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GBA Review - 'Space Channel 5: Ulala's Cosmic Attack'

by Chad on July 29, 2003 @ 12:48 a.m. PDT

Get your groove on with Ulala in her Game Boy Advance debut! When the Morolians invade, ace reporter Ulala scoops the story for Space Channel 5. The hip-hopping aliens zap citizens into a hypnotic dance trance, but beat girl Ulala is their ultimate match. So they challenge her to a dance battle, and she busts out her grooviest moves to free the captives. Get down with Sega’s supernova star as she struts through the space station in style!

Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: 3d6 Games
Developer: THQ
Release Date: July 17, 2003

Buy 'SPACE CHANNEL 5: Ulala's Cosmic Attack': Game Boy Advance

Throughout my life, videogames have taught me many important lessons. For example, I can get a bonus life for every 5,000 points I earn, the princess is almost always in another castle and contrary to what the scientific community says, hedgehogs are the fastest animals alive. Well, leave it to those crazy cats over at Sega to teach me something new: aliens don't necessarily want to destroy makind, they just want us to dance until we drop!

Space Channel 5 is nothing else if unique. Sure, you've seen rhythm/dance games before, but none that has you challenging a race of aliens that look like haz-mat suits the Teletubbies threw up on to a dance-off. It has a style all it's own, with bright colors, funky dance moves, and bosses that need to be seen to be believed.

The gist of the story is this: a race of aliens known as the Morolians has invaded, attacking people with a hypnotic beam that causes them to dance. It should come as no surprise that all the major TV networks are in a ratings war, trying to keep and gain more viewers with their coverage of the invasion. Space Channel 5 has lost most of their reporters to the sheer power and force of the Morolians deadly dance beams, leaving only one hope left: Ulala.

The game is essentially broken down into four chapters, throughout which you'll be exposed to three different modes of play. The first, a shooting stage, has you encountering a mix of Morolians and hypnotized humans. On top of having to perfectly mimic the dance moves of the Morolians, right down to the timing, you have to choose which of the two laser beams you're packing to use (there's one for vaporizing Morolians and one for rescuing humans). In this mode, you have infinite life, but your ratings (the percentage of TV's tuned in to Space Channel 5) reflect your performance, and if they don't meet the minimum for that level, Space Channel 5 goes off the air, and it's game over for you. The second stage has you rescuing one or two human hostages at a time from a small group of Morolians. Like the shooting stages, ratings fluctuate depending on your performance, but you also have a heart meter. Mess up enough to drain all your hearts and you lose the hostages and any pride that goes along with getting smacked around by rainbow colored aliens with falsetto voices. Finally, boss battles occur at the end (and sometimes middle) of each stage. The bosses are easily the most colorful characters in the game, ranging from rival reporters who're also fallen teen-idols to a stick-man made out of TVs. The heart meter is back, but this time the game ends when it's gone, causing you to start the stage all the way from the beginning.

Space Channel 5's graphics aim to be like its big brother on Dreamcast, but obviously, they're nowhere near as sharp or detailed. The sprites are detailed enough, but they use a lot of the same dance animations over and over. This wouldn't be such a problem, but between the gameplay segments are interludes where the same music plays as Ulala (and any back-up dancers she's picked up along the way) do the same dance again, and again. This happens way too much and hurts the flow of the game.

Controls are simple: you just have to push the directional buttons or shoot button to the beat. What's that? Don't have much rhythm, eh? The last dance you did was the hokey-pokey when you were nine? Well, that just makes the game that much harder for you. Heed the instruction manual's advice and tap your foot to the beat because it genuinely helps.

The sound isn't bad, but you need to be able to hear the game all the time. When the Morolians dance, they say, very clearly, which direction to press. You can read their movements when the sound's down, but for the bosses, who aren't human-like like the Morolians, you need the sound. Basically, this isn't a game to secretly be playing at the next company board meeting unless you've got a set of inconspicuous earphones.

Each of the four stages is pretty long, but that's still not saying much. Luckily, when you beat the game once, you unlock an "extra mode" that has you taking a different, usually more challenging, path than you did your first time out. You can also unlock information on literally every character you encounter throughout the game, but the extras end there.

Space Channel 5 is a testament to how console games can sometimes be ported to portables and still have their core gameplay and feel intact. So get out there and shake your groove thang! The fate of the mankind depends on it!

Score : 8.0/10

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