How Michael Jackson Willed His Way Into Sega’s Space Channel 5

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Long before he began developing his new indie turn-based strategy title, Skulls of the Shogun, Jake Kazdal worked at Sega’s Shibuya, Japan office, contributing to the development of games such as Rez and Space Channel 5. The latter game is famous for having a version of Michael Jackson in it, dubbed “Space Michael”.


We recently met with Kazdal to talk about Skulls of the Shogun, but couldn’t resist asking a few questions about his Sega days along the way. In particular, we wanted to know how in the world Michael Jackson ended up in Space Channel 5.


“So, this is a funny story. We were late in development and there was no Space Michael,” Kazdal began, after we brought the subject up. “And we were laaaaaate, like almost beta, I want to say? And one day, [Shuji] Utsumi-san, who was the head of Sega’s development at the time in Japan — who is now the president of Q-Entertainment with [Tetsuya] Mizuguchi-san — came into our office.”


“We were in a remote office, we were not down at Haneda’s main corporate office. We were up in Shibuya, we had our own office up there with a couple smaller teams like AM1 and CSK. And we had sort of an impromptu meeting, and he’s like, ‘So, umm… I just got back from the states, and…’”


Kazdal continued, adding a little background on Utsumi: “He’d helped launch the PlayStation. He’s oldschool, he’d been around forever, he’s done a lot of cool stuff. He said, ‘I had a meeting, and umm…it turns out Michael wants to be in the game.’ And everyone was like, ‘What? Michael? What are you talking about?’”


“And he was like, ‘Yeah. Michael Jackson. He saw the game and he loves it and he really, really wants to be in it.’ And we had like a month left. And we were like, ‘What the hell. Let’s do it.’ So we buckled up and we just made it happen, and yeah, it was super-awesome.”


“Of course, obviously, we were super-stoked,” Kazdal recalls. “They’d worked with him before on Moonwalker, so there was a relationship there and I forget how we got the data in there. I want to say we used the Moonwalker stuff, but I can’t confirm that. I don’t remember the details. But yeah, it was exciting. It was like a complete rush, like slam, and we got it done and we were stoked that we got to include him in the game.”

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Localization specialist and former Siliconera staff writer. Some of his localizations include entries in the Steins;Gate series, Blue Reflection, and Yo-Kai Watch.