I was a Nintendo kid growing up, owning every one of their consoles from the SNES all the way up to the Switch, each one being my main console up until the Wii which is when I bought an Xbox 360. So, I missed out on other platforms such as the Megadrive, PS2, Saturn and the Dreamcast – Sega’s final shot at the console world. Since then I’ve played a number of remasters, ports and re-releases of games which originated on the console a lot of people claim was one of the best of its generation, but I’ve never had the chance to experience Space Channel 5 until now via Space Channel 5 VR: Kinda Funky News Flash!
As a fan of rhythm games, such as Hatsune Miku, I have no idea why I’ve never looked into giving the original Space Channel 5 a shot as the gameplay, setting, music, and characters are all right up my alley. However, I got a little more than I bargained for with this new VR sequel as I had no idea how active and flexible you had to be! Thankfully I live alone as I can only imagine what I looked like trying to dance along with Ulala!
Despite the game forcing me to get off my backside and move a little, I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face for the entire duration of this unfortunately short title, let’s find out why…
Space Channel 5 VR consists of a few modes, which I’ll run through as I briefly explain what they are.
Story Mode: The main mode of the game is clearly the campaign, a four-stage narrative which has you dancing along with Ulala as you both engage in dance-battles with a bunch of aliens who have invaded and are forcing all the citizens to dance. You must follow the lead presented to you by both friend and foes as you mimic their actions, allowing you to dodge attacks, shoot projectiles at the enemies, and set up barriers to protect yourself. Whilst in this mode, performing the wrong action three times in a row means game over, forcing you to replay the entire stage all over again.
Arcade Mode: I honestly thought this mode would have been so much more than it actually is. Once selected, you play through the first mission of the campaign, only without the fear of failure as your heart meter is removed. This is touted as an ‘introduction mode’ but I honestly thought it would have been a score battle with other people online or something similar, as that’s what ‘Arcade’ usually means.
Trial Dance: I really enjoyed this mode as it introduced a lot of new dance moves and it was a lot of fun to play through. The game presents you with 100 dances in a row, levelling up and getting more intense every ten dances. The goal here is to see if you can last all 100 stages – I made it to stage 67 on my first go.
So, what’s Space Channel 5 VR like to play? Imagine Just Dance only you’re not simply mirroring the performer in front of you on the fly, you’re effectively repeating their previous dance ala Parappa the Rapper and ‘Simon’. You’ll have to ensure you have a decent amount of space around you as you’ll be throwing your arms out to the side, bending over, punching in front of you, making gestures like a kitten with its paws in the air, and even going all macho as you flex your muscles. I’m not usually a very active person but I really got into this game, prancing around as I became the female dancing persona the developers created for me once I donned my headset and grabbed my Move controllers.
The entire game is based on music, not only do the characters you meet all have fun songs they sing back and forth to one another, but the moves you’ll be dancing are all in time to the beat and lyrics you hear. So, even if you’re a terrible dancer, like me, as long as you can keep a beat and can time the moves based on the music, you’ll be fine – the actual gesture detection is quite forgiving for the majority of the various positions you’ll be asked to mimic.
I played most of the game seated (due to a back injury) and I had no issues with what was being asked of me. Sure, there are moments where you have to thrust yourself from side to side and touch the floor, but even in my limited space, I never had any issues with the PS Camera picking up my various poses. The only move it didn’t seem to detect properly for me was that really annoying ‘dance’ everyone does on Tiktok where their lower arms are pointing down but their upper arms are horizontal with their shoulders – this was probably down to my posture and position.
The entire story took me just over an hour due to having to repeat two of the stages because I wasn’t paying attention and slipped up a few times. I’ve not played the original games, as stated earlier, but I’ve been informed that they were also around 60-90 minutes long, so although it doesn’t seem like a very long experience (especially for the price), it does tally up to the length of the previous titles. The Arcade mode won’t really add to the time as it’s simply a repeat of the first mission, and although there are collectables in the form of bonus interactions within each scene, I managed to find them all on my first playthrough without any issues at all.
However, Space Channel 5 VR isn’t just a dancing game with a short story, it’s presenting itself as a workout game which will help keep you active and fit if you play it regularly. Not only is the Trial Dance mode lots of fun, with its random choreography and new dance moves it throws into the 100-stage dance-off, but the game also tries to count the calories you’ve lost.
Based on the moves and how much you’ve been active, the game tells you roughly what you’ve burnt after each play of any mode, as well as keeping a tally of how much you’ve done that entire day. Obviously, don’t presume the information given is 100% accurate, as it doesn’t ask for your height, age, or weight, but it’s a rough guide.
There are a few extra features which I wish were a little more interactive. These are:
• Viewer mode. Once you’ve completed each stage, you can go back and watch Ulala and the protagonist dance to the stage whilst you watch on from one of three vantage points. My issue with this is the restrictive nature of the placements you can pick – right behind, to the left, or to the right. The problem is that you can’t rotate on the spot in-game (meaning if you sit on the side you have to physically turn yourself around to see) and there are no angles directly facing the protagonists. I just would have liked more variety and choice.
• Friendopedia. This is a glossary of all the characters you’ll see within the game, both friend and foe. You can scroll through them all and take a good look at the 3d models as they slowly spin around at a distance. I really enjoyed looking at the models and reading the summaries telling me about who they are – especially the ‘sexiest man in the galaxy’ – but there are two issues (which I mentioned previously). First of all, the characters are set quite far back, meaning you can’t get a good look at them as you can in other games with similar VR character viewers, and secondly, they all slowly rotate on their own, meaning you’ll be looking at their butts until they slowly turn to face you. Allowing them to come closer and giving you manual control of the rotation would make a lot of difference here.
• The Dressing Room. Just like previous features, I wanted this to be so much more. However, all you can do here is pick an outfit for Ulala based upon the ones you’ve unlocked as you play the story. I thought we would be able to dress up other characters or maybe even mess around with our costume – even though you never see yourself when you’re playing.
We have been informed that there is a DLC coming which allows you to dance along with Hatsune Miku, but I’m not sure if it’s going to be free, when it’s coming, if it’ll have new songs, or if it’s simply a new ‘costume/skin’ for Ulala. However, I’ll most likely pick it up as I buy anything with my turquoise-haired waifu in it!
The visuals within Space Channel 5 VR are so cute and adorable at times. Just watching the little aliens all dance together is so much fun. All of the character models, from the ladies with the tight booty-shorts to the strange robotic reporter, all look great and are well choreographed with decent motion capture and flexible bodies. Although the visuals are a little on the simplistic side, the art direction looks a lot like the original games, so I can’t really complain about it.
The voice acting was fun, thanks to the quirky songs and cheesy dialogue the actors spoke. Also, as an added bonus, two amazing actors from Judgment are in the game, Greg Chun and Cherami Leigh (who is also Makoto in the Persona 5 series). The whole experience was just ‘fun’ – I was smiling the entire time and really enjoying every second of the gameplay – leaving me rather upset when I saw the credits roll.
Also, you can opt to have the vocals and/or the subtitles in either English or Japanese. So, if you’d prefer the characters to speak in Japanese with English subtitles – that’s an option.
In terms of the VR experience, I never had any issues with tracking other than my inability to do that one dance move I mentioned earlier. You don’t have a massive play space within the game as a virtual ‘cell’ is formed around you which restricts you from wandering off or reaching out and grabbing things you shouldn’t be touching. This helped the game remain very responsive and accurate, even if I was denied from patting Ulala on the head every now and again.
Space Channel 5 VR: Kinda Funky News Flash! was much more hands-on and immersive than I originally thought it would be. Although I know I must have looked very stupid in real life, in the virtual world I was a superstar diva, dancing my heart out to save the human race from literally dancing their hearts out… Once the campaign is over – which will be rather fast – you still have the 100-stages to dance through daily in order to prolong the gameplay. Although I really enjoyed my time playing the game, thanks to the cheesy music and lyrics, bright colours, funky characters, and groovy dance moves, I honestly can’t justify the price for the amount of content provided.
I’m eagerly awaiting the Hatsune Miku DLC and ‘maybe’ some more story DLC which adds more songs and dance moves into the various gameplay modes. The core product is great, with its detailed and varied dance moves, great characters, psychedelic aesthetics, and addictive gameplay, but it just needs to add more onto the foundation and flesh out the game a little bit. Until then, I’ll be sure to use it a few times a week as a method to try and get myself a little more active.
Space Channel 5 VR: Kinda Funky News Flash!£36.99
- - The songs, music and atmosphere is really fun and lively
- - The choice of voice actors are great as they sing and deliver their cheesy dialogue perfectly
- - No issues at all with tracking and having the game know what I'm trying to mimic
- - The calorie counter is a fun way to help you stay active and aim to beat your previous sessions
- - The campaign is over before you know it, leaving you wanting more for your money
- - At full price, it seems a little expensive for the amount of content provided
- - The calorie counter is great, but it would need our height, age and weight to properly calculate our achievements
- - A few of the bonus features could have been much better if we could get up close and move around more