(thanks, Maya Rudolph!)
Somewhere before and in between Gran Turismo and Gran Turismo II, members of Polyphony Digital (seemingly working under the name Cyber Head) worked on a little game called Omega Boost which was released for the PlayStation in Japan in April of 1999, the US that August and in Europe a month later. Japan got the awesome and hilarious TV ad above for the game (the US ad was amusing, but not as nuts as the Japanese one) and when the game arrived at the small indie game shop I worked at, it spent a decent amount of time in the store play stack. Back then, the game was impressive to me and many others right away thanks to the opening movie that still packs a punch:
Thankfully, other than the slightly unwise replacing of the Queen-style rocker that opens the import with some alternative tune that’s OK in terms of it’s title (“Fly” by Loudmouth) but lesser than the original theme music in terms of impact, the US version got the same explosive intro:
By the way, note the “Marilyn Monroe/Norma Jean” autograph reference – I loved that tiny bit of fluff because it was a little detail only a film buff would latch on to right away and smile at. As far as the gameplay went, it was an arcade-style space shooter with 19 stages, some cool planetary and tunnel missions along with a number of intense boss battles and a ton of cool bonuses for the dedicated players out there. Some game critics unfairly compared it to Sega’s Panzer Dragoon games, which only made sense as a frame of reference if you were a PS owner who also happened to have a Sega Saturn in the house. There were some minor similarities, but Omega Boost was more a technical showcase for the PlayStation hardware than Panzer Dragoon ever was on the Saturn.
The game was actually in production as early as 1996 (or perhaps sooner), as a series of Japanese demos I have here shows the early work on the game back then was making for a very different-looking experience running at 60fps with simpler polygon visuals and a few more viewpoint choices. Oh, you want some videos of that for proof? Well you’ll need to come over if you want to see them, silly. I’d thought someone would have posted them on YouTube already, but nope and nope so far. Get on it collectors who never open your stuff, I say!
Oh, all right. One day I’ll get off my butt, dig out those PlayStation Club demo discs and have someone shoot footage of me playing them, but I just haven’t had the time to get onto that and some other projects. As usual, I digress. Anyway, the game wasn’t exactly a “blockbuster” in terms of sales or review scores, but it’s definitely one of those side projects where you could see the quality right from the beginning. Of course, with Polyphony so darn occupied with the vastly more popular Gran Turismo series of games, it’s hard to even think of a new OB rolling out from them any time soon. That’s not to say that is SHOULDN’T be done at all, folks. I’m just hoping that if there is a follow-up or remake, it gets the attention it should on a few fronts the original certainly didn’t.
Eh, perhaps I’ll bite the bullet, download a PlayStation emulator from somewhere and figure out how to record some gameplay. It shouldn’t be that hard to do, although I generally dislike using emulators over an actual console…