Dreamcast Game #16: Space Channel 5
Cory Roberts reporting: Space Channel 5 is what we’re going to review today! Before the days of Just Dance and Dance Central (the former of which is Xbox exclusive) would kick in, there was this video game, though I don’t own the game back in the days except I have burned it before ROM sites were shut down. It is a music video game developed by (the now-closed) United Game Artists and published by parent company Sega. It was released for the Dreamcast on December 16, 1999 in Japan, June 4, 2000 in North America, and October 6, 2000 in Europe. The game’s director is Takashi Thomas Yuda, who designed Knuckles the Echidna from Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (and Knuckles).
The game was conceived by Tetsuya Mizuguchi (who is the CEO of Enhance nowadays), who was told to create something aimed at a female audience. Production lasted two years, with a staff of around 20 that included company veterans and newcomers to game development. The music, composed by Naofumi Hataya and Kenichi Tokoi, drew inspiration from big band music. Ken Woodman’s “Mexican Flyer” had informed the musical style and acted as the theme song. The overall style was influenced by culture from the 1950s and 1960s, and the later music videos of Peter Gabriel and Michael Jackson, the latter having a cameo appearance in the game.
Up, down, up, down, up, down, chu, chu, chu! Left, right, left, right, chu, chu, chu!
Players control Ulala through four stages; real-time polygonal character models and visual effects move in synch to MPEG movies which form the level backgrounds. All gameplay has Ulala mimicking the movements and vocalizations of her opponents (compared by journalists to the game Simon Says). Actions are performed in time to music tracks playing in each section of a stage. There are six buttons that match actions on-screen; the directional pad buttons, and two action buttons (A and B on Dreamcast) which are presented with the vocalization “chu”.
Levels are split between “dance” areas, and shooting areas. During dance sections, Ulala mimics actions and shouts of “chu” from enemies, with successful actions boosting a “Ratings” meter in the lower right corner of the screen. In combat, Ulala must shoot at and defeat enemies, and also rescue hostages with the other action button. After either a dance or combat section, Ulala is joined in her progress by the people she rescued. During boss battles, Ulala has a health meter represented on-screen as hearts; a heart is lost for each mistake. If Ulala makes too many mistakes and loses all hearts during boss battles, or fails to meet the minimum rating requirements, or causes ratings to drop to zero by missing or failing actions, the player reaches a game over and must restart.
The game met with low sales upon its debut in Japan. During its first week, it sold through just over 44% of its stock with over 41,000 copies, though it eventually sold over 93,600 copies in Japan, being among the region’s top 40 best-selling Dreamcast titles. In contrast during a 2005 interview, Mizuguchi said that the game was not a commercial success.
Four years later, Lady Miss Kier (formerly of Deee-Lite) tossed a lawsuit against Sega; the lawsuit alleged that Sega approached her about licensing her likeness and music, but after she refused they used those elements anyway. During the lawsuit, Sega was able to show that the game was released in Japan the year before Kier stated that she was contacted by Sega about using her likeness, and that the developers had never heard of either Kier or her music. The case lasted until 2006 when the judge ruled in favor of Sega and Kier lost her appeal. She was obliged to pay Sega’s legal fees of $608,000 (reduced from $763,000 on request).
Ulala (voiced by revealed to be Apollo Smile, Koharu/Chloe from Pokemon JN in VR) was featured as a secret character in racing game Sonic Riders, a playable character in multiple entries in the Sega All-Stars series (alongside Pudding and Blib), part of a themed stage in the Wii re-release of the rhythm game Samba de Amigo, and a playable unit in the crossover strategy game Project X Zone and its sequel.
This is Cory, giving you this Dreamcast game that is being reviewed on Medium and giving you the scoop behind the internet troll invasion, over and out. Now, everyone, let’s march to the end of the galaxy! See you next Dreamcast game review.