Ripwave Racing Preview: Wave Of Nostalgia

If I were forced to have to pick only two Nintendo 64 games to play for the rest of my life, they would be Pilotwings 64 and Wave Race 64. Look, I love Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, and Goldeneye as much as the next person, but these two extreme sports games are the ones that I played more than any other title. Wave Race 64, specifically, stands out, as it was (quite literally) the very first game in which I actually beat my step-brother when we were growing up. Was a controller thrown against the wall in frustration and utter disbelief? Perhaps. But that’s beside the point. Wave Race 64 has long been a title that I’ve wanted to see rebooted, remastered, reimagined… just get it onto whatever the latest generation of consoles is and into my watersport-loving hands. Unfortunately, that just hasn’t been the case. Until now.

While a new Wave Race title might not be happening now (or ever), a new indie title seems to have the early markings of exactly what I’m looking for in a fast-paced water racing title. Ripwave Racing may be bare-boned in its available demo, but after spending some time on the water, it already feels like it has almost everything that made late-90s arcade racing titles so fun.

Let’s start with the obvious. It’s the retro graphics that put me right at home in Ripwave Racing. Feeling as though I’m playing on the PlayStation or Nintendo 64, the fluorescent polygons of the boats and scenery hit on every wave of nostalgia for me (pun absolutely intended). There aren’t a ton of details on the boats themselves – the motor and propellers looking about as simple as you can get – but I don’t think that’s really necessary in this type of game. It also gets a major pass given that this is only the demo.

Ripwave Racing’s level design (of which there’s only currently one) is also just as effective in making me feel like I’m playing an older game. The level collects almost all of the different elements that you might find in a water racer, such as canyons, jungles, open-water areas, beaches, and waterfalls. Look closely, and you might just find a hidden path that you can use to get a slight advantage on the competition – another staple from games like Mario Kart 64 (Koopa Troopa Beach, anyone?) and Hydro Thunder.

That competition also already feels pretty good to race against in the early version of the game. CPU-controlled boats generally hang together in a cluster, with one or two boats leading (or trailing) the pack by a substantial amount – a dynamic that many racing games share. If I’m in first-place, it doesn’t take much of a screw-up on my part for the second-place boat to catch up to me. However, it’s also not a devastating situation, since catching up again isn’t overly difficult. There seems to be a good balance between battling against the AI and just being a skilled enough racer. The surprisingly tight controls allow you to pick up the physics of the game pretty quickly, making that barrier to entry less daunting.

Audio-wise, there are sound effects that could use a bit of work, but to be honest, the only thing that’s missing from this very early version of the game is a soundtrack. The music from Wave Race 64 still lives rent-free in my head even after all these years. It helped to define the game as a late-90s racer, and that is exactly what Ripwave Racing needs. The demo level is surprisingly long. A banging musical track would make each lap a lot better – perhaps some sort of chiptune version of a power rock anthem or ballad that would play during a montage scene in a 90s action flick. I would imagine that music will eventually make its way into the game, and I can’t wait to see… err, hear what the developer has in store.

If you go into the Ripwave Racing demo expecting anything more than an N46 experience, you’re going to be disappointed. This isn’t a game tailored for next-gen consoles, but that’s the point. Would I prefer the game to feature jet skis instead of boats? Sure, but for what it is – even in its early development – Ripwave Racing feels exactly like the kind of water racing title I’ve been waiting for. (And there’s still plenty of time for a special jet ski to be added in. Fingers crossed, at least.)

Next: Memories Of East Coast Review: Picture Perfect

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Sam has been writing for TheGamer since early 2018, earning the role as the Lead Features & Review Editor in 2019. The Denver, Colorado-native’s knack for writing has been a life-long endeavor. His time spent in corporate positions has helped shape the professional element of his creative writing passion and skills. Beyond writing, Sam is a lover of all things food and video games, which – especially on weekends – are generally mutually exclusive, as he streams his gameplay on Twitch (as well as TheGamer’s Facebook page) under the self-proclaimed, though well-deserved moniker of ChipotleSam. (Seriously…just ask him about his Chipotle burrito tattoo). You can find Sam on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as @RealChipotleSam.

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