Believe it or not I didn’t know the Wave Race series began on the Nintendo Game Boy until I found and purchased a copy a few years ago. Produced by the ever popular Shigeru Miyamoto, Wave Race was released on the Game Boy all the way back in 1992, but only for North America. Europe had to wait until June 1997, making it feel more like a portable sequel to Wave Race 64, while Japan seemingly never received a local release of Wave Race at all. Wave Race still sold well enough on the Game Boy that it achieved Player’s Choice status. Is it any good? Let’s find out.
Wave Race allows the player to play alone against AI, practice alone or compete against up to 3 of their friends, pending everyone has a copy of the game, a link cable and someone has the four player adapter. The overall goal of Wave Race is to race through 16 different circuits in 8 different locations and earn enough points to unlock faster, although also more difficult to control, watercrafts. There are two styles of racing available: circuits will see the player competing in a lapped series of races where finishing in a higher position will gain more points. The other style is slalom, which will pit the player against other players to see who can collect points pylons. Points here are solely dependent on collecting pylons and the race is over once all points pylons have been collected.
Along side competition, the player must also contend with varying track conditions and the inertia of the watercraft itself. Strewn about the tracks might be shallows, whirlpools or heavy currents that may all cause the player problems in their attempt to compete. To combat these setbacks there are also power ups in the form of a dolphin or octopus. Once a power up is collected the watercraft will flash and afford the player one of two abilities: collecting a dolphin will give the player easier maneuverability while collecting an octopus will allow the player to bump into opponents and steal some of their turbo.
Speaking of turbo, the only thing that confused me about this game was the button arrangement. B is throttle and A is turbo, where I’m far more familiar with things being the opposite way around, but that’s just a minor gripe. Competition, however, is pretty fierce and will bump and jump your watercraft off the course. If you manage to miss a pylon on the circuit tracks you will be forced to go back and go around it properly, and the AI knows this.
I have to be honest here, the whole time I played Wave Race I felt like someone cut down Micro Machines to just the boat stages and made it the whole game. That’s not to say Wave Race isn’t a great game in its own right, in fact I think the fact that it made me think of Micro Machines should be considered a good sign. I’m more familiar with Wave Race 64, so finding out the series began life on the Game Boy was a shock, but Wave Race is a really fun game and I’m seeing now why it achieved Player’s Choice status.