Retro Review: Space Channel 5

This republished review was originally written in 2000, this review is unedited and appears as it did back then. We hope this review gives you an idea of how the reviewer felt at the time and at the end you’ll see a small review from today where you can see how well the game held up over time.

So, what is Space Channel 5? Well, think News programmes. Images of Trevor MacDonald spring to mind. OK, now picture Trevor MacDonald sitting in a newsroom with typical psychedelic 60s colours. Now, add some funky music to those thoughts and think dance (hmm – Trevor MacDonald dancing to 60s funk on national TV…) Now replace Trevor with Ulala, a PVC clad, pink-haired woman with a mini skirt that barely covers her backside. Cast your mind forward another 500 years and take these thoughts on to a space station. Now you have Space Channel 5.

Little cute aliens called Morolians have taken over the world and put people in a trance where all they can do is… DANCE! Basically, what you have to do is copy the dance sequences that the aliens do to rescue the hostages. These sequences consist of five types of instruction – up, down, left, right and CHU! (meaning shoot). The first few sequences will be simple three button combos which hardly come as a challenge, but as the game moves on, you’ll have to do things like repeat a ten button combo in reverse with immaculate timing. Which is difficult.Space-Channel-5-2Chu can mean one of two buttons – A to blast away the alien invaders and B to rescue hostages. Get it the wrong way round and you’ll end up blasting away the innocent people. Remember, this game is actually a news report, and throughout it, there will a viewer rating number in the bottom-right corner of the screen. If you mess up a dance combination, the viewer rating goes down. If you consistently impress, it will go up. And if you go higher than 95%, Ulala will glow, which is a nice effect. If, by the end of the level the viewer rating is too low, the show is cancelled and you have game over. If you happen to mess up part of a sequence, the music will deteriorate. Here’s an extremely frustrating part of the game, the Dreamcast often interprets a perfectly timed move as a wrong one in this situation. This makes the music deteriorate more, and worsens the situation, having a knock-on effect. This is because Ulala’s actions are synchronised to the music, so the machine thinks that you’ve made a mistake when you haven’t.

At various stages of the game, you will have rival reporters to ‘out-dance’ to get them to join you. And there are ‘bosses’ to out-dance too, like Mr Blank, the man behind the alien invasion, and Ulala’s evil alter ego Evila. And parts where you go whizzing through hypnotic patterns of bright patterns, repeating complicated sequences whilst trying not to get too drawn in to the background.
Overall, this game is great, and it makes a change from having all those zombie-blasting, monster-killing games. The only flaw (other than the questionable timing) is that the game is not nearly long enough, and could do with a multiplayer feature to add to the longevity.

2015 Re-Review
Space Channel 5 is still an iconic game and maybe even important more so now than when it was released. First things first, like most retro games on a modern TV the lag can make this game almost unplayable which is a huge shame. Thankfully though as there are no visual cues you can adjust your timing but do be aware of this issue. Apart from that it our thoughts are almost identical to our original review. The game is still pretty tough yet always feels doable although its length is still a bit of an issue despite the high re-playability of it.

If you’ve never played a Space Channel 5 game before then maybe check out Space Channel 5 Part 2 which did get a rerelease on XBLA and PSN, featuring some refinements as well as a much longer game.