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The uncertain future of Space Channel 5

In the aftermath of the recent Leaving Neverland documentary, every man and his dog has been quick to distance themselves from any association with Michael Jackson. His songs have been removed from radio playlists around the world and even the first episode of season 3 of The Simpsons, which features the pop star, has been stricken from video streaming services. In light of all this however, there is perhaps one casualty that has yet to be covered (or uncovered) by the mainstream media.

When (not if) Sega plans to plumb the depths of its Dreamcast back catalogue, it would be unthinkable to not include Ulala and her Space Channel 5 adventures in any potential retro compilation, or future "Dreamcast mini" style device. Her design and her games are so uniquely iconic to the Dreamcast era that it would be criminal to not highlight them for a new generation of gamers. However, there is a certain alleged smooth criminal whose appearance may cost us the chance to once again "Up, Down, Up, Down, Chu, Chu, Chu!"
Curse you Space Michael! You've ruined everything!
For those of you suffer from a chronic lack of rhythm and are unable to get very far into Ulala's adventures, you may not be aware that the dethroned King of Pop is featured in both titles (I still maintain that my El Cheapo LCD TV from the early noughties had terrible input lag, and therefore it was not my fault I sucked at rhythmn-action games).
I can dance yo! I got rythmn!
While Space Michael has only a minor cameo in the fourth stage of the first game, he is one of the main characters in the Space Channel 5: Part 2 sequel. He plays the role of the new Station Chief of Space Channel 5 and features in many of the games levels/news reports. It would be very difficult for Sega to make any future re-releases of the Space Channel 5 games without possibly suffering the ire of the maelstrom that is the MJ super cell of controversy.
I guess this is 500 years in the future. Maybe Space Michael shouldn't have to pay for the actions
of his ancestral namesake? Will that argument fly? Probably not.
As it stands, the original Space Channel 5 has seen little love from Sega over the years. It was only ported once in the early days to the PS2 and hasn't been seen since. It's conjectured that this is because the first game relies heavily on pre-rendered video for its backgrounds, and that these couldn't be updated to meet the requirements of next-gen HD visuals (perhaps it is more likely that they just lost the source code and the prospect of more ports fell into the "too hard basket").
Look! He's all over the cover slip and everything.
Can't pretend he's not in the game now.
Space Channel 5: Part 2 has fared better. After being released in Japan only as one of the Dreamcast's swan song titles, it was ported for worldwide release on PS2 in 2002. It was then later ported to the Xbox 360 and PC in the first (and only) Dreamcast Collection, a physical disc released in 2011. In the same year, the game was also made available for digital download for PS3 on the Playstation Store, as well as on Xbox Live, and Steam, where it is still available today (at the time of writing).
If you don't yet have it, maybe you should grab it now, before someone
thinks it might be a good idea to take it down.
All is not lost however. Sega is planning to release a brand new Space Channel 5 game, titled Space Channel 5 VR: Kinda Funky News Flash, as an exclusively VR title for the HTC Vive and PSVR. It was unclear whether they were intending for Space Michael to make a reappearance, but if he was, it would seem unlikely now.

The trailer shows a HD remake of the very first level of the original game. Perhaps Sega will just choose to reboot and remake the original game(s) and remove Space Michael as they go along, which would do away with the need to re-release the original titles. Of course, it won't be quite the same as it once was, but at least it won't be gone forever.

But the question remains: who will replace he-who-shall-not-be-named as the new Station Chief of Space Channel 5?
Space Bowie perhaps?
P.S. There is also another iconic Dreamcast title that features a cameo by Michael Jackson, albeit as a secret unlockable character - Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2. Despite their official status as multi-format titles, it could be argued that the Ready 2 Rumble games are almost just as intrinsically iconic to the Dreamcast as the Space Channel 5 games (almost). I am sure that they would be high on anyone's wish list in a future retro compilation or in the rumoured/pined for Dreamcast Mini. In this case however, the presence of MJ is less of an issue, as he is not heavily featured in the main game. Regardless, feel free to boot it up and smack him around the chops for a few rounds.
Go on, hit him in that smug face. Violence solves everything.

1 comment:

hoogafanter said...

As a Dreamcast and MJ fan, this whole thing saddens me. I'm not really into the SC5 games because of the lack of visual cues that make it hard for me to play, but this classic needs to be preserved. And the king of pop will NEVER be dethroned...