At N64 Blog, we have nothing but praise for Wave Race 64.
And that’s because unlike many other racing games at the time (and even now), it offers such an immersive and unique player experience. Gamers are always impressed when developers make the most of a console’s technical power and Wave Race 64 was perhaps the first true example of this on the Nintendo 64.
We had originally planned to just leave our coverage at our recent retro review of the game. However, after playing it extensively and capturing many beautiful screenshots of the game, we thought it’d be a missed opportunity to not take a closer look at some of the game’s technical achievements, as well those nice little touches, which helped to make it such a beloved and enjoyable racing game for so many.
The best way to create a living, breathing world in a video game is to put representations of living things into it. Thankfully, the developers for Wave Race 64 realised the importance of creating a great atmosphere and added sea life to the game where they could.
As a result, Dolphin Park is actually home to dolphins that happily swim alongside the racer and Southern Island even has a killer whale that jumps majestically around the edge of the course.
The Ripple Effect
Just take a look at the screenshot on the right. Name entry screens aren’t usually a noticeable feature of video games, but Wave Race 64 goes all out to impress in even this somewhat mundane area.
That’s because moving the letter scroll is directly linked to the water in the background. Every time it moves either left or right, the water in the background ripples in a realistic fashion. It may not seem like such a big deal, but it’s that added sense of realism which really sets this game apart from the rest.
The lens flare effect is something of an overly used graphical feature in games to try to wow the player. Wave Race 64 certainly wasn’t the first or last game to do this, however, the effect is actually rendered in real-time as opposed to older games that used various tricks to poorly mimic it.
On the whole, the lighting effects in the game are very impressive. Some will argue that lens flare actually detracts from the overall involvement of the player as it emphasises that you are essentially viewing what is happening through a television screen. Nevertheless, you can’t deny that it just adds another neat, little extra effect that really makes this game stand out from the rest.
Advertising in a video game? What madness is this? And why does such an underhand tactic deserve a place on a list of things that are so great about Wave Race 64?
Because it adds authenticity, that’s why. What many people don’t realise is that the term “Jet Ski” is in fact a genericised trademark. In other words, it is actually a brand name for Kawasaki’s personal watercraft vehicles.
Therefore, it only makes sense that Nintendo brought the Japanese vehicle manufacturer on board. We imagine this was likely done so as to increase the overall appeal of the game, and it certainly worked. In fact, some people seemed pretty miffed at the fact that the Wii Virtual Console digital release had all this branding omitted in favour of Wii and DS logos.
As for the Fanta branding…well, that probably helped cover some of the costs of the game, but you got to admit: it’s a pretty tasty drink.
Reflection effects in games don’t seem like an especially big deal nowadays. It’s essentially a standard feature that’s to be expected on today’s super-duper HD systems.
Go back to 1996 though, and you’d struggle to find a game that pulled this off as well as Wave Race 64 did. One of the game’s circuits, Drake Lake, makes exceptional use of this effect (and it was likely created with this specific purpose in mind). It’s astonishing that the N64 was capable of pulling this off so effectively in a game that uses various other high-end effects, and still maintains a solid frame rate from start to finish.
What’s your favourite technical achievement or fun bit of detail in Wave Race 64? Let us know in the comments section below!