Wave Rally seems like a missed opportunity.
The release of the original Wave Race for the Nintendo 64 was noteworthy for a number of reasons, but none more obvious than the fact that the game became a blueprint, which nearly all other developers would use in constructing their own jet-ski-based racing, or similarly themed, games. As expected, Wave Rally incorporates features that have become standard in these types of games, but the development team at Opus has done its best to set Wave Rally apart from past and present jet-ski racers by including some new features--the ability to select between two different types of craft, as well as a freestyle mode that rates your trick ability based on several criteria. Wave Rally also has the distinct honor of being one of the first jet-ski games on the PlayStation 2 to incorporate a substantial wave feature in which wave height and frequency can change dramatically depending on the course. However, these achievements and additions are ultimately overshadowed by stiff controls, some questionable AI, and other quirks that ruin an otherwise entertaining experience.
Wave Rally includes five different modes--arcade, championship, time trial, freestyle, and two-player split-screen. The arcade and championship modes are basically similar, as they give prerequisites--or, more specifically, what place you have to finish in---for proceeding on to the next course. In the arcade mode, you have to worry about reaching checkpoints scattered across the course to prevent time from running out and ending the race. You won't have to race against the clock in championship mode, but the number of rounds (courses) double in the amateur mode and triples in the professional mode.
While the arcade mode doesn't have any particular problems, the structure of the championship mode can be a little frustrating. At the end of each race, you receive points based on your finish, with first place receiving the most points, and as you progress through the game, you'll continue to receive points. Oddly enough, these points are almost completely irrelevant as you near the final rounds of the championship--you can have a point total that puts you in second place when you complete the last round, but if you don't meet the prerequisite for that final round, the game ends. There's no trophy ceremony to congratulate even the first-place winner--you're taken back to the main menu screen. This can be incredibly annoying because you'll have to go through the entire stretch of 10 or 15 rounds all over again.
Fortunately, whenever you reach a course in the championship mode, it will be made available in the time trial mode, in which you can practice the timing of your turns and get to know the course layout. The time trial mode has its own share of problems because it's set up so that you can't miss even one buoy, which makes it difficult to run through a course at full speed to get your timing corrected. Eventually, it becomes less of a problem as you learn the course, but for beginners, you might as well head straight for the championship or arcade modes.
The freestyle mode is the only option in Wave Rally that doesn't involve buoys or competition against other racers. Instead, it gives you an opportunity to race around a wide-open area and execute various tricks off ramps or large waves. Your tricks are then judged based on a couple of different categories, including technical and artistic merit, composition, succession, and appeal. To perform tricks, you have to execute basic face-button and D-pad combinations. Other than a break from the regular competition in Wave Rally or to set a high score, there isn't much incentive to play through the freestyle mode, and as such, the other modes will probably receive most of your attention.