Space World 2001: Hands-OnWave Race: Blue Storm

We play the final Japanese version of Wave Race for the GameCube.

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Following its pre-Space World press conference, the press was given time to play the final Japanese version of Wave Race: Blue Storm for the GameCube. The kiosk for Blue Storm had a 100-percent-complete tag on it, but there were just five tracks included in the version on display. Most of the tracks are slightly altered versions of those found in Wave Race 64, with the exception of city harbor and ethnic lagoon. The city harbor course takes place at night and includes more jumps than most of the other tracks in the game. The course itself is probably the most difficult, due to several drastic cutbacks, as well as large objects like cargo ships, which block your view. Ethnic lagoon takes place around a series of islands, complete with a coral reef that can be seen through the water, as well as herds of sea turtles that lazily swim along the bottom. Familiar tracks include dolphin park and southern island.

There are eight riders in Wave Race: Blue Storm, including several characters from 1080 Snowboarding, such as Rob Haywood and Ricky Winterborn. All eight riders compete in each race, so turns quickly become a chess match as riders jockey for position around the buoys. As in Wave Race 64, the controls are easy to pick up and learn, but mastering the finer techniques takes time and practice. New to the Wave Race franchise is the turbo button. By pressing X, you can achieve a short turbo boost, but controlling your Jet Ski is particularly difficult while it's in use. All the tricks from the original Wave Race have returned, as well as plenty of new ones. Most of the new tricks consist of the rider spinning or flipping around on the Jet Ski instead of performing airborne maneuvers. Tricks can be performed with the C stick or with the B button as in the original Wave Race.

The final version of Wave Race: Blue Storm is quite stunning from a visual perspective but also can appear rough around the edges at times. The water is nothing short of amazing--it not only reflects and refracts objects above its surface, but also manipulates the view of objects underneath. While the frame rates fall a bit short of the 60-per-second benchmark, the game still plays with a nice fluidity despite extensive underwater geometry, herds of dolphins that follow you around each track, copious numbers of large structures located on the course, and eight smoothly modeled riders per race. With all its action and graphical panache onscreen at once, Wave Race: Blue Storm is one of the GameCube's most visually immersive games. The few graphical problems consist of some jagged edges offtrack, as well as some rider clipping, which occurs when you stray off the beaten path and fall off the Jet Ski.

Wave Race: Blue Storm has been criticized for being too much like its predecessor, and the final Japanese build doesn't bring anything new to the table to quell such criticisms. However, its drastically improved graphics, deeper trick system, and inclusion of eight riders in each race combine to make it a much more frantic experience than the original. The addition of four-player support is also a nice bonus for social situations. Wave Race: Blue Storm is scheduled for release alongside the launch of the GameCube in both Japan and North America. We'll have more when we receive the final boxed Japanese copy on September 14.

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