Space Channel 5 is one of the Dreamcast's biggest games, and one of my favorite games of all time. It's been available in North America since it launched nearly 20 years ago, and it's getting a new game. Kind of. It's not going to be a sequel like Space Channel 5: Part 2, and it's not going to be a handheld or mobile spinoff in the vein of games like the Game Boy Advance's Space Channel 5: Ulala's Cosmic Attack. It's going to be a brave new world for the classic rhythm game: virtual reality.
Space Channel 5 is returning once more with a new game: Space Channel 5 VR: Arakata Dancing Show. It's coming to the HTC Vive later this year as a digital release via PC first, then expanding as a full digital title for Japanese fans to snap up. There's no word yet of an official Western localization, but given Space Channel 5's popularity across the world, hopefully Sega sees the light and brings it to the masses -- that's all we can hope for.
For the uninitiated, Space Channel 5 is a music and rhythm game all about the intergalactic reporter Ulala. She works for, as you might have guessed, Space Channel 5. Both of her core adventures follow her as she strives to defeat the oppressive Morolians, an alien race trying to get humanity to dance themselves to death. There's a lot more to it than that, of course, but that's the gist of things.
Ulala's an amazing dancer, and she has to copy the aliens' moves by mimicking their commands: up, right, left, down, chu, shoot! There's also a combination of those moves to keep track of. If you can repeat them in time to the music, you'll save a lot of lives, and amass a huge following as the dancers walk with you through each level. It's a hilarious, colorful blast.
Space Channel 5 VR: Arakata Dancing Show is a different beast from the previous Space Channel 5 virtual reality effort, Space Channel 5 VR: Ukiuki Viewing Show. In that game, you were tasked with cheering on Ulala as a dancer from the sidelines. In Arakata Dancing Show, you play a fledgling reporter from another galactic TV station dancing alongside Ulala, which is decidedly less fun than playing as Ulala with a whole new set of scenarios, cut scenes, and characters. But we have to take what we can get these days, and it's awesome that there's even a new Space Channel 5 game coming out at all.
But let's say we did get a new entry in the series that utilized VR. What might that look like? Awesome, of course. Think about a whole new set of enemies, Morolians, music, and the tweaks that could be added into the fold. More than just dancing like Ulala, you could complete challenges that incorporate your hands.
Imagine that, instead of simply following verbal cues, you could incorporate your hands via the HTC Vive's touch controls, and use your whole body for following Ulala's dance commands. There's a whole new world of dance mechanics opened up from there as well, such as poses you'd have to strike at certain times, much like games that required the same on Kinect. Dance Masters and Dance Central are excellent examples. And while in the original game you needed to follow Ulala's commands when set to music, requiring simultaneous rhythm with new songs would be a whole new dimension for the game in VR.
Space Channel 5 is very much a game that lends itself perfectly to the realm of virtual reality, and it deserves the kind of time and attention a sequel or a full-fledged release would provide it. Hopefully these smaller experiences mean that's what's coming in the future, and we'll be seeing a whole lot more of Ulala here in the future.