Water. Ship. Down.
It’s a testament to either my lazy-ness or Wave Race 64’s brilliance that I can’t even be bothered to look at another jet-ski game. There’s not much point. You can’t do it any better. I freely admit, I’ve been tempted by the Gamecube version but following the tried and tested method of looking at the back of the box I’ve decided that it’s not a patch on the original. Reviews online that I’ve skipped through with my mouse wheel to the mark out of ten at the bottom will back up my opinion.
Not that I’ve ever ridden a jet ski. My dad perched me on the back of his 92,000CC Honda Suicide once and that about did it for me as far as motorized entertainment went. Four wheels, two wheels, or even no wheels and a stretch of open water fail to rock my boat. I can get sea sick on the back seat of a bus.
Dad’s bike was always breaking down
I’m not much cop with water either. I like waves at the sea side although I’m still waiting for them to give my sunglasses back. I can swim. A bit. I was in the minnows group at school. I can vividly remember struggling to complete the 50 metres front crawl, climbing out of the pool and in a little bit of a daze, heading for the girl’s changing room. I’ll never forgive Brett Shea for stopping me and pointing me in the right direction. Naked girls would have to wait for the internet to be invented.
So water, jet-skis and racing – a recipe for something that could be mildly entertaining but it’ll be crap because you can’t “do” water in videogames.
Splish splash I was taking a bath and then at 90km/h I slapped into a wave and myself and the jet-ski departed company. The impression of water in this little beauty from 1996 is still astonishing. Splish splash I just rode a wave, cut into it, arced my way gracefully round the marker buoy, launched myself off a jump, dived underneath a wave and re-emerged for an unlikely victory. Choppy courses in deep water, tricky tight courses around shallow beaches, perfectly calm lakes with (if I’m not mistaken) a deliberate fog effect to create the effect of fog and a slippy-slidey one that gets on your tits.
Credit where credit is due. This could have been a one trick pony. It would be fun just messing about on the water and it still would have been the best Jet Ski game ever. But they put in a racing game as well and made it one of the best racing games ever in the process.
The PAL version was optimized for widescreen displays
Let’s drop the pretence. Nobody wants their opponents to be blessed with stunning levels of artificial intelligence. You don’t want to be competing with a genius robot while you’re in the middle of a session with your mind juggling the playing of the game and worrying about the cat dipping her tail in your cup of tea. Put simply, for entertainments sake, all you want to do is win more times than you lose.
It’s what I call the Dad equation. Dad realizes he has to maintain a balance with son. While he may desperately want to smash ever single lollypop from son for six, Dad realises to maintain the delicate equilibrium he has to let the occasional dolly delivery strike the stumps. Everyone is happy. If the computer has to cheat to maintain the balance: so be it. If I have to cheat by sacrificing full power for missing a few markers then it’s quid quo pro. If I have to switch into zone mode to win a few races then I’ve learned a valuable life lesson. I think.
You’ve gotta taste a bit of defeat son.
Wave Race 64’s Dad marshals all this effortlessly behind the scenes. Waves are crashing all over the place and you’re zipping through them, under them and around them. You’re pulling back on the analogue stick, cutting left, pushing forward over the crest of the wave and you’re actually bleeding racing for once. You might win the odd race by a country mile but you can bet in the next one you’ll fuck it up badly or get wiped out by an unforgiving wave and end up in an almighty scrap for third place. It’s literally seat of your pants gaming. And they’re wet pants too.
There’s a two player mode but I didn’t have any friends at the time. There’s a stunt mode trick thing as well but I was too busy racing to pay it much attention. You can even tweak your jet-ski setup if you’re the type of person who thinks that ever makes a difference.
Waves. Racing. There’s really not much better than this.