The year was 2000, I was a mere 15 years old, and the Sega Dreamcast was the latest techno baby to enter our family home. In truth, the Dreamcast was my brother’s console; I was still a Sony fan, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the PS2. I have to admit that, now and again, the Dreamcast did excite me, and with titles such as Power Stone and Dead Or Alive, many a manic gaming session was had, usually resulting in fits of uncontrollable laughter. But without a doubt, Omikron: The Nomad Soul remains my fondest Dreamcast-related memory. For those who haven’t heard of this game, or perhaps can’t remember it, here is a synopsis from Wiki:
“The Nomad Soul is set in a futuristic city known as Omikron, which is a densely populated metropolis on the world of Phaenon, the second planet of the star Rad’an. At the start of the game, players are asked by an Omikronian police officer named Kay’l 669 to leave their dimension and enter Omikron within his body (therefore breaking the fourth wall). After doing so, players continue with the investigation of serial killings that Kay’l and his partner Den were originally working on, attempting to pick up where Kay’l was apparently stopped from investigating. The city of Omikron exists beneath an enormous crystal dome which was constructed to protect against the ice age that Phaenon entered after its sun’s extinction. The city is split into four different sectors: Anekbah, Qualisar, Jaunpur, and Lahoreh. Because it is forbidden for the inhabitants to leave their respective sectors, each area has developed uniquely, which is reflected by the diverging lifestyles and architecture. Common to all Omikronians, however, is the heavily oppressive and controlling government which is run by a supercomputer called Ix.” Already sounds great, right?
But when you add into the mix the inclusion of an original soundtrack by David Bowie, Omikron goes from being something merely good, to a truly thrilling concept. I still recall vividly the game’s opening sequence, as the camera whizzes through the futuristic, Bladerunner-style titular city to the wailing guitar of Bowie’s New Angels Of Promise. It’s as cinematic and breathtaking an opening for a videogame as there’s ever likely to be (see the Youtube video below). Bowie even makes several appearances in the game, both as the digitised leader of a rebel group, known as ‘Boz’, to the nameless, lead singer of an underground band called ‘The Dreamers’.You can catch this band performing more Bowie-penned tracks in secret gigs all over the city, providing you find the right clues. So, why should it be re-made? Well for one thing, this game was way ahead of its time, a beguiling mix of industrial cityscapes, artistic sensibilities and stunning music, blended together to form an otherworldly, bizarre experience one could only really associate with Bowie. It was full to bursting with innovation and creativity. Plot-wise, what begins as a simple ‘hunt the serial killer’ story becomes a twisted tale of demons posing as humans and soul-snatching. About halfway through the game, your soul leaves the body of the main character, giving you the freedom to inhabit the bodies of other characters dotted throughout the metropolis. You can control huge police droids that wouldn’t look out of place in Robocop, walk into strip clubs where dancers are writhing provocatively around poles, and even buy records to play on the home stereo in your apartment. There was even the odd sex shop thrown in for good measure! The neat little touches here really made this game extraordinary for me, but there were quite a few problems that somewhat spoiled the experience. For starters, I’ve heard that the PC version of the game is considerably better than the Dreamcast port, and I’m perfectly willing to believe that. The controls for the Dreamcast were simply awful: clunky, unwieldy and slow at responding – everything controls should aim to avoid, in other words. As a result, the fight sequences were rendered pretty joyless. Loading times were often ridiculously long, and the camera suffered from the odd glitch, too. Grouped together, these little niggles had quite a damaging impact on the game as a whole. The thought of an Omikron remake on our latest generation consoles, with sharper controls, significantly reduced loading times, and perhaps a bit more attention to detail, is one at which I salivate. With the power and scope of today’s technology, the city itself could be made twice as big (and it was already pretty huge to begin with) – providing a far more atmospheric gaming experience. Even though critical reception of the game upon its release was mixed, Omikron nevertheless grew a dedicated cult following, becoming known as one of those little underground gems that, while not being perfect, inspired love and many a fan website all the same. Sequels were, in fact, planned, but as yet none have materialized, leaving a huge Bowie/ Omikron-shaped void in our lives. So come on Eidos/ Quantic Dream, put the wheels in motion for that remake – it’s guaranteed to be a success! Game intro: