Finally! An interesting racing game that isn't Mario Kart!
I have never really made it a secret that I dislike racing games, I simply can't bring up the interest to control a bunch of cars while they practice hand-break turns. That is why I was rather skeptic when my friend told me he had a racing game for me, but that feeling immediately disappeared when I saw it was about Jet Ski's and not cars. I freaking love Jet Ski's, those things are awesome! It's at least a positive sign, that somewhere in the world there is a developer who doesn't use cars in racing games. Next time I want to see a racing game in which you control a Nazi submarine.
The biggest problem when making a racing game for the Nintendo 64 was that it would always have to be compared to Mario Kart 64, but Waverace 64 is different enough from that game to avoid the title "Mario Kart clone". There are no power-ups, you can only play fair and the races are very different, unlike games like "Diddy Kong Racing" where you can just close your eyes a little and it would look like you're playing with Mario, Yoshi and Peach.
I really like the fact that there are no power-ups because there is a point where even the biggest Nintendo fan is going to say "oh great, another jerk abusing the hell out of the blue shells". Instead you have to pass these little signs with arrows on it, the arrow points out if you have to pass it from the right or the left. As you do so you build up a power meter which increases your speed, but failing even once is going to reset your meter, now that is much better. This also makes the game less frustrating for people who love realistic games.
Somebody else already praised the physics in this game and I have to agree, the waves in this game look fantastic, but they also serve a role in gameplay. See, if there is an obstacle you need to get past, most players would just go around it. However, you can use the waves to jump over whatever is blocking your way and save precious time, though your timing needs to be correct. Now that's a graphical novelty that I like, one that actually affects the gameplay in interesting ways.
The graphics overall deserve to be praised, they look gorgeous and a lot better then Mario Kart 64 (oh dear, I am comparing them again!). The models resemble normal humans and they actually pull it off quite well, even though the 64-bit graphics don't allow for much realistic detail. The vehicles also look really awesome and colorful and I can't complaint about the levels either. There is even a crowd watching the show!
While I really like the waves as a visual treat and I love how they can help you out in gameplay, there is still the problem that it constantly looks like you're playing "that game I should probably stop naming in this review" while constantly tapping the jump-button. It also makes it ridiculously hard to see what you're doing sometimes and quite often I'd miss one of the signs because a wave was obscuring my vision. The controls aren't really that great to begin with, sometimes I tried to move slightly to the left, but my character made a 360 degrees turn or he just fell of the Ski.
Falling is a big problem in this game, if you touch anything from a brick wall to a small piece of drift wood, you will fall and have to wait ten agonizing, flow-breaking seconds before you can continue again. Especially in the higher classes this will instantly drop you to the last place. Sometimes you fall off if you turn to fast which is just great because you need to make sharp turns all the bloody time.
The Bottom Line
There is very little to complaint about in this racing game, it's very well designed, it's a lot of fun and it has Jet Ski's in it. The graphics are also pretty damn good for Nintendo 64 standards and the term "Mario Kart clone" certainly doesn't apply here. It's not as good as the near-flawless Kart game on the same console, but it's still worth playing if you're into racing games or if you want a realistic game for this system.
Sports fans and teens/adults will most likely have a lot of fun with this game, some kids however don't really like the realism and lack of bright colorful graphics and may refuse to try it out. A great addition to the Nintendo 64's amazing library.