It’s been just over 20 years since the release of the original Space Channel 5. Using its quirky style and a fun soundtrack, it managed to make a place in Sega’s stable of franchises. After a sequel and a few ports, it’s been pretty quiet for the series for a while. Thanks to developer Grounding Inc., the series is back in a new VR title. Space Channel 5 VR: Kinda Funky News Flash! brings Ulala back in the groove, and now you’re joining her with a full body workout. Unlike the Space Channel 5 minigame in Sega Superstars, this VR title actually succeeds.
The story of Space Channel 5 VR: Kinda Funky News Flash! is pretty simple. In fact, it should feel pretty familiar to fans of the series. The Moralians are back, and they’ve captured other humans to force them to dance. It’s up to Ulala and her fresh rookie reporters, Lou and Kee, the player characters, to save them. Unknown to them though, a new threat known as the Othermoro emerge, showing that the Moralians aren’t the main threat. The story is short, with only four parts, but it’s a lot of fun, and a good workout. Despite the short length, the game encourages replayability with various features like hidden secrets and better scores.
Gameplay in the original involved pressing directions and buttons in sequence to the prompts on screen. Sega Superstars had players use the PlayStation 2 EyeToy as they would move toward various nodes on their screen. Space Channel 5 VR takes that concept a step further, really getting your full body in the action. Players will physically follow the dance prompts using the PlayStation Move controllers, moving them up, down, left, right, and forward. They’ll even have to do special poses that will change periodically. Perhaps one of the most interesting features is the dodge mechanic, something that feels right out of Beat Saber. It’s a great variety of moves and it really gets you moving.
The game will mix these moves up in a balanced manner, and it will sometimes challenge you by catching you off guard. Each dance sequence will apply to a viewership rating. Miss any moves and the rating will take a hit. If this happens three times in a row, then the mission ends and the player will have to start over. Not only are there dance moves to match, but there are multiple secret prompts in each mission as well. Players will have to hit each one of them and not miss any dance moves to get a perfect score. It’s surprisingly addicting, and makes for a great challenge.
While the dancing is fun, it can take a little time to familiarize yourself with some of the poses. Given that some of the poses weren’t always clear at first, I ended up failing missions a couple times due to not knowing the exact pose. Once figured out though, I typically did well. The only issue I had other than that was that sometimes, faster movements wouldn’t register, resulting in a missed action. Aside from that, the game recognizes dance moves surprisingly well.
Of course, the gameplay is fun, but part of the addictive gameplay comes from the music. Space Channel 5 VR has several funky tracks to keep your body moving, even outside of the initial prompts. Just hearing Ulala, now voiced by Cherami Leigh, helps to keep you grooving. I found myself saying Ulala’s “chu” phrase after a bit, helping me to keep in rhythm. Mostly though, it was also because it was hard to contain myself. The game will have familiar music from the series as well as new tracks. It will even include singing Moralians for the first time.
Other modes include an arcade mode for newcomers to VR. It’s simple, but ultimately unnecessary for many players. The true extra mode is the trial mode, where you can do the 100-stage dance battle. This endurance mode continues to be a real workout and will test your rhythm skills. Aside from that, there isn’t much else to play. There’s a viewing mode that allows you to see the story through different camera angles without dancing. All that leaves is the Friendopedia, where players can see all the various characters in the game. This includes a “normal folk” character aptly named “I’m Too Sexy”, which fits this kind of game perfectly.
Graphically, Space Channel 5 VR doesn’t push any boundaries, but that’s probably a good thing. Being a VR title, it’s best to keep the graphics simple and clean, and it succeeds here. It maintains the Space Channel 5 style with ease and still presents the best looking title in the series to date. The game also makes use of different scenery, giving a good variety in locales. Fans of the series can even dress Ulala in her classic orange or white outfits if they so please.
As far as the virtual reality function goes, this game works incredibly well. The player can fully look around, even going as far as to see their body beneath them. You can play the game without moving from a general spot, and there’s little risk for motion sickness. It honestly works perfectly in a VR environment, and makes for a great entry in the series. The only problem with the game is the price point. At an MSRP of $39.99, it’s pretty expensive for a relatively short experience. Luckily, it’s pretty replayable as a workout experience, even giving a feature to track calories burned. Even so, it could use a price cut, especially to appeal to more people.
While it may not be a long experience, with a story lasting roughly a half an hour, Space Channel 5 VR: Kinda Funky News Flash! is still a groovin’ good time. The music and dancing is addictive fun, and it really challenges players to keep track of the rhythm. As far as VR games go, it’s one of the better games I’ve played, working well in both concept and function. The game is definitely on the expensive side, but it’s definitely something to keep on the VR radar. With DLC in the works, I may even have more content to look forward to.
This review is part of our new VR Reviews feature, where we feature new and old VR titles every Thursday. Look forward to more VR Reviews in the future if you’re looking for more games to play on your VR headset.