Dancin'...Dancin'...DANCIN'...She's a dancin' machine!
Groove evening viewers! Tonight we've got a special show planned for you, starring Sega's latest dance creation, Space Channel 5. Many of you have already heard the buzz. Some think that it's going to be the next "must have" for the Dreamcast; others believe that it's just another cockamamie dance game. Well tonight, the rumors go down and the truth goes up. Just how good is Space Channel 5?
If you're looking for a game with attitude, you'll definitely find it here, as Space Channel 5 has more attitude than a pretentious, ego-trippin' Broadway thespian. The main character, Ulala, is a pinnacle of style. With a faboo pink do and a plastic orange skirt, she fights the evil Morolians with dual "lasers" and dances to save the humans who have fallen under their control.
The basic gameplay is really simple and unlike dance games that have come before it. The Morolians do a little dance consisting of D-pad and button pushes and Ulala must mimic them. That's it. It won't take a degree from U.C. Berkeley to figure out how to play, but a sense of rhythm is more important than taking your daily vitamins.
The only problem with Space Channel 5's control is a small lag when pressing "shoot" (the A or B buttons). It is unfortunate that this type of control problem would occur in a game where timing is crucial. The lag problem will frustrate many gamers during their first few times playing, but a little bit of practice will solve it.
Graphically, Space Channel 5 is amazing. Backgrounds are actually MPEG videos that clearly make the sparse, retro-futuristic furnishings in the game stand out. The costumed characters are all well designed, punctuating the stylish theme. Just think of Austin Powers meets the Jetsons. Yeah, baby. Do I make you funky?
The motion capture in Space Channel 5 is top notch. All of the dancers move with stunningly life-like grace and fluidity. The choreography of the dancers is great, making Space Channel 5 really amusing to watch.
The game also has multiple paths based on how well you can make Ulala dance. These paths will lead to different characters that just might join your dancing troupe. Profiles of these characters can also be unlocked as the game progresses. This feature allows you to get an in-depth look at the game's characters and even watch them groove solo.
As with any dancing game, good music is vital to your enjoyment. Bad music can easily turn a good game into a coaster for your favorite coffee mug. Luckily, Space Channel 5 is all about good, clean, funky tunes that will get your feet moving and your head bobbing. It's also the kind of music that will implant itself in your brain for a few days, refusing to leave until you've woken several times at four in the morning humming the main theme.
As a bonus, Space Channel 5 players have a shot at saving a special guest celebrity from the clutches of the Morolians. The infamous Michael Jackson has joined up with Sega once again (anyone remember Moonwalker?) and lent his dancing skills and trademark "Whoo!" to the game. Save the "King of Pop" and Ulala's dance troupe begins to resemble a gang from "Beat It."
But alas, even Space Channel 5's slick style can't hide its shortcomings. One of the large, gaping holes left by Space Channel 5 is the lack of any type of multi-player game. For example, a HORSE approach could have been taken, with players freestyle dancing to the beat. Opponents would have to replicate their moves or gain a penalty. This seems so basic, yet it hasn't been done.
Another annoyance is the relatively small amount of play time. Even with the multiple paths, you probably will not be playing Space Channel 5 for days on end. In fact, a gamer with decent rhythm skills should beat the game in about an hour.
This lack of depth can also be seen in the gameplay, which is essentially just a game of Simon. You never get to improvise your dancing, and just following the computer's directions becomes, well, a bit boring. Even the original Parappa the Rapper allowed you to freestyle.
Space Channel 5 is a total mixed bag. On one hand you've got great visuals, fantastic music, and a disco ball full of positive energy. But the short amount of play time, slight control problems and zero multi-player really take away from the experience. A rental, for sure, but not necessarily one to own.