The Space Channel 5 series saw early success on the Dreamcast when it released in the west in the year 2000. Since then, fans of the game’s rhythm elements and lead protagonist Ulala supported the series’ sequel and spin-off. Now, after many years, developer Grounding announced Space Channel 5 VR: Kinda Funky News Flash will be coming to PlayStation VR on February 25 in North America and February 26 for the rest of the world.
To get to learn more about this title, we had the opportunity to interview Founder of Grounding Inc and Producer for Space Channel 5 VR Mineko Okamura.
Azario Lopez: Given that Space Channel 5 already has a loyal fanbase, how did you approach the development of Space Channel 5 VR? Did you have to dial back the urge to add new features to deliver a more recognizable product?
Mineko Okamura: Some time has passed since the first game was released, so we set out with an assumption that people’s memories have been woven into the actual game. We tried to think about what Space Channel 5 should be like after having grown in everyone’s memories, rather than just recreating it to evoke nostalgia.
Also, by using VR, we were able to transform the feeling of being part of a musical, which is one of the series’ original concepts, into a real experience. Since the player has to physically move in this game, it’s like being part of a musical. It was a new challenge we tackled with this game.
AL: Was there anything you wanted to add to the game that you didn’t have time for?
MO: We wanted to add multiplayer functionality, but it didn’t happen due to time constraints.
AL: Well, I’d definitely like to see that. I’m interested to know about the game’s antagonist, is there anything you can tell us about who Ulala is up against?
MO: There’s a mysterious being obsessed with human dance energy. That’s all we can say for now!
AL: Why did you choose VR for this entry? Do you feel like the hardware captures the energy of the series?
MO: Space Channel has always tried something new in each era. So we wanted to make sure this title honored that history, by delivering a new experience as well.
In pre-production, we recreated the original Space Port from the first game, but this time in 3D. It wasn’t 3D when the Dreamcast came out. So when I was physically standing in the 3D world of Space Port for the first time thanks to VR, I was like, “Wow! I’m really inside the Space Channel world right now!” And I wondered how exciting it would be to see Ulala in front of me and to be able to move with her. We wanted to make that happen and share that excitement with the world. That remained our goal throughout the development of the game.
AL: Some fans might be wondering about a non-VR version of the game, are there are any plans for this?
MO: Firstly, we want people to have an experience that you couldn’t have without VR. Watching gameplay on a TV or computer screen is one thing, but experiencing it through VR goggles is entirely different because you get to physically stand INSIDE the game for the first time ever. But we are getting a lot of requests regarding a non-VR version, so we’ll think about it. We also want the fans to look forward to a sequel.
AL: Do you have plans to support Space Channel 5 VR post-launch, perhaps with DLC or additional songs?
MO: We are planning some exciting DLC and will make an announcement soon. So please stay tuned.
AL: What do you feel it is about Space Channel 5 that makes it such an enjoyable series? Do you think that even gamers who don’t know what it is can find it enjoyable?
MO: We believe Space Channel 5’s strength is that its concept is fun, a little weird, and exuberantly happy. I was on the development team for the first two Space Channel 5 games a long time ago, and I had so much fun working on them.
I think players can feel how much love and passion we felt while making the series. We are confident that even those who don’t know Space Channel can enjoy this latest game. And we hope this title will serve as an opportunity for new players to learn about the series.
AL: Is there anything you’d like to say to fans awaiting the release of Space Channel 5 VR?
MO: Thank you very much for waiting so so long! Finally, Ulala is back! Let’s enjoy our new Journey to the Space Channel 5 Kinda Funky Galaxy!!
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