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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…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!)


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Lemuel (MackDaddy) Navarro
June 26, 2000
Review Feedback

Reviewer’s System:
Sega Dreamcast

Pulse Rate:
Concept: 100 - Take Ulala the cute young reporter, aliens, and put it into a new and growing genre, and you get a game that is unique all the way down to the graphic style.
Gameplay: 70 - The game is very straightforward, but the hidden levels and mini-quests help to boost the replay value.
Graphics: 95 - The characters look great and move smooth as silk. The streaming MPEG, along with the rendered characters, give it a cool and unique look.
Sound: 100 - The music is great and you can clearly hear the commands, unless people around are talking too much!
Technical: 100 - No freezes, and no slowdowns when lots of dancers on the screen.
Overall: 93 - A must buy for any Dreamcast gamer who wants to own a game that will be remembered throughout the console’s life span.


Compatible With:
Jump Pack
VGA Adapter

Player: 1

Release Date:



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