Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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Space Channel 5 in VR is not quite what we expected

Space Channel 5 in VR is not quite what we expected

When I heard about the prospect of Space Channel 5 being revitalized for VR about a week or so ago, my heart stopped. My favorite orange-clad intergalactic reporter in VR? Sign me the fuck up. But then I came across two fateful words: “viewing show.” Oh.

Hot off of this week’s Tokyo Game Show, there’s now actual footage of the cult classic’s bizarre resurgence for VR, and it’s indeed just that. A special viewing show. But luckily, it doesn’t look bad.

Ulala, ready to save the universe.
Ulala in VR, still ready to save the universe.

Space Channel 5 is something of a cult classic. Released in the West in 2000 and directed by Tetsuya Mizuguchi (Rez), Space Channel 5 is one of the many bizarre, style-driven titles that the Dreamcast became known for—games that took risks by leveraging color and eccentricities above all else. You play as the quirky space reporter Ulala, who’s decided to be a broadcast journalist for Space Channel 5 after a reporter from the channel saved her life a decade prior. She was inspired by them, and wants to do her own part as a life-saving journalist. I can relate. (Well, maybe not. I’m just writing about dumb videogames after all.) So with her funky dance moves, trusty microphone, and deadly gun, Ulala grooves her way to prevail above aliens and save hostages. The game is really strange, is what I’m trying to say. But it’s also dope, I promise.

The dancing looks really exhausting

In Space Channel 5: Ukiuki Viewing Show, we’re transported back to the glossy white space stations of the beloved Dreamcast classic. While firm details are scarce on the project—we know it’s for the HTC Vive, and that’s about it—a demo was recently showcased at this year’s Tokyo Game Show, giving a glimpse into what the “viewing show” has to offer. In the demo publicly shown, the person within the Vive is dancing alongside Ulala and some aliens. They wave their hands up and down in a groovy motion, as directed by narrated instructions, similar to the original game. The dancing looks really exhausting, to be completely honest. Like it would probably wear out my arms in the same way that Dance Dance Revolution tires my legs after a few songs. I’m just not built for this type of stuff. I should probably get a gym membership or invest in a DDR cabinet, come to think of it.

Oh no! Aliens!
Oh no! Aliens!

The charm of Space Channel 5 is its delightful weirdness and works against our inherent expectations for what defines a music game, which is partly why its VR announcement is simultaneously surprising and not a shock at all. I mean, what other game gets a random cameo from the King of Pop himself? Nothing is out of reach for Ulala, not even VR. Despite paring down its interactive qualities, Space Channel 5: Ukiuki Viewing Show has the opportunity to introduce this bizarre series to new players, ones that weren’t lucky enough to have a Dreamcast or PS2 at any point. And with some fine tuning, maybe even the dancing in the VR experience can be fleshed out, paving the way for a fully-fledged VR sequel. While that’s unlikely, we can still hope. Space needs Ulala, and we need her too.

Hey there space cats! One Tokyo Game Show attendee posted a video on Twitter showcasing the demo’s footage. You can also check Linked-Door’s website for the project here.

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