To lift my summertide spirits, I enjoy chilling out in a number of virtual escapes. As an all-time favorite, I’ve long waded in the cool waters of Nintendo EAD’s jet ski racing classic, Wave Race 64.
In another recent post, I highlighted some my favorite summer-themed video games before rambling about how Wave Race 64’s water physics and watercraft handling still feel shockingly good today. Honestly, I can’t think of many — if any — 3D games from the mid-90s that feel as eternally modern as Wave Race 64.
As much as I love everything about WR64, I only wish I could love its sequel, Blue Storm. It’s fair to say I’ve warmed up to it over the years — more or less — but I’m continually let down by how it managed to turn WR64’s most remarkable feats into glaring flaws of its own. Despite a variety of rider customization options, Blue Storm’s watercraft handling has always felt jarringly stiff and finicky.
Critiques aside, one aspect where both games excel is in their brilliant course designs. Each of WR64 and Blue Storm’s courses flow brilliantly as racing venues. Despite their simplicity, they reward players ad nauseam for mastering the nuances of their layouts. They also feel like tangible settings, sewing rich identities from their vibrant aesthetics, distinct landmarks, and granular environmental details.
So the series’ locations are great fun to race around, but how much would I want to hang out there?
Let’s rank them and find out! Worst to first. Here we go…
Anchoring the bottom of the list is Port Blue from WR64. The course revolves around a docked tanker vessel. I’m sure it’s perfectly fine if you’re a sailor or longshoreman, but I’m just here to vibe and there’s nary a beach, bar, nor forklift racing circuit anywhere. What a waste of time.
Nestled in the waters off a tropical hillside, Sunny Beach is a narrow sandbar that could be cool if it wasn’t packed with grandstands of cardboard cut-out spectators and nothing else. No doubt, this is the kind of event that would way overcharge for a dried-out hot dog and flat can of Coke. I’ll pass.
WR64’s ice course is a hard sell for me. I mean, glaciers may be all majestic and stuff, but it’s so desolate. There’d be no one around to help me if I slipped on an iceberg and fell into the icy waters. At least the penguins will be there comfort me while I die of hypothermia.
I’d have similar safety concerns with Blue Storm’s ice level, with the added threat of polar bears who will surely maul me in my sleep. The upside is there’s a cruise ship anchored nearby where I can seek refuge in its mediocre buffets and mentalist magic shows. Meh, I guess I’m not really a cruise person.
This tiny island appears in both Wave Race 64 and Blue Storm. In both cases, it seems a lot more fun to race around than hang out on. As cool as it’d be to plunder the sunken wooden ship in its waters, the nearby sharks make it a hard pass. The tide patterns are also bizarre. The beaches are completely submerged when the tide is in but during races, the waterline drops alarmingly with each lap. It’s as if someone uncorked an ocean drain plug to make the racers a more convenient snack for the sharks.
There’s some serious Bond villain shit going on here and I don’t trust any of it.
This serene lake kinda reminds me of where I’d go fishing when visiting my grandparents as a kid. Thick fog shrouds the trees and reeds lining the calm water. It’s just me and the lake…and a shit ton of ducks. It might still be pretty peaceful if it weren’t for all the jet skis buzzing around.
The fish won’t bite now, assholes.
This course has a nice tropical island vibe, punctuated with a coral reef and sea turtles in the GameCube sequel. After a long day of watercrafting, it doesn’t seem like there’s much to do on the shore itself. Maybe there’s some fun snorkeling but everything else looks pretty lame.
But then again, you can ride a dolphin. So…
You could do a lot worse than camp out under the waterfalls and forests of this alpine lake. I’ll make sure to pack a gas mask for the inevitable wildfire smoke this summer.
Ocean City Harbor
I’m sure Blue Storm’s city level has some cool stuff to do. It features a colorful (if sterile) skyline, perpetual fireworks displays, and port cranes that fling shipping containers onto unsuspecting jet ski racers in the canal. You know, typical city shit.
Also, for all the pervasiveness of McDonald’s advertising throughout Blue Storm, Ocean City Harbor is the only place that actually seems to have a McDonald’s. So bonus points for that, I guess.
I’ve always been intrigued by the spires and other weathered structures poking up from behind the outer walls of this course. If they ever give tours, sign me up! I love that shit. However, I’ll admit the dreary weather is less enticing. If I wanted that, I could just stay in Seattle.
I’m sure this city has some nifty attractions despite how the identical skyscrapers reek of big tech business park energy. Meanwhile, I’ll be over at the party mansion across the way. There’s a neat little beach I could pass out on, provided I don’t trip on a nearby sea mine in my trashed state. If you need me, I’ll be vomiting off of a pier somewhere.
La Razza Canal
I mean, this is just Venice. It’s Venice. I’ve always wanted to go there, and I hope I can before the whole city becomes a scuba diving expedition. I’ve gotta admit, sipping a caffé corretto on a canalside patio sounds immensely relaxing…at least until the jet ski hooligans come barreling through my table as a shortcut.
Sure, I wouldn’t mind sipping Scotch in an old castle. Sounds lovely.
Now we’re talking. Perpetually drenched an orange-ade hues, this is definitely a place I could unwind. The island features a large resort with plenty of nooks to explore, The sandy beaches are dotted with life guard towers, but any perceived safety is undermined by the cluster of sea mines floating just off shore. I bet the resort’s bartenders make a killer Tequila Sunset, though.
Lost Temple Lagoon
Yo, this place is gorgeous.
It’s even got an elephant temple.
And other cool stuff, too.
Maybe I should just move there.