Space Channel 5
Dreamcast gamers must be having a
great year of gaming so far...I know I am. We have been treated
to games like Resident Evil: Code Veronica, Crazy Taxi, Soul Calibur,
the 2K sports games, MDK2, and many more. It seems that there
is a consistent stream of fun and innovative games that are being
released on this system, and Space Channel 5, developed and published
by Sega, continues this strong trend. Space Channel 5 takes the
latest dance/music craze and adds story, style, and attitude to
deliver a truly innovative game that only the folks at Sega could
produce. If the Dreamcast continues to get no support from the
mainstream press after this year, then there is no hope for them.
Welcome to MackDaddy’s Swing Report!
Space Channel 5's main star is the talented reporter Ulala, who
is investigating why aliens are attacking and enslaving humans.
At the same time, she must rise as THE reporter to watch on TV.
The biggest selling point in this game has to be Ulala herself.
She has style, attitude, and the looks to reel casual gamers in.
Her dance moves ooze with appeal. We may be looking at the next
Lara Croft. So what if she has pink hair and always wears orange
outfits? You will want to play the game to see her move. Don’t
get me wrong -- I am not in love with this character or think
that she is attractive, but when I see a unique character like
Ulala I just have to tell the truth. The game would not have been
the same if we had some man wearing a suit and tie as our Space
Channel 5 reporter...I don’t care how well his dance moves would
have been. Lara Croft pushed software off the shelves and so will
Ulala. You may think she only appeals to the male audience, but
you will be surprised to know that during my gaming sessions I
found that my little sister and her friends really liked Ulala.
She also impressed my girlfriend. It might have been her clothes
or dance moves, but they were hooked. The only thing that stunted
their love for Ulala was the actual game.
The game looks like it plays very simply, and it does. The aliens
shout commands to a beat and all you have to do is correctly repeat
it to the same beat. In fact, there are no confusing buttons to
mess with. The aliens only shout out directional commands and
the word “chu”. When it is your turn, in place of the word “chu”
you press the A or B button. Press the A button if the on-screen
target is an alien and the B button if it is a captured human.
Simple, right? The hard part comes when you try to reproduce the
commands. The musically inclined aliens do not stick to just simple
1-2 beats, but mix it up with syncopated rhythms and long rests
between commands. Sure, a very talented person could breeze through
the game, but for most people this will be a welcome challenge.
You will be trying everything to get through the game, like tapping
your feet, shouting the commands as you press the buttons, and
even dancing a little as you get engrossed in the game. Yes, I
admit it; I danced a couple of times, but only after I got through
certain commands that were especially difficult. When you get
in the dancing groove in this game, it just feels so good.
Follow Me As I Dissect The Brains Of Space Channel 5
The graphics are just gorgeous. The game is painted with lots
of bright and vibrant colors that jump out from the screen. The
characters are rendered in real time, but the background is actually
MPEG that is being streamed off the GDROM. The resulting effect
is a little weird at first, but it does give the game a very cool
and unique look. The backgrounds look a little blurry, but I am
betting Sega did this to keep your eyes on where the action is
happening. All of the characters in the game, including Ulala
herself, move very fluidly. The dance routines look very realistic.
In fact, they look so realistic that my little sister was able
to dance like Ulala just by watching me play the game. She started
to talk like her too, but that is another story. The only time
when the dancing gets a little awkward is when you are inputting
commands in rapid successions. The characters are cartoony, so
do not be expecting Shenmue caliber realism. To get a good idea
of how the game looks, just turn on your TV, switch to MTV, and
watch for an hour -- you are bound to see the commercial. During
the course of the game, Ulala will be able to save humans and
Morlians, and when she does they join her on her reporting campaign.
The better you are, the more followers you get, and this means
a lot of polygons on the screen; the best part is, Space Channel
5 does not stutter even one bit. I must have had up to 40 dance-crazed
followers at one time (I was lucky that day), and I did not notice
any slowdown...I was very impressed. Ulala also has a good arsenal
of dance moves that keeps the game from being dull. When you are
not doing well, she shows it with a somber dance.
This is one of the few genres where the sound is more important
than the graphics. If you think otherwise, how can you explain
the PaRappa the Rappa game? The game consisted of 2-D pictures
that bent to the beat, yet it was one helluva party game. Space
Channel 5 has the graphics, but it also has the sound category
down. Everything in the game revolves around the music. It is
the base or platform on which everything else is built upon. The
game features a funky, techno-like soundtrack that will be sure
to at least get your feet tapping. The commands are heard clearly,
despite the fact that the music gets a little too loud at times.
If you do not turn up your volume, or talk during the commands,
you are sure to miss them. To make things worse, there are no
bars telling you what the commands were, or why you got the sequence
wrong. You will mostly hear Ulala and the aliens, but there are
other characters in the game like Ulala’s unseen producer, Jaguar,
and many more. There is even a surprise appearance by one of the
most famous musicians on Earth, Michael Jackson [a surprise
no more - Ed.]. He sounds and dances like the king of pop,
too. In fact, when you rescue Space Michael, the whole entourage
starts to dance like him. A quick fact about the game: it was
in the late stages of development when Michael Jackson saw it,
and was so impressed that he wanted to be in the game. The development
team wanted to do more with Space Michael, but time was not on
their side. Sound was the most important element in the game,
and Sega pulled it off magnificently.
The game is great, but not perfect. Space Channel 5 is one of
those games where you either make it or you fail. To make things
worse, you will never know exactly why you failed! Unlike most
music/rhythm games where there is a bar showing you when to press
the correct buttons, Space Channel 5 leaves you out to defend
yourself. This will not bother gamers who are skilled in this
type of game, but for younger kids and less skilled gamers it
can, and will, get very frustrating. My little sister, who adored
Ulala, could not get past the first level, despite the fact she
tried numerous times. She resorted to watching me play the game
after the second day of pure frustration. It would have been better
if there was an option to turn this feature on, instead of leaving
it out completely. Another minor gripe I have with the game is
the later sequences rely more on your hand speed than on your
musical skills. This is another hurdle a gamer must overcome to
beat the game. Like I said before, this is really a minor and
personal issue. A final problem with the game is that it is very
linear. There are no multiple paths and the dance commands are
the same each time you play the game. It really bumps the replay
value way down, though there are little things that will make
you want to play the game again after you have beaten it the first
time. There is a profile for each character that you meet in the
game, accessed through the options menu, and to unlock their profile
you must capture them. Another goal you can set for yourself is
trying to get the highest possible TV rating on each level. There
are also hidden levels and mini-quests in the game, even though
it might not be apparent at first. This keeps the replay value
from getting too low.
If someone asked me what this game is like, I would have to say
fun. They should rename the Dreamcast the Funstation. Okay, maybe
that name is dumb, but I am having a blast with my Dreamcast.
Space Channel 5 is just another reminder that I made a very good
decision when I purchased my Dreamcast. This game has the graphics,
the music, and the innovative gameplay that is hard to find these
days. Despite the low replay value with the game, I don’t have
any problem with owning it. I know that I will probably not be
playing it six months from now, but just owning a truly innovative
and fun game is self-satisfying. I say skip the rental, buy the
game, call your friends over, and watch each person make a fool
of themself. It will be one great night.
Keep Your Channel Set On GamersPulse.com…MackDaddy Over and Out!
Shhhhhrrr…(Screen displays the snow effect.)
Producer: “That’s a wrap!”
(I know I am not as good as Ulala, but hey! Give me a break!)
BACK TO TOP | BACK
GP by visiting our sponsors