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Due November 18 for GameCube.

waverace_gcn_ss25-01.jpg (9319 bytes)Apparently, Nintendo wanted to give people time to appreciate what a great game Wave Race 64 truly was, time to miss it and develop a craving for a sequel. Well, it’s been five years now, and if you are like me, you have a hankerin’ for something new. Lucky for us Wave Race: Blue Storm is looming on the horizon; it’s just a GC launch away.

waverace_gcn_ss24-01.jpg (9448 bytes)The word from Nintendo is speed. Blue Storm promises to eliminate processing annoyances like draw-in, clipping, dropped frame rates, and fog. When all eight racers are on the screen, during the most turbulent weather conditions, even during multiplayer races, there will be no hint of slowdown. From the videos I have seen, this is indeed the case. As racers fly by, plunging under the water, jumping over piers, or as dolphins swim and jump along side of you, the game doesn’t seem to falter at all.

waverace_gcn_ss20-01.jpg (10173 bytes)But Blue Storm has more going for it than speed. Fans can expect all of the great game play from the previous title, as well as new features to bring it into the next generation. As before, players must race against the opposition while at the same time navigating between buoys and performing tricks. However, now there will be more emphasis on tricks, with a new trick system that includes both the original directional controls and additional C-stick controls. Performing tricks will also build up Turbo Boosts, which players can use during the race to catch up to opponents and access shortcuts. Thanks to the power of the GC, Blue Storm also boasts more realistic wave physics than ever before. Players will be able to customize the height and types of waves they will encounter, including an ominous tsunami. The weather effects can also be customized, from a clear, calm day to a raging storm, and they can even be set to fluctuate during the race. For multiplayer races, Blue Storm will support up to four players.

waverace_gcn_ss23-01.jpg (10574 bytes)To top it all off, this game is incredible to look at. Gone are the days of opaque water, bland textures, and N64 fog. From what I have seen so far, the crowning achievement of Blue Storm is the wave modeling. Every inch of the water is reflection mapped, so that the surrounding landscape, buildings, piers, the characters and jet skis, everything, is reflected upon the water. The reflections move realistically with the waves. In addition to that, the water is translucent, so the landscape underneath is visible. The effect is quite cool. And now, when you submarine, you will be able to see your submerged character and ski beyond the reflections and waves. The weather effects are impressive as well. One race I have seen takes place during a severe thunderstorm. The sky is gray and turbulent, the rain, wind, and waves palpable. The landscape is hazy, obscuring the distant landscape except when lightning flashes, illuminating the horizon. I can’t wait to race under these conditions.

waverace_gcn_ss22-01.jpg (10848 bytes)Wave Race remains one of my favorite N64 titles, and one of my favorite racing games, period. It sounds like Nintendo and NTS have done a good job of creating a sequel that retains and refines the core elements of the first, while adding new features and taking advantage of next-generation technology. I think I am safe in saying that Wave Race: Blue Storm is one of the GC’s must-play launch titles.

Jeremy Kauffman