Omega Boost 1995/1996: A Work In Progress Before Some Big Changes…

Omega Boost Demo 0 OB_Cyber Head Logo OB_WIP Omega Boost Demo TS OB_HTP screen OB_HTP_SC2 OBS2 OBD_Cockpit View Omega Boost Demo 1

PC_Vol.2Well, now. That wasn’t hard or annoying after all except for two things. One quick download of an emulator, some fast configuring and popping in the demo disc I have here and boom – pictures of the first of three Omega Boost demos that appeared on Japanese PlayStation Club discs from 1996 to 1999. The game went through some major changes in those three years, but even as a 30% complete version in these shots it’s pretty darn interesting from a technical standpoint.

I believe the demo runs at 60 frames per second, it has three selectable viewpoints (first person/cockpit/third person), a full 360 degrees of freedom and is pretty fun overall for what it is. Granted, I took these screenshots at the library while dinking around on a keyboard because I didn’t bring a controller with me (oops) or else there would have been about 30 more images here. I also didn’t tinker with the visual settings on the emulator to make the game prettier because I like the look of many early PlayStation games.

Finally, I need to find out who made up Cyber Head, which seems to be the development team behind the first two builds. Based on some other games I’ve played, it seems that in the early days of PlayStation development, a few studios didn’t mind sharing talent to help each other out as the new hardware was being explored to see what it could really do. Hmmm… I smell a longer story here at some point. I wonder if there’s anyone still around from those days with some helpful info?

Hey, Polyphony Digital? Where’s That Omega Boost Remake/Sequel?

(thanks, Maya Rudolph!)

OB_JPSomewhere 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:

(thanks, Cacophanus!)

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:

(thanks, vision2098!)

OB_NABy 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…