in the US, it is often recut in an attempt to make it more palatable for US audiences. Fans of either genre would likely replace "recut" with "butcher," as these edits more often than not produce a film that lacks the personality and impact of the original. Showing that this unfortunate trend isn't exclusive to celluloid, Surfing H3O - the US counterpart to Surfroid, a surfing game released in Japan - attempts to tweak the Surfroid architecture for the better. While successful on some points, Surfing H3O ends up stripping away most of the game's character and adds in a few new problems of its own.
Surfing H3O, unlike its Japanese doppelganger Surfroid, sticks to the straight and narrow when it comes to style and story. Surfroid's outlandish story - which revolves around meteors, the moon, and an intergalactic surf competition - is gone, replaced with a more conventional surf competition premise. The absence of the sci-fi storyline isn't the only change; the tight control of Surfroid has mysteriously vanished as well. Somewhere in its translation from Surfroid to Surfing H3O, the game's control became a lot looser. Subsequently, tight turns become short bouts of corrections, making steering through tubes and performing aerial tricks unnecessarily difficult.
The game itself puts you through six levels, each of which requires that a certain quota of points be met before you can advance to the next level. You accumulate points by performing aerial tricks, riding inside the tube, collecting the markers scattered throughout each level, and reaching the course finish line before time runs out. Once the six levels are completed, you advance to the next level of competition, which consists of the same six levels with more difficult conditions to navigate. The graphics in Surfing H3O are sound, with well-detailed character models, realistic spray off the back of the surfboard, and some cool wave effects. These points are partially negated, however, by the camera. When navigating a tube or when making a sharp turn, the camera has a nasty, nasty habit of swinging wildly around you. This, compounded with the already compromised control system, detracts from whatever fun the gameplay might've offered.
The soundtrack in Surfing H3O is one the game's few saving graces. It's not only vastly improved over that of Surfroid, but it's also a solid soundtrack in its own right. The soundtrack is essentially a showcase for Hopeless Records, a punk rock record label. Featuring bands such as Samiam and Mustard Plug, the soundtrack is a refreshing change from the indistinguishable surf guitar rock that plagues the genre.
In the end, Surfing H3O is a perfect example of good intentions gone awry. Its Japanese counterpart is by no means a work of art, but the changes made for the US release hurt the game more than they helped. The surfing game genre may be sparse, but there are still several surfing games that are more worth your time than Surfing H3O.