The Space Channel 5 series is a rhythm video game series developed by United Game Artists and published by Sega which follows the story of the super reporter, Ulala, starting with the release of Space Channel 5, for the Dreamcast on December 16, 1999.
Despite being a very small series with only three games and a spin-off, Space Channel 5 managed to become one of SEGA's most popular and beloved series and has been constantly referred in many other games since it's release in 1999.
The series takes place in the 25th century. When she was 12, Ulala was the sole survivor of a spaceship accident, losing her parents and family in that day. She was rescued by a Channel 5 reporter named Jaguar, who inspired her to follow the same job. The mysterious reporter left the space broadcasting channel a few years later and Ulala never had the chance to thank him. 10 years later, Ulala started her career as a rookie reporter for Channel 5.
In the first game, released for the Dreamcast in 1999, Ulala has been working on Channel 5 for two years and the ratings for the Channel are extremely low in spite of that. Suddenly, a mysterious race of aliens known as Morolians started attacking Earth and forcing people to dance. Channel 5's director, Fuse, sees this as an opportunity to make the Channel rating boost and starts sending reporters to investigate the case. However, they are all captured by the aliens. Eventually, Ulala becomes the only reporter left, and is promoted to investigate the case of a mysterious aliens.
In the second game, released for the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 in 2002, the humans have made peace with the Morolians and a new mysterious dance troupe called the Rhythm Rogues started attacking the whole Galaxy, forcing people to dance and abducting them. Once again, Ulala is sent to investigate the case.
Three years after the events of the second game, Ulala is assigned to be the mentor of two new reporters recruited by Channel 5, the twins Roo and Kie, in the Virtual Reality game released for the PlayStation 4 in 2020. Together, the trio investigates another attack caused by the Morolians and a mysterious new kind of Morolians called the Othermoros. The Oculus Quest and Oculus Quest 2 ports are released on October 12 and 13th 2020. The Steam version is released on 9th December 2020.
Space Channel 5 is a rhythm game series where the player controls Ulala as she investigate cases and fights by dancing. All of the games have two main segments, the dance battles segments and the shooting segments.
In the dance battle segments, the enemies will do dance sequence saying directions (up, right, left and down) or "chu" and the player must memorize then copy it. The enemies are eventually defeated by doing that enough times. In the shooting segments, the player must once again memorize and copy the directions given by enemies to shoot at them or save people they are making hostages.
The second game features a new command called "hey" and special battles such as singing and instruments battle, where the player must copy the enemies moves to sing or play the instruments. In Space Channel 5 VR, the command "pose" was added, where the player must make the exact same pose as the enemy.
The player gets more ratings when they copy the enemies moves and loses ratings when they miss. To get 100% ratings, the player can't miss a single move. From the second game forward, the series introduced the secret moves. the player shall pay attention during cutscenes and press the "chu" button in a specific moment, which will make Morolians or a secret message appear and give them more ratings. In Space Channel 5 VR, they are blue circles that appear on the screen during cutscenes that the player must place their hands inside of it. To get 100%, besides not missing any move, the player must also find all of the secret moves.
Before every battle begins, Ulala will have a certain amount of hearts, representing how many moves she can miss, losing all of the hearts will result into failing at beating the enemy and in some cases such as in the boss battles, will result into game over. In Space Channel 5: Part 2, the hearts are replaced with stars in specific moments. Losing all of the stars will always result into game over.
- Ulala: The series's main protagonist, Ulala is a 22 (later 25) year old reporter who works for Channel 5 and investigates cases as well as saves people by dancing. Ulala is a very talented reporter and dancer, she is also very skilled on playing several musical instruments, including the guitar, drums and keyboard. Her goal is to become recognized as the number one news reporter in the entire galaxy.
- Fuse: The director from Space Channel 5 who helps and directs Ulala from behind the scenes, informing her what to do and what to look out for during reports. His face has never been seen.
- Noize: Debuting in the second installment, Noize is a 15 (later 18) year old boy who's Ulala's co-worker. He helps out on repairs to the broadcasting shuttle, creates new types of microphones for Ulala to use in her reports, drives the Astrobeat Jr. and even assists Ulala in some battles. The Channel 5 technical development chief headhunted and found him due to his skills in technology.
- Jaguar: Jaguar is a mysterious man who used to work for Channel 5 in the past. He was the one who found Ulala lost in space after the latter being the sole survivor of the spaceship accident when she was 12 years old. Jaguar left Channel 5 shortly after this event and Ulala never had the chance to thanks him. He currently works for the Underground Pirate Broadcasting Station, an infamously known broadcasting station that raids and interrupts broadcasts.
- Pudding: Pudding is a reporter who works for Channel 42 and Ulala's biggest rival. She constantly challenges Ulala for dance and instruments battles and always end up losing. Pudding is very jealous of Ulala and has a quite childish personality. A Space Channel 5 bonus album also reveals that she can be a bit clumsy, as she has a track where she fights the villains in a comical wrong way. Despite all of that, Pudding knowns when she has to leave her jealousy towards Ulala aside, as she always joins and helps Ulala defeating the main antagonist in very final battle. She also encourages Ulala to not give up when the latter is in need.
- Pine: Debuting in the second instalment, Pine is a tough cowgirl chief of the Eastern Sector Space Police who investigates cases and doesn't like when reporters try to do her job. She once fought against Ulala because the latter insisted on investigating her case. However, Pine knows when she needs assistance and joins forces with Ulala when she knows Ulala can help.
- Morolians: A race of aliens who are the secondary antagonists of both the first and the VR game. They were brainwashed by a mysterious signal ordering them to make people from Earth dance; at the end of the first game they are freed from it. In the second game, they make peace with the humans and even start their own television broadcasting station called Moro-Channel 5, named after the Channel that saved them.
- Hoorg: Also known as Morolian Boss, Hoorg is the leader and Godfather of the Morolians. In the first game he was brainwashed along with the rest of his kind and under the brainwashing control. Hoorg was responsible for planning the Morolian's invasions. At the end of the game, he is freed from the control like the rest of his kind. With the Morolians making peace with the humans in the second game, Hoorg now works for the Moro-Channel 5 presenting a news show and also assists the main heroes defeating the main antagonists.
Michael Jackson character
When the first game was almost complete, the game's american executive producer showed Space Channel 5 to Michael Jackson himself, who appeared to have really liked it and even asked if he could be a character in the game. Granting his wish, SEGA created the character Space Michael Jackson.
Voiced by Michael Jackson himself, Space Michael is a legendary star known throughout all the Galaxy, and is said to have saved the Earth 500 years ago by using his dance energy. The character was a last minute addition to the first game and he simply makes a small appearance as a hostage in the last level. In the sequel, Space Michael has much more presence. He became the new chief of Channel 5 and assists Ulala defeating the main villains from the fourth report forward.
Due to Michael Jackson's passing away in 2009, Space Michael will most likely not be appearing in the series' future anymore. The character was completely absent from Space Channel 5 VR. The game also had a mini game called Trial Dance, where some tracks from the first two games were reused. One of them, which contained Michael Jackson's voice in it, played without his voice. Despite being absent from this game, Space Michael was not removed from the Space Channel 5: Part 2 HD remaster, released in 2011.
- Blank: The secret main antagonist from the first game. He is the CEO of Channel 5 and completely obsessed with rating and brainwashed the Morolians with the solely purpose to get more.
- Evila: A robot modelled after Ulala, created by Blank to get more ratings. She appears as a boss in the first game. In the second, she is re-programmed to be good and becomes a security robot for Channel 5.
- The Rhythm Rogues: A mysterious dance group formed by robots who are forcing people to dance and abducting them in the second game.
- Shadow: The mysterious captain of the Rhythm Rogues in the second game. He commands the robots to attack and does most of his boss's work.
- Purge: The main antagonist from the second game. Leader of the Rhythm Rogues and Shadow's boss, Purge is a young 18 year old genius who has the belief that everybody is unhappy, so he pretends to make the whole galaxy dance for him. He begins sending the Rhythm Rogues to attack and abduct people through the galaxy and later attacks all of the television stations across the galaxy with the purpose to steal their antennas and send a powerful signal that will make the whole galaxy dance.
- Glitter: A mysterious space organism who is the main antagonist from the VR game. He has been abducting people and forcing them to dance to absorb their Groove Moxie, a type of energy produced by dancing. Glitter brainwashes the Morolians to help him on getting what he wants. He does that by injecting X Space Cells into them which turns the Morolians into Othermoros.
The Space Channel 5 series has many recurring minor characters, some of the most noticeable being the ones listed down below.
- Minor Reporters: Two very notable minor characters are 88MAN and Shinichiro Tachibana, reporters from TV Stations (Channel 88 and Channel 1 respectively) that compete with Channel 5 and have appeared in every game. 88MAN is a very advanced 2 year old reporter robot created to handle any environment. Tachibana is a veteran 40 year old reporter from an unknown alien species who used to present a kids show that Ulala watched as a kid. In Space Channel 5: Part 2, there's also a Morolian reporter named Morolian Eight, from a recently founded Morolian Channel called Moro-Channel 5. These three usually appear racing against Ulala to get the scoops before her and later appear helping her out on the final battles.
- Space Divas: Every game features a different Space Diva, ageless divas who are special hostages in every game. In the first game, the Space Diva is Amy Amania. In the second one, it's the Space Bird Mistress. In the VR one, it's Space Diva Glitter.
- Channel 5 Staff: Many of the other Channel 5 employees make small appearances in the games as minor characters. Brent Suzuki and Ms. Valala Petrie are presenters of a news show called Star News Station. Xiao Xing Lum, is a former Kung Fu fighter who currently presents a cooking show. Lance Sterling is a worker who pops up on the screen when the shows are having technical difficulties.
- Space Children: A group of students who are recurring hostages in the series. They usually appear along with their irresponsible and cowardly teacher, Mr. Joely. In Space Channel 5 VR, they are teenagers and are replaced with new Space Children.
- Cecil Aroma: Said to be the galaxy's sexiest man, Cecil Aroma is a recurring minor character who has appeared as a hostage in every game. It's possible that he works for Channel 5, as he appears in the Channel's headquarters in Part 2, however that is not confirmed.
Lady Miss Kier lawsuit
Lady Miss Kier, the former lead vocalist of Deee-Lite, filed a lawsuit against SEGA claiming that Ulala was an unauthorized use of her likeness. According to her, SEGA offered her $16,000 to license her name, image, and songs for a video game, which she declined but they allegedly still went ahead and used her likeness anyways, she even claimed that Ulala's name came from her song, the Groovie is in the Heart, where she says the word at the beginning of it, causing her to file the suit. She ultimately lost, having to pay all of SEGA's $608,000 in legal fees as SEGA managed to prove that they had contacted the Miss Kier after creating the character.
Curiously, in 2008, Space Channel 5 had a thematic level in the game Samba de Amigo released for the Nintendo Wii, where Ulala herself makes a cameo in it. Samba de Amigo is another rhythm game by SEGA where the levels contain licensed songs and the song that happens to play in the Space Channel 5 thematic level happens to be Deee-Lite's song, Groove is in the Heart.
Ulala's MTV News Show
Ulala was originally going to be a virtual news reporter of a show of her own on MTV. Her show didn't get past the pilot episode.
Space Channel 5 Animated TV Series
Despite being a small series, Space Channel 5 has became one of SEGA most beloved franchises and has been referenced in a lot of other games. Ulala has appeared as an unlockable character in Beach Spikers and Sonic Riders as well as a supporting character in Sega Splash Golf!. Ulala has also recently appeared in the mobile game Puyo Puyo Quest, alongside the Morolians. One of Puyo Puyo's main characters, Ringo Ando, also gained an alt in a costume based on Ulala.
Space Channel 5 has also been represented in all of the games from the SEGA Superstars series. In the first one, SEGA Superstars, there is a mini game based on the Ulala's Dance Mode mini game from Space Channel 5: Part 2. In SEGA Superstars Tennis, Ulala is a default playable character and Pudding is an unlockable one. Spaceport 9 also appears as a tennis court. In Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing, Ulala is an unlockable character and in Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed, she is a default character and Pudding returns as an unlockable character. A Morolian is also an unlockable playable character in the musical rail shooter game also produced by United Game Artists, Rez. In Project X Zone and Project X Zone 2, Ulala appears as a pair unit, Coco★Tapioca and Shadow (the latter being only in the second game) also appear as bosses and Morolians and Rhythm Robots (the latter only in the second one) as enemy units..
In Feel the Magic: XY/XX, there's a Space Channel 5 minigame and Ulala's pigtails are an unlockable costume for the Girl character. In the Samba de Amigo for the Wii, there's a Space Channel 5 thematic level where Ulala and Morolians make a cameo. In Samurai & Dragons, Ulala and many other Sega characters appear as cards. In the Vocaloid series, Hatsune Miku has two Space Channel 5 thematics modules (outfits). One where she dresses up as Ulala, with her hair color even changing to pink and the other being a costume for a made up channel called Space Channel 39. An Ulala costume also appears in Virtual Fighters 5 Final Showdown for Sarah Bryant as a paid DLC and in Chaos Heroes Online for Silk, along with two Evila costumes for Medusa (one based on her design from the first game and the other based on Evila (Upgrade) from the second game) and a Hoorg costume for AI-controlled enemies. There are also two mini games based on Space Channel 5 in Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure.
Outside of games, Ulala made a cameo in the movie Josie and the Pussycats. She also appeared in the Japan exclusive multimedia project, Sega Hard Girls as well as in its anime adaptation, appearing in the episode 4, "We Tried to Dance Space Channel 5". Ulala was also the main inspiration for the character "Dreamcast".
Spin-Offs and Ports
Ulala's Channel J
Ulala's Channel J was a cell phone game released on the Vodafone. It was an application with over half a dozen mini-games ranging from a game starring Xavier Gaboot to a mission to diffuse a bomb as Pine. Ulala Channel J began in June of 2001 and ended sometime in 2005.
Ports and Remakes
Space Channel 5 was ported over to the PlayStation 2 on March 15, 2002 in Europe and on December 12 of the same year in North America. Nothing really changed except for some dialogue pointing out which buttons to press. (Ex. 'A' button replaced with 'X' button.)
Space Channel 5: Part 2 was released on the PlayStation 2 on the same day the Dreamcast version came out in Japan on February 14, 2002. Aside from the differences in buttons (ex. 'O' button instead of 'B' button), the only real change came when the PS2 version was translated into English. Any noticeable differences came in the form of Space Channel 5: Special Edition's second disc, such as the Agetec logo appearing upon start up and in the credits.
Space Channel 5: Special Edition, only released in North America, was a port of both Space Channel 5 and Space Channel 5: Part 2 in one package deal. Released on November 18, 2003, it features some differences from the original games such as Ulala's Japanese voiceover being heard for the intro to Ulala's Swingin' Report Show in disc 1, and having all news flashes in lower case letters in disc 2.
In 2011, a widescreen port of Part 2 was release for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and Steam, also in 2011, Space Channel 5: Part 2 was included in the Dreamcast Collection, a compilation of four Dreamcast games in one package released for the PC and Xbox 360, along with SEGA Bass Fishing, Sonic Adventure and Crazy Taxi.
Space Channel 5: Ulala's Cosmic Attack was a remake of the original Space Channel 5 brought over to the Game Boy Advance. On March 6, 2003 it was released in Europe and June 17 of the same year in the US. All the voice clips outside of dancing were removed, instead having news flashes showing what someone was saying. Unfortunately, the music suffered being transferred over though they and the graphics were good, considering the system. Space Channel 5 was one of the many SEGA games that was ported to the GBA, others being Crazy Taxi and Jet Set Radio.
Holo Models and AR Game
In late 2020 Grounding Inc announced via the Festival the Space Channel 5 Holo Models was released on the 13th November 2020 by Gugenka for their Holo Models range. They even did a Ulala Christmas Model for anyone who per-purchased the game before December 16, 2020. Then they announced the Space Channel 5 AR game which the KDDI's "RealLight" AR glass Demo is now available.
As part of the 20th Anniversary of the series, the Music Festival was originally supposed to be on March 27, 2020. However due to the Coronavirus, it was pushed back to the November 13, 2020 where it was live streamed. In that festival, several items were announced as being released. 1: Space Channel 5 Holo Models, the Space Channel 5 AR game and a unknown project called Moromoro Land "a space of rejuvenation by Morolians, for Morolians".
- Ulala's Japanese voice actress was kept as a secret for years. In Japan, the game's would credit Ulala as being "voiced by herself". Eventually, it was later revealed that her voice actress was Mineko Okamura, who is also the CEO of Grounding Inc. The reason why Mineko was credited as "Ulala herself" is still left unclear.
- For years, people though Nahoko Nezu was her Japanese voice actress. Nahoko was the game's choreographer who did some motion captures for the game and was even born on May 30th, which is Ulala's fictional birthday. She also dressed up as Ulala to promote the game at the Tokyo Game Show.
- Space Channel 5 is the third SEGA video game to have Michael Jackson involved. The first being Michael Jackson's Moonwalker and the second being Sonic the Hedgehog 3.