When Space Channel 5 released on the Dreamcast nearly 20 years ago, it introduced fans to a weird and unique world that has managed to stay with them ever since. While Ulala has been a staple for Sega in a variety of other racing and mash-up titles, fans of the Space Channel 5 series will finally be able to get dancing again, as Space Channel 5 VR: Kinda Funky News Flash! will be releasing later this year.
After donning a PSVR headset and checking it out at PAX East last month, I can safely say that fans of the series will feel right back at home once they get their hands on it.
Space Channel 5 VR once again puts you in the shoes of a reporter, but this time it isn’t Ulala. Instead, you’re a new recruit who is following the iconic reporter around. Once you drop into the game, you’re given a brief tutorial by Ulala on how to play the game, and it’s here where you learn how everything functions in VR. In order to move, you simply gesture in the proper direction along with the music, and you’re good to go.
You’re also able to move your body side-to-side and up and down to complete various poses, and thanks to the added functionality of VR, you’re able to charge up attacks by lifting your hands up as you’re playing. The controls are all intuitive, and everything felt really smooth as I learned the ropes on how to get my groove on.
After the tutorial ends, things quickly go wrong, and you’re suddenly in the middle of an alien invasion that you must fend off. Much like the original game, Space Channel 5 VR tasks you with defeating aliens through dance, but unlike the original, you’re much more active this time around. Instead of simply watching people dance and pressing buttons along with the music, you’re on your feet and actively moving alongside Ulala.
Similar to other dance titles, Space Channel 5 VR is mostly played by making you strike various poses and nail certain arm movements in time with the music. You can either watch Ulala dance or check out a screen that shows you the upcoming moves to help you out. Moves get more and more complex as you continue playing, although things never felt so difficult that they were impossible. The general flow of gameplay seems similar to the Oculus Rift and Quest title, Dance Central VR.
The original Space Channel 5 was fun in its own right, but the inclusion of VR takes things to a whole new level. You’re still listening for the call of Ulala and the in-game bell that tells you when to move, but thanks to VR, everything feels way more engaging as you play.
Dodging with your actual body and sending out attack beams against aliens feels way more rewarding when you’re actually on your feet and moving about. Just like the Dreamcast title, the soundtrack in Space Channel 5 VR is filled with incredible tunes, and promises to pay homage to the 60s style sound that the original also had. Throughout my time with the game, it was hard not to keep moving along with the music, which is a good sign for any game that is solely focused on dancing.
I didn’t notice any issues with the performance or controls during my demo. Tracking and movement all seemed to be accurate, and the updated design of Space Channel 5 VR was a great touch as well. The colorful details in Ulala and the Morolians were a great contrast for the stark white look of the in-game spaceport, and while it would be nice to see other environments (like the one shown below), the colorful and vibrant nature of the characters in Space Channel 5 VR made up for it.
The only downside to my time with Space Channel 5 VR was just how short the demo was. After only playing for about 15 minutes, I was surprisingly disappointed to have to stop playing. As a huge fan of rhythm titles but not a huge fan of getting up and dancing in real life, I was genuinely shocked at how much fun I had.
There’s no current information on when Space Channel 5 VR will launch, but it will be available on PSVR and SteamVR when it releases, presumably sometime later this year. Check out the official website for more details.