Think about games and how some have survived on different generations of platforms over the years, what comes to mind? Before you answer with your favorite FPS shooter or driving sim, let’s focus more on the music genre. Maybe one with space, aliens, and a reporter named Ulala. From the being released on Game Boy Advance to Dreamcast to even PlayStation, Space Channel 5 is one title that many will have some memory of. So when there were talks about Space Channel 5 would be coming to Virtual Reality, I had to know more. So I reached out to Mineko Okamura, CEO and Producer of Grounding Inc. to get more information and insight about bringing Space Channel 5 into Virtual Reality.
Interview with CEO and Producer of Grounding Inc. Mineko Okamura
Welcome to THE VR DIMENSION. Will you please introduce yourself and what a typical day for you might be like?
I’m Mineko Okamura, CEO & Producer of Grounding Inc. I produced “Space Channel 5 VR: Kinda Funky News Flash!” Back when I was with SEGA, I worked on the “Space Channel 5” series, as well as “Rez” and “Astro Boy.”
On a typical day, I get some sunlight in the morning, take a Chinese herb for regulating bodily
functions, work at my studio, and drink milk tea to refresh myself. At night, I go into cooking
mode and that helps take my mind off of work. That’s my day!”
For some that may not know, what have been some of the games that Grounding Inc. has been responsible for?
“Our past work includes “Sakura Samurai: Art of Sword” (Nintendo 3DS) and “Crimson Dragon” (Xbox One). We are also known for a board game called “Machikoro.” And my associate, Yukio Futatsugi, who worked on the “Panzer Dragoon” series, is currently developing “The Good Life” with Swery from White Owls.”
Space Channel 5 has been around since 1999 when it came out on the Dreamcast, and then later on the PlayStation 2 and even the Game Boy Advance, so what was the idea behind bringing it back and this time on PlayStation VR?
“Several years ago, there was an event where SEGA’s game music was performed by an orchestra. When they played Space Channel 5’s theme, “Mexican Flyer”, the fans were very happy. When that happened, the Space Channel team members who were still at SEGA and I wondered if there was anything we can do for the fans who continue to love and support Space
Channel 5 after all these years.
During brainstorming, we all agreed that if we were to bring back the game, it had to give players a new experience. So we tried recreating the original Spaceport, which was the setting where the first Space Channel 5 began. We put it into VR, and the minute we put on the VR headset, we surprised ourselves by how deeply we got drawn into the world. That’s when we
knew VR was the perfect fit.”
What can you tell us about the gameplay? Is there anything new for those that have played Space Channel 5 from the past?
Anyone who played the first Space Channel 5 will immediately recognize the first level. But for the first time, they’ll feel as if they are physically standing in the SC5 world. You’ll be saving people who have been brainwashed by aliens into dancing, and you’ll be doing it as Ulala’s
partner in crime. It’s nostalgic, yet brand new all at once.
Space Channel 5 VR Kinda Funky News Flash! also features a brand new story, which was written by the game design director of the original Space Channel 5. Some old characters whom you may have missed, like Jaguar, will make an appearance too. There’s also brand new characters that were designed by
the artist who originally designed Ulala.”
Will Space Channel 5 VR Kinda Funky News Flash! players use the Dual Shock 4 controller, Move controllers or have a choice of what they would like to use?
“The game requires two Move controllers to play. We chose this deliberately because our goal was to create an experience similar to a VR arcade. We did a test with Dual Shocks controllers, but we found that the Move controllers were far more engaging and gave a better physical experience.”
How many levels can we expect there to be? Any bonus levels?
“Story mode starts with a Tutorial and then leads into four stages. There is also Arcade mode (beginner mode), Viewing mode (rewatching mode), Trial Dance mode (exercise and endurance mode), Friendopedia (character directory), and more.
We are currently developing additional content in collaboration with Hatsune Miku as well! We’re excited to bring Miku into the Space Channel 5 world – it’s going to be a blast.”
When working with PlayStation VR, did you come across any obstacles that you did not count on?
“Other developers mentioned that shipping a VR game was difficult, and sure enough, the process took longer than we anticipated. Also, this was our first time publishing a game for PlayStation 4, so we had to start everything from scratch. It was tough and we’ve learned a lot.”
Do we have an official release date and price point? Will there be any special pre-order bonuses that you can share?
“The game released worldwide February 25th and February 26th!”
If someone came up to you and asking advice about working in VR, what would be the top three tips you could give them?
- Movement in Unity can be very different from the experience you get inside a VR headset. For example, the distance from you to a character can differ greatly. So you have to check precisely and constantly how the player will actually feel and see inside
- One way to avoid motion sickness is to give up on your character traveling. Brainstorm different game designs that makes sense even if the player can’t move from where they’re standing.
- When creating a game in VR, if the player is playing as the protagonist, then they won’t be able to see themselves during the game. That’s why we made a main character of Space Channel 5 VR a rookie reporter, so you wouldn’t miss out on seeing Ulala during the game.”
With the PlayStation VR catalog continuing to grow, what would you say to someone looking for that new PlayStation VR experience on why they should get Space Channel 5 VR Kinda Funky News Flash?
“You won’t get any motion sickness with this game. Also, the control scheme is very easy, so you can enjoy the game like your very own VR attraction or arcade at home.
We made Space Channel 5 VR a very happy and cheerful game, so it’s perfect when you want to disappear into a virtual world and emerge happier and more energetic. It also gives you an opportunity to get moving in a way that’s super fun!”
I really want to thank Mineko Okamura for taking the time out of her busy schedule to share her knowledge and for giving us a closer look at Space Channel 5 VR Kinda Funky News Flash!.
Space Channel 5 VR Kinda Funky News Flash! is out now on PlayStation VR and is also coming to the Oculus Quest, Steam, and Viveport.
Also, try the demo now.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.