Space Channel 5 was produced by Tetsuya Mizuguchi (Sega Rally Championship) and released on the Sega Dreamcast on June 6, 2000, in North America. It is by far one of the most insanely addictive and bizarre games ever created, mixing together the hypnotic rhythm gaming style of PaRappa the Rapper and simmering it in the same wok as your basic Simon handheld game.
Space Channel 5 guides sexy pink-haired Ulala (modeled after Deee-Lite’s Lady Miss Kier) through 25th century Earth in a state of crisis. An alien race called the Morolians have randomly been shooting innocent earthlings with a mysterious ray gun that causes them to dance uncontrollably to their space-aged beats! In order to save the earthlings, our favorite Space Channel 5 reporter must copy the Morolians’ dance steps and shoot the Morolians while they are dancing around like a bunch of jackasses.
Ulala has two different types of ray guns: One she uses to defeat the Morolians, and the other to save the Earthlings. There really isn’t much to the gameplay other than copying the Morolians’ dance steps and using both types of ray guns during your “routines”. It can range from very simplistic “Up! Down! Left! Right! Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!” sequences to “Holy shit, WHAT did they just tell me to do?” Unlike other rhythm games such as PaRappa the Rapper, Space Channel 5 does not show you which steps you are supposed to be doing. You have no choice but to pay close attention to the dance steps the disgruntled Morolians shout at you, and they can sometimes come out so distorted and jumbled that you may find yourself getting easily pissed off.
As you progress through each level, every successful sequence raises Channel 5’s overall viewer rating, which affects the morale of Ulala and the saved earthlings who follow her. Yes, every person that you save (including Michael Jackson) will dance behind her as she strides and struts her way to each boss character.
Boss characters usually wind up just being a longer dance sequence with more Earthlings to save or aliens to slay. They provide much more of a challenge, though, as Ulala’s health drops each time a sequence is missed. Most bosses tend to thrive on changing their difficulty in mid-sequence just to throw you off, as well, so you really need to have your game face on. My suggestion is to drink a ton of Jolt Cola.
The in-game graphics are very original and sleek and really give Space Channel 5 a futuristic electronica feel. Ulala’s outfits change with each level, and you also come across some really insane- looking enemies that somewhat resemble the lovechild of Chunk from The Goonies and a dead hooker. The bosses also have a great sense of depth to them. They are made to look huge and menacing, and Sega did a great job putting that perspective through.
The game also seems very perverted at times as well, with Ulala’s stripper-like dance moves, and the camera sometimes going up her miniskirt; but this should make all of you fanboys happy. After all, if you’ve got it, flaunt it…right?
The soundtrack to Space Channel 5 is also extremely catchy. It has a great retro showtune feel mixed with some sort of electronica, and it fits the game 100%. Hats off again to Sega for putting two and two together! Now if we could just make those new Sonic games not suck?
Overall, Space Channel 5 is a highly addictive futuristic rhythm game that varies in difficulty. It’s not for everyone, and the storyline is über-cheesy; but if you are sick of all the run-‘n’-gun blood-soaked action games, Madden 2099, or Final Fantasy CDXVII, give it a shot. You might feel embarrassed for liking it, but it truly is a rare gem on an overlooked system that will have you wondering why you never played it when it was originally released almost six years ago.
Did I mentioned that Ulala is hot? See…there you go. Now grab your car keys…head over to EB Games…there. See it on the shelf of used games? Great. Now buy it.
Useless Fact: Space Channel 5 was revamped and re-released on the PS2 on November 18, 2003, as Space Channel 5: Special Edition and included Space Channel 5: Part 2.