|This is it. The Earth is being
invaded (again) by viscious aliens and youre the only one who can stop them. Of
course, by "you" I really mean Ulala, the appropriately monikered heroine of
Space Channel 5. Its no secret that at E3 2000 Sega stole the scene with their
dancing space go-go girls, and with good reason. Like Ghost In the Shell, Sailor Moon, or
Betty and Veronica, Space Channel 5 gives you the somewhat creepy sensation of being
really attracted to an animated character. Couple that with the groovy dance moves and
totally Japanese aesthetic, and youve got yourself a game that will have you
giggling like a Ko-Gal.
Space Channel 5 is a simple game. The story goes like this: Ulala is the star correspondant for Space Channel 5, and she broadcasts her news show while busting phat dance moves. Shes the epitome of style, if the aforementioned Ko-Gal style is your thing. The Morolians, who look far too cute to call "evil," have arrived on Earth to take over the planet. Our only hope is that Ulala can get to the bottom of things and save our groovy booties.
Gameplay progresses along the lines of UmJammer Lammy or Pa-Rappa the Rappa. Its all a game of Simon Says. You encounter an enemy who executes a series of moves, perhaps "Up, Left, Down, Down, Shoot," and then you have to duplicate the moves. However, unlike Sonys star groove games, Space Channel 5 is all about the rhythm. You must execute the moves in the exact rhythm they are presented in. To further complicate things, you have two shoot buttons. One button saves hostages, the other vaporizes aliens. It gets tricky when youre doing both.
As you progress through the game you save various hostages, celebrities, and bosses. You can flip through the cast of characters once youve saved them or destroyed them and get various personal details like their fave color or ice cream. Yes, its a little weird. Most of the celebrities you save will be fictitious, but there is one big addition to the American version of the game: Space Michael Jackson makes an appearance in the last level. Hes perfectly rendered in the cartoony style of the game, and his dance moves are totally on point. And Ulala herself comes with some celebrity built in. Apollo Smile, the accomplished underground techno-pop star and self-described anime girl, voices Ulala and sounds great. If you think Apollo Smile is fresh to the scene in Space Channel 5, think again. Theres a lot of her work out there to find, and its all way cool.
Once youve beaten the game, which sports less than ten levels, you can replay it to explore alternate routes. Other than that, there isnt a lot built in to enhance the replay. Still, you can play Space Channel 5 a whole lot. The game is backed by slammin techno beats that are surprisingly dynamic. Ravers and techno fans should especially take note this game is like all the good things about Ecstacy with none of the dehydration or unfulfilling dirty sex. And your momma wont have to worry about you eating holes in your brain.
Still, in spite of its simplicity, Space Channel 5 manages to work in some hefty social messages. Well, maybe social isnt the right word. Late in the game, Ulala begins to realize that she and the other news correspondants are being manipulated by the management that controls the big-budget media corporation. Wow, shades of Time-Warner/AOL! Eventually her quest is not really to destroy the Moralians, but to find Truth (note the capital "T"). While most of the folks who play Space Channel 5 have probably never thought about the biased aspects of news coverage, Ulala and her crew provide an oddly appropriate introduction to some Chomsky-esque media critique. The game doesnt take the thesis to its satisfactory conclusion, but everybody who plays it really should go out and rent Manufacturing Consent immediately afterward.
Overall, Space Channel 5 is exactly the kind of thing youll love if youre into that kind of thing. If UmJammer and Pa-Rappa tripped your triggers, Ulala will really turn your crank. If not, the game is still worth checking out as it is one of the coolest looking and most unique titles due for Dreamcast this summer. We want a sequel with more levels and more Space Michael. As a matter of fact, we think they should include a Space Seanbaby, too. If there ever was a Space Channel 5 kind of guy, Seanbabys the man.