Review – Space Channel 5 Part 2

Space Channel 5 Part 2
A long time ago, before Tetsuya Mizuguchi created a bunch of synthesthetic puzzle games, he worked for Sega, where he created Space Channel 5. The crazy retro-futuristic style made it one of the most iconic titles for the now-defunct Dreamcast. Last year, when Sega announced that it was going to re-release a series of the Dreamcast’s most popular games in HD for XBLA and PSN, it was only logical that they would include Space Channel 5…

…Part 2, the sequel which was only available for the Dreamcast in Japan. Well, I guess it technically counts, even though a lot of the world knows it better as a budget PS2 release. I suppose the fact that all the backgrounds in the first game were pre-rendered in 480i disqualifies it from being released in HD. Space Channel 5 Part 2 is also a far better game than the original, but it’s still a bizarre choice for a collection that seemed like it was made to bank on Dreamcast nostalgia.

But alas, this is not a review of Sega’s handling of what could have been a great series of downloadable titles – this is a review of a classic rhythm game. Unlike the current wave of peripheral-based rhythm games, in which the goal is to make a small band into a very popular band, older titles of the genre always had a story to tell – though it was usually a completely messed up story.

The story of Space Channel 5 Part 2 features a futuristic news reporter who follows reports of bad guys who take innocent people hostage and force them to dance – which requires out-dancing the bad guys to save the hostages, who then show their appreciation by dancing in line behind her as she continues reporting; this is how you earn TV ratings in space. The game’s heroine, Ulala, does play a guitar and the drums as well, but only to demoralize rival reporters and to fend off the space police (yes, in the future, if you beat the police in a drum battle, they have to let you go – it’s the space law).


Space Channel 5 Part 2
Whenever space disaster strikes, Ulala shows up on the scene, and she has the unfortunate tendency of getting too close to the story, resulting in dance battles against the invading enemies; dance battles in the 26th century, of course, are handled by the enemy issuing a series of directional and button inputs that the opponent must match in an identical rhythm. In this sequel, Ulala must do this against Sega’s very own mysterious black and red antagonist Shadow (not that one) and his squadron of dancing robots, collectively known as the Rhythm Rogues.

The Rhythm Rogues kidnap the space president, and Ulala is left to simultaneously report on the tragedy and rescue him, with the help of some old enemies and of course Michael Jackson, who will now and forever be immortalized as the 500+ year old chief of a broadcasting station who wears a silver jumpsuit and can still pull off all his old moves. Now that I think about it, other events from the past 9 years since the game’s original release have also put it in a different light; playing again, I now realize that the diminutive, charismatic leader of the Rhythm Rogues, Purge, who wears giant sunglasses and tries to control all the space media, is essentially an ultra-stylized Kim Jong Il. Life imitates art, I suppose.

The backdrops in Space Channel 5 Part 2 aren’t exactly the curvy neon wonderlands present in Part 1, but they still provide their own unique take on the 1960s aesthetic. Overall, it’s a darker game in style and tone, but still unmistakably a Space Channel 5 game, and one that looks great in HD. The game still has a few pre-rendered cut-scenes that are ironically now the worst looking parts of the game, but that’s sadly par for the course with these HD remakes of last generation games.

Space Channel 5 Part 2
The story mode is just over an hour total, but when the game is beaten, a second, harder version of the story is unlocked, where a lot of the characters are altered just enough to keep things interesting. There is also a challenge mode called Ulala’s Dance mode, in which she must match back 100 sets of dance commands in a row, and if so much as one is missed, it starts over again.

Also adding to replay value is a series of unlockable costumes that Ulala can wear in any of the game modes. Some of these costumes are simply different uniforms for her, but some of them change her into other characters entirely; these characters still have Ulala’s voice, but if you want to play through the game as an old lady, a giant robot, a tiny robot, or Michael Jackson, you’re welcome to do that.

As previously mentioned, the only existing English dialogue for the game was recorded for the PS2 version. While that work managed to keep Apollo Smile, Ulala’s English voice actress from the first game, Fuse’s voice, the one constantly speaking into Ulala’s ear, is quite different in this game – it’s essentially the difference between Rod Roddy and Rich Fields (for those unfamiliar with The Price is Right, this is a not a good thing).

Furthermore, since the voices are from the PS2 version, people make references to the buttons on a PS2 controller, so to avoid confusion in the 360 version, these sentences of spoken dialogue are COMPLETELY REMOVED. This results in an extremely awkward part during one of the more dramatic scenes in which Ulala’s sidekicks are trying to explain to the player how to defeat Shadow once and for all, but instead they point in complete silence and rely on the subtitles to instruct you. The original Japanese voices are available, but to access them, the system language has to be changed, in which case any subtitles will also be in Japanese. It’s not perfectly implemented, but I highly recommend switching the language at some point; Japanese Purge has one of the best laughs in the history of videogames.

Space Channel 5 Part 2
On the bright side, some of the most difficult costumes to obtain in older versions – the ones based on how long you played the game – have been made much easier to obtain. Costumes that were previously obtainable upon playing the game for 10, 20 and 30 hours are now unlocked by playing for 3, 6, and 10 hours respectively.

Additionally, playing for 10 hours unlocks some ridiculously awesome avatar awards. There’s a white Ulala costume for female avatars, and a full-body purple Morolian suit for male avatars, both of which take some of the sting away from having to play with the 360’s d-pad or analog stick (by the way, I have managed to beat Ulala’s Dance mode a few times using the analog stick, so the 360 version IS playable).

This re-release of Space Channel 5 Part 2 isn’t exactly the nostalgia bomb that people were expecting Sega to drop, but it’s still a damn fine game that just happened to get lost in the shuffle in the midst of the Dreamcast’s early demise. It’s also one of the best ports to come out of this set of downloadable Dreamcast games; that is to say, it ISN’T glitchy as hell and it includes all of its original music.

Whether you were a fan of the original, or just a curious individual wondering who that girl with the pink hair and tiny skirt who makes cameos in all of those Sega games is, this download is an unlikely gem from the Dreamcast collection ready to join your PSN or XBLA library free of the four game retail Dreamcast collection Sega released earlier this year.


Developer
United Game Artists

Publisher
Sega

System
PlayStation 3 (PlayStation Network), Xbox 360 (Xbox LIVE Arcade)

Modes
Singleplayer, Local Co-op

Release Date
October 4, 2011 PlayStation Network / October 5, 2011 Xbox LIVE Arcade

Price
$9.99, 800 Microsoft Points

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

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  • http://www.facebook.com/linzb0t Lindsay Collins

    I love this game, I have the PS2 collection~
    I think this is one game could seriously benefit from motion controls. Being able to do the moves and “chu! chu!” on the wii, move or even kinect would be awesome. I have no idea why no one has done it yet.
    Come on Sega, geez.

    • http://www.gamesugar.net Jamie Love

      I’d dig on a kinect title, somebody needs to get on that :/

      • EdEN

        Maybe SEGA is working on one for the Wii U!

      • Kyatt

        Maybe the Wii U one is an HD remake of the original, and the controller screen just tells you whose turn it is, just like the VMUs did.

      • EdEN

        Nice catch! Had forgotten about that.

  • Ujn Hunter

    I think I still have a slight crush on Ulala…

    • http://www.gamesugar.net Jamie Love

      Back off, I saw her first!