Would you believe this is a sequel to a Game Boy game? Wave Race 64 was one of the first games for the Nintendo 64, and while it is fun, it’s mostly a technical showpiece for the (then) new Nintendo 64 platform. In the main game, you race against three computer-controlled opponents on Kawasaki Jet Skis through a number of courses. What I remember from 1996 is the way you can use waves to get ahead in a race.
There are a variable number of courses for each difficulty level. “Normal” difficulty has the fewest courses, “Hard” has more, and “Expert” has the most. While I can’t cover all the courses, “Drake Lake” stands out as the most impressive, with (for its day) a realistic fog effect. “Marine Fortress” puts you in rough-and-tumble waters. “Twilight City” is a coastal city, perhaps like Miami, and “Glacier Coast” might as well be somewhere in Alaska.
There are ramps you can do tricks off of, but if you want a strategic advantage, use the waves. Depending on which direction your Jet Skier is facing, you could be gently pushed to the left or right by a wave. You can come up on a wave from behind, and ride down it for a boost. Or you can go head-on into a wave and catch some air.
Perhaps the oddest thing about Wave Race 64 is that it has an extensive list of options. One of the options is “Change Conditions”, through which you can select the difficulty level. That’s advanced. You can turn the music on or off, but unfortunately can’t shut the announcer up. The game was “Designed for the N64 Controller Pak”, which is a memory card in the controller. You can erase previous course records (the time it takes you to finish a course) if you want a fresh slate.
The most fun for me was playing Wave Race 64 two-player. The computer is predictably bad, and it’s easy to get first place, regardless of difficulty setting. Your friend, however, might be talented. Wave Race 64 isn’t a bad game, it’s just not remarkable all these years later. I had fun playing it as a kid, but Mario Kart 64 is a better racing game. If nothing else, Wave Race 64, proved that N64 could do realistic 3D water. Wave Race 64 got a sequel, but it wasn’t as good as this title.