Playing Playstation VR past the initial honeymoon phase always feels like an astronomical undertaking. Chalk it up to a pile of jury-rigged tech from the PS3-era—a webcam that’s a nightmare to mount, Move controllers that charge via ancient mini-USB connections—not to mention a original processing box that doesn’t support HDR passthrough, and you have a recipe for a device that’s bound to collect dust. When I factor in other issues like getting the angle of the headset just right and stocking up on ginger candy to combat motion sickness, it’s hard to justify going to the trouble.
And yet, many of my favorite gaming experiences have been in VR. There’s no denying that the experience can be transformative. I played the entirety of Resident Evil 7 in VR and it was horrifying. I played Rez in VR and it was meditative and emotional. Astro Bot Rescue Mission has all the charm of a modern day Mario 64. Beyond that, there are dozens of noteworthy games that I’ve been eager to try, but couldn’t motivate myself to hook up everything.
It took a review code and the obligation that entails to get me to finally reconnect everything. I dusted off my headset, hooked up all the additional cables, tinkered with the angle of the camera, and calibrated it all. Finally, I sat down with controller in hand to try out Space Channel 5 VR: Kinda Funky News Flash!
Almost immediately I ran into a problem. As I looked around the opening menu, I saw no way to interact with it via controller. I didn’t know anything going into it, outside of its pedigree as a sequel to the first two Dreamcast Space Channel 5 rhythm games, and this new game wasn’t concerned with telling me how to play it. Eventually, I assumed I’d need to turn on those Move controllers.
I spent 15 minutes digging around for a USB-to-mini-USB cable so I could resync my Move controllers to my PS4. In the process I also realized this was more of an active, standing game, so I kicked the chair out of the way. Finally, after about thirty minutes of setup, I was ready to play.
An hour later the credits were rolling.
Thirty minutes after that I’d seen everything the game had to offer.
At $40, alongside all the work that goes into setting up PSVR and the brevity of the game itself, I can’t possibly recommend Space Channel 5 VR to anyone, even long-time fans of Ulala and her dancing antics. The music is decent, the story is very campy, and seeing the world of the Dreamcast originals in VR has some appeal, but there are too many problems outside of that.
There are no difficulty levels to speak of, and aside from a tricky moment or two, a competent rhythm game fan will likely sleepwalk through this entire game. After the credits roll, there’s the prospect of replaying it all for a perfect score, or taking on the “100-stage dance challenge” that feels more like ten stages, but it’s all incredibly simplistic.
It’s fair to say that the original games were short, simple, and overpriced for the time. That said, things have changed a lot since then, and the value proposition just doesn’t add up in 2020. It feels like the developers set out to make a third game for the audience from 2002, and even then, you could argue that this is a less ambitious game than the originals. A third Space Channel 5 game, 18 years later, really needed to offer a lot more than this.
Now, a couple days after finishing the game, my PS4 is back to normal, the VR headset is back on its stand, and I’m left wondering when I’ll dive into VR again. I have cool, exciting, promising VR games in my backlog that I want to play, and yet I still don’t know when I will. I love PSVR, but it has a long way to go before it’s a part of my everyday gaming habits.