I agree with Chi on the issue of Ulalas sex appeal and the unusual style of the game. From first glance, Space Channel 5 is unlike anything Ive seen before and the overall design gives it the feel of an interactive American Bandstand or Soul Train—or MTVs The Grind for our younger readers. Granted some of her dancing and gyrations can best be described as "suggestive," it is all in keeping with the direction the designers are heading. The character and level designs are perfect for this type of game and the mannerisms and animations of the supporting characters are hilarious. Combined with the catchy music, all of these elements come together to add personality and flare to a game already ripe with individuality.
However, unlike Chi, some of Space Channel 5's negatives wore on my nerves a bit more than his. First and foremost, I take issue with the comparisons to PaRappa The Rapper because aside from the fact that they are both music games, they are played with significant differences. PaRappaopened up its gameplay by allowing gamers to improvise and it encouraged some level of creativeness; if I came up with a unique string of words or sounds and could do so while keeping up with the beat, I was rewarded and could pass a level just on artistic merit. Space Channel 5, doesn't do this at all. Instead, success is predicated on copying musical cues precisely and any sort of deviation from this is punished. This means no freestyling or ad-libbing thus taking away a crucial aspect of gameplay that makes this genre so enjoyable.
Whats worse is that the game plays like one long running full-motion video sequence. By taking out any sort of break in between the action and requiring pinpoint accuracy, the game is a challenge by default. Of course some errors are allowed, but they can add up quickly as the game progresses. Compounding the difficulty of the Simon Says gameplay, is the business of the on-screen action. That and the fact that the aliens cant always be understood thanks to somewhat muddled vocalizations, make keeping up with the beat and advancing all the more burdensome.
Despite these negatives, Space Channel 5's high production values, unique gameplay and style carry it through. It may lack the interactive feel of PaRappa or even Um Jammer Lammy, but it is a solid effort by Sega's internal development team, United Game Artists. At the very least, if Sega wanted a maturer PaRappa The Rapper-type game for the Sega Dreamcast, with Ulalas looks and suggestive moves, they have found it in Space Channel 5.
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