Out now and exclusive to Playstation VR, Space Channel 5 VR (or Space Channel 5 VR: Kinda Funky News Flash! as it’s called in full) marks the comeback for a cult classic from the Dreamcast era. How does Sega’s dance/rhythm-based sci-fi classic cope with the transition to VR? Here’s our review.
Space Channel 5 VR isn’t the first time that PlayStation users are getting the franchise, for the original game was also released on the PlayStation 2. Its gameplay wasn’t too dissimilar to another PlayStation title, PaRappa the Rapper, but the game is mostly remembered as part of a select group of Dreamcast games that stood out. There’s a good chance you never played it unless you owned a Dreamcast, although if you played games like Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing then you’ve at least encountered Space Channel 5’s protagonist Ulala in a cameo appearance.
The gameplay in Space Channel 5 goes back to an era before motion controls and musical instruments were used for rhythm games, and thus used to rely on button taps. Now, with the adaptation for VR and Move controllers, you can pull off Ulala’s dance moves by pointing your controllers in all four directions in short sequences that make up mini routines. Some dance moves also require a button press, but the controls are easy and intuitive. They’ve also been scaled well to the realities of motion-based VR play, so things never get as fast and frantic as they did in the old button pressing days.
As you probably guess, a pair of Move controllers is required to play the new Space Channel 5, which is an active experience without turning into a fitness exercise like BoxVR does. Part of that is that the game isn’t structured as such, but a bigger element is that Space Channel 5 VR is an incredibly short game, with a campaign that only lasts about half an hour over the course of four levels. I had to double-check with full playthrough videos of the original games, but those were about three times the length of this new VR take – which is still priced at 40 Dollars despite the short runtime of the main story.
There’s a bit more content to be found inside the game’s menu structure, including descriptions of the various characters in the game as well as additional music and a “challenge” level which is essentially a marathon length routine with additional dance moves. Despite this, the game feels short on meaningful gameplay modes and music, which should have been the core of Space Channel 5 VR. The original soundtracks for the first two games are missing as well, which would have gone a long way towards adding more value to this package.
Visually, the game looks faithful to the original Dreamcast releases, making your feel like you were transported inside the iconic 1999 game world. It instills a great sense of nostalgia, although more effort could have been made to update the aesthetic to modern standards with additional detail and effects.
The sense that “this game could have used more of this” kind of permeates the entire experience, which is a shame. Long time Space Channel 5 fans will surely love the chance to enter Ulala’s world in VR and the motion controls work well, but they too will miss depth and content in terms of the actual gameplay and soundtrack on offer.