Wave Race: Blue Storm Review – Definitive 50 GameCube Game #45

The series so far: The Definitive 50 GameCube Games.

I consider the GameCube to have had one of Nintendo’s strongest launch line-ups. Games like Rogue Squadron II, Super Monkey Ball, and Luigi’s Mansion were on shelves in North America right alongside the purple lunchbox on that historic November 18th, 2001 date. In the month that followed, even bigger hitters were released, including Pikmin and Super Smash Bros. Melee.

We’ll eventually get to all of those, but the GameCube launch game I want to talk about today is Wave Race: Blue Storm.

The Wave Race franchise actually started out way back in 1992 on the GameBoy as a simple overhead jet ski racer. However, the series is best remembered for its N64 iteration, Wave Race 64. This fondly remembered racer featured some of the finest water physics in gaming to date, not to mention gloriously fun pick-up-and-play action, so you can imagine hopes were high for its GameCube successor.

On a technical level, Blue Storm easily rises to the occasion. Its water physics and environmental effects are truly something to behold. Depending upon weather conditions, the water you experience in game can range from minute ripples to violent waves, and they all affect your craft with incredible realism.

Varying weather will even affect what is and is not accessible in a given level, with certain ramps and shortcuts only available should water levels “rise” to the occasion.

Where Blue Storm arguably stumbles is in its controls. The title eschews the simple pick-up-and-play style of its predecessor, and replaces it with an intimidating control style best suited to die-hard experts. It’s not that the controls are “bad.” In fact, a persevering player will find they are extremely precise.

It’s just that people are accustomed to, for example, a left-tilted control stick sending them left as quickly as possible. In Blue Storm, that makes for a rather wide turn, where a quicker turn would be performed tilting the stick down and left. Additionally, those glorious water physics often make it feel like the water is against you going where you want to be. It may be realistic, but it makes for some teeth-grinding gameplay.

Those patient players who can get past the controls will find that Wave Race: Blue Storm is a deep racer, greatly expanded from its N64 predecessor. The many combinations of tracks, weather, and playable-characters available provide some surprising variety. This makes the challenging Championship and Stunt modes almost infinitely replayable.