DPrime Retroview: Space Channel 5


Originally posted on Default Prime

Before rhythm and music games required large plastic accessories, many games, like Parappa the Rapper, Vib-Ribbon, and Frequency, just used the normal controllers. Space Channel 5 is much like these titles as it also uses the standard controller. Released on the Dreamcast in 2000, Space Channel 5 was one of a handful of titles SEGA released to try to broaden the audience of the Dreamcast. Their attempt brought to life a simple rhythmic dancing game with a futuristic style that is as unique as it is wacky. While the title is one of the many unique titles SEGA created for the Dreamcast, should you be looking to add this title to your collection?

Space Channel 5 is set in the 25th century. Everything was quite peaceful until aliens invaded and started forcing humans… to dance! Ulala, a reporter for the news station Space Channel 5 must dance back at the aliens to save the humans from forever dancing, and to get the scoop on why the aliens are attacking the human race. Ulala isn’t alone though, other news stations are sending reporters to try to get the scoop first. Ulala has to dance off against the other reporters to make sure Space Channel 5 gets the news story first. As you can probably already tell, the story is completely ridiculous and the characters are just as ridiculous. While the story doesn’t make much sense, it really doesn’t need to. It’s just so strange that you can’t help but to love it. 

In order to free humans from their dancing spell you must use the up, down, left and right directions on the D-pad in the correct order and rhythm that the aliens yell off. On top of that, aliens will be trying to shoot at you. You will need to shoot first using the A button in a similar fashion to the directional pad. Dancing off against the aliens may sound a bit easy at first, but it gets quite difficult later on. The pace towards the latter half of the game is ridiculously fast. Thankfully, Space Channel 5 is pretty lenient and gives you plenty of room for error before your report is canceled (aka game over). Dancing is the only control you have over Ulala. Everything else is on a predetermined path. You could call Space Channel 5 a on-rails dancer.

Space Channel 5 is unique visually with it’s funky futuristic fashion and design. To compensate for the Dreamcast’s relatively low power, for its time at least, the entire game uses CGI backgrounds which are colorful and creative, but are a bit blurry. Characters in the game are rendered in real time, so they look a bit strange on the CGI backgrounds. Occasionally you will see characters floating off the floor or the background and camera angle won’t change in synch so characters appear in odd locations for a split second. But these are minor complaints that can be easily overlooked.  Everything that is rendered in real time looks fairly decent and are what you would expect from a Dreamcast title.  Sometimes there are a lot of character models on screen at once. But considering the background is entirely CGI, it isn’t anything too impressive.

Space Channel 5’s sound track consists of plenty of unique and funky songs. Its upbeat style fits right in with the rest of the game. The voice acting in Space Channel 5 is appropriately cheesy, although at times it looks like they didn’t even try to lip synch the voices with the characters in the game.

There are only two modes in Space Channel 5: the basic story mode, which is what you play through the first time, and a extra mode which is similar to the main story but contains different paths from the regular story mode. Players have a rating score depending on how well they do. And depending on that score, each different mode will have different paths for players to follow. So while Space Channel 5 can be beaten in about a hour, players can play through the game again to get different paths and events that keep the experience fresh. To further extend the replay value, Space Channel 5 has character bios for every character in the game, no matter how minor they are. While this would normally be a somewhat disappointing attempt to lengthen the title, Space Channel 5’s character bios are just as ridiculous as the rest of the game and are quite entertaining to read. 

Overall, Space Channel 5 is a very unique and stylish experience. If you are looking for the peak of SEGA’s creativity than Space Channel 5 is sure to please. You can find the title for quite the affordable price nowadays, but don’t expect to sink hours upon hours into the title. Despite it’s short length though, Space Channel 5 has a distinct style that definitely makes the journey worth every penny. If you are looking for another title to add to your Dreamcast collection, Space Channel 5 is definitely more than worthy of a spot.

Space Channel 5 can also be found on the PlayStation 2, but the North American version called Space Channel 5: Special Edition also includes the sequel, Space Channel 5: Part 2. The games are pretty much identical minus a few small changes, but I personally felt the PlayStation 2 controller felt a bit unresponsive when the speed starts to pick up.  Space Channel 5 is also on the Gameboy Advance, but I’d assume some major changes were made in the port.

Score: 8.8

Pros:

  • Funky visuals like no other
  • Wacky story that is entertaining all the way through
  • Simple yet fun rhythmic gameplay
  • Upbeat soundtrack that melds well with the rest of the game

Cons:

  • Blurry backgrounds
  • Incredibly short
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