Cyber Speedway was released exclusively for the Sega Saturn in 1995. The game was released around the same time as the futuristic racer, Wipeout, and is similar in many respects. It was developed by the Japanese game company NexTech, who created the DOS game CyberRace two years prior. So is this forgotten game any good? Read on.
Like most racing games, the championship mode is the main meat of Cyber Speedway. The season consists of 6 races, 5 laps each, through 6 different planets. The 6 planets are:
- Terra: More commonly known as Earth, Terra features a gentle romp through caves and the only track to feature water
- Glacies: This planet doesn't appear to get a lot of light. Everything is dark and frozen. The obligatory "ice" level
- Vastitas: This is a desert like planet features lots of steep hills and drops. It also has a lot of sand traps, so you need to stay on the racing line.
- Nubes: Nubes is a gas planet, so the entire course is floating above the planet.
- Evoflammas: If you were to race through a volcano, it would be a lot like Evoflammas.
- Artmasatelles: Complete Artmasatelles in first place, and you win the game. This course is a race through a town of sorts.
The championship is divided into a Standard championship and an Advanced championship. Standard mode features the first 5 planets and only requires you finish in the top 3 to advance. The Advance level features all 6 planets and requires you to finish in first to proceed to the next planet. In both modes, you have a whopping 5 continues on each track to place in the top 3 (or win outright in Advance mode). Most gamers should be able to breeze through both modes on their first try.
The championship also adds a story to Cyber Speedway. Instead of wars, the universe of the future has decided all conflicts will be settled by racing. Even worse than the story is that between each race you have to sit through still images of your manager, mechanic, and your opponents yapping away about the upcoming race. Despite the Sega Saturn being capable of full motion video, the developers decided to have still images of the person rambling on and on. I would have preferred the story and horrible acting eliminated altogether as it adds nothing to Cyber Speedway.
The actual racing itself isn't half bad. Controlling your "sled" is a much more satisfying experience than in Wipeout. The controls are responsive and I didn't find myself constantly bouncing off the walls. The unique controlling aspect of Cyber Speedway is the boost. Pressing a shoulder button will give that side of the ship a boost of power, either on the left or right side of your sled, allowing you to get through tighter turns without losing speed.
The only weapon in Cyber Speedway are rockets. Scattered about the tracks are ammunition barrels that gain you access to the rockets. You don't need to hit your opponents, but rather fire the rockets ahead of you. When they hit the track, or the environment, the explode and if your opponents drive into the blast, they will wipe out. Later on, you get an upgrade to your rockets that creates an enormous blast radius. Timing rocket fire is the key to being successful.
Cyber Speedway also allows for some minor tweaking prior to each race. You can adjust your steering response between heavy, neutral, and light. This is pretty much useless and I recommend leaving it on neutral. You can have hard, neutral, and soft brakes, but you rarely need to brake anyway. What is useful is the engine option. You can choose between power (acceleration), neutral, and speed. Some tracks benefit from selecting power or neutral as there is not enough straight sections to warrant a higher top speed. Additionally, selecting power will assure you will get a good jump on your opponents at the start of the race.
The time trial mode lets your practice the courses in one of 5 different sleds. It boggles my mind that the championship mode does not let you select a different sled. That's right, there is only one sled in the main mode of the game! Lame.
Graphically, Cyber Speedway is weak. The textures are not very detailed, and there is loads of pop-up. It very much feels like the first generation Sega Saturn game that it is. The frame rate is solid however, cruising along without any major hiccups.
The most laughable aspect of Cyber Speedway is the soundtrack. The front cover boasts music by the Bygone Dogs. I have never heard of this band, nor has anyone else. The last page shows a picture of the band, and 2 of them have some well pronounced mullets. And that about sums up the music. The lazy rock sound does not fit the atmosphere of the game at all. Thankfully, the sound effects are good. Unlike Wipeout, you can actually hear the drone of your engine. The explosions are loud and satisfying.
I can't help but think Cyber Speedway could have been a good game with a little more time. A more robust sled selection, a more engaging story, and some unlockable goodies would have gone a long way into making this title more appealing. Some additional work on the graphics engine wouldn't hurt either.
Overall, Cyber Speedway for the Sega Saturn is mediocre and mostly forgettable. The "story" is weak and could have been omitted. The soundtrack is terrible, especially compared to Wipeout. The graphics are barely average and the game is too short. The lack of any variety in the sled selection is disappointing. Still, at the end of the day, the game is at least fun to play, while it lasts. For racing fans only.
Graphics 4/10 - Bland textures and lots of pop-up
Sound 4/10 - Laughable soundtrack
Game play 6/10 - Fun but short
Overall 5/10 - Average