Review: Space Channel 5 Part 2 (PS3)

Title: Space Channel 5 Part 2
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1.5 GB)
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega
Original MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: E
Space Channel 5 Part 2 is also available on Xbox Live Arcade, Steam, PlayStation 2 and Sega Dreamcast.
The PlayStation Network download version was used for this review.

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 237 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
The original Space Channel 5 was a quirky breakout hit on the Dreamcast released in late 1999 in Japan and early 2000 in the US. The sequel, Space Channel 5 Part 2 never made it to the US on the Dreamcast as it was released a year after the hardware had been discontinued. It did however make it to the US as part of a PlayStation 2 release in late 2003.

Much like Parappa the Rapper, Um Jammer Lammy or Bust A Groove, Space Channel 5 Part 2 is a rhythm game, but with a much sexier protagonist. You follow the on screen action and match movements using the directional pad or left stick along with two buttons. You’ll play as intrepid space reporter, Ulala as she races around the galaxy dancing her way through the news. The Rhythm Rogues are attacking and abducting people and forcing them to, gasp, dance! As you report on the attacks, you’ll get into dance-offs with the Rhythm Rogues and this is where the game becomes much like Simon Says. They’ll dance and make noises to the beat of the music and you have to match them move for move. If you haven’t figured it out by now, this is one of those wonderfully wacky Japanese games where everything is waaaay over the top.

The game has a good learning curve but it can get difficult at times. You have to follow the beat and you really need to pay attention to where you come in since the music changes dramatically at times. The sounds that correspond to the two buttons will also change from time to time making things just a little more confusing and upping the difficulty a bit. There are also charged moves which require holding the button down to match longer sounds.

You have a set number of “hearts” for each level and when you miss a beat, you’ll lose one. Lose them all and it’s back to the previous checkpoint. This is where the game can get a bit punishing as some of the checkpoints are pretty far back. Boss battles are frequent throughout the game and really keep you on your toes, all while advancing the convoluted and wonderfully bizarre story. Some of the mini bosses have you playing instruments like guitar or drums but for those you’ll either be focusing on just up and down or button presses. That’s not to say they’re easy. Matching the up and down strumming to the music and the speed it reaches can be difficult, but rewarding when you get it right.

The game is surprisingly deep for a twelve year old rhythm game. Scrolling through the menu, you’ll find a Story Mode, and a Co-op Story Mode, where one player controls the movements and the other the face buttons, each on their own controller. There’s also Ulala’s Dance and Ulala’s Co-op Dance which is a one hundred level dance off. You have to follow Ulala’s increasingly difficult moves with only a few hearts over the course of one hundred full levels, not an easy task for sure. The other two areas consist of the Character Profiles and the Changing Room. The Character Profiles screen is actually pretty important in beating the game. Every character you save and enemy boss that you beat ends up here. Many will have tips and hidden secrets in their profiles which will help you along the way. In The Changing Room, you can put Ulala in any of forty different outfits and add twelve different accessories (that need to be unlocked). They don’t really have any affect of gameplay other than the fact that you’re looking at Ulala a lot during the game so you can customize her look if you want.

There’s a lot of gameplay to be had for ten dollars and it’ll keep you busy for quite a while with the different modes and all the unlocks available.

Visuals:
Wonderfully eye-popping visuals and a unique style make this game memorable even a decade later. Right from the menu, you’ll get a feel for what a great little oddball game this is. Bright, contrasting colors are used throughout and the character animations are superb. It has a retro-future sixties type of vibe to it with a bit of the Yellow Submarine mixed in, if the Yellow Submarine was the Yellow Rocketship.

The game moves fluidly from cutscene to gameplay with almost no change in the character models or environments. It’s the kind of game that’s just fun to watch, not only for the animations in the dance moves, but also for the over the top enemies created by the developers. The Space Channel 5 series was a standout on the Dreamcast in 2000 and it doesn’t miss a beat here in 2011.

Audio:
A rhythm game is going to live or die by its music selection and this game shines brightly. It plays off the visual vibe with sixties style bold, brash music that’s heavy on the horns and keyboard. It’s the perfect compliment for the on screen action. The music also changes up quite a bit, touching many different genres and fortunately, for me anyway, it never got old. It’s just such a refreshing change from the standard video game fare that I enjoyed every minute of it.

Voice-overs tend to be over acted most of the time, but that too fits right in with the style of the game. I realized while playing it that I had a smile on my face most of the time and it’s because of the whole crazy package.

Yes kids, that really is Michael Jackson as... Space Michael

Online/Multiplayer:
In addition to the bizarre co-op mode, SEGA has added online leaderboards to the game just like SEGA Bass Fishing. It’s a great addition accessible from the main menu where you can compare scores level by level with people around the PSN and you can even sort by friends. Kudos to SEGA for going the extra mile with these two recent releases and adding in some fun functionality.

Conclusion:
If you’re a fan of rhythm games, a fan of wacky Japanese games, or just a fan of fun in general, you can’t go wrong with Space Channel 5 Part 2. It has aged quite well and while it can be difficult at times, it’s one of those rare, unique experiences you’ll find on the PSN and well worth the ten dollars.

Score:
9.0

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