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Even if you’ve played the first Space Channel 5, Special Edition is worth the nickel. The Dreamcast version’s periodically unresponsive controls have been tightened, and besides a new story, the progressive sequel offers a wider array of musical styles, more intricate control mechanics, wilder camerawork, an a two-player mode. And at 30 bucks, it’s the choicest of choice.
At first glance, the story that's inserted between the simple rhythm tests of Space Channel 5: Special Edition seems a simple battle of good versus evil. In the first game, an evil alien menace—the Morolians—threatens the Earth by forcing its population to dance uncontrollably. In the second game, a shadowy group known as the "Rhythm Rogues" plans a similar fate for the entire galaxy. In both cases, intrepid space reporter Ulala—the force of good—reveals the plot as a conspiracy controlled by a single megalomaniac: the force of evil. But a deeper reading of the game's dialogue and symbols leads to a different conclusion: that the side of "truth" represented by Ulala is little better than the "evil" she is fighting.
Before I popped the games into my trusty PS2, I began having doubts. Would I have the same fun with the game I had played only a few years prior? This could be Super Mario Brothers 3 all over again, where my anticipations would be met with disappointment. But I pressed on anyway, knowing full well that this was one of my favorite games, and I would enjoy it AND it’s sequel And enjoy I did. And blown away I was.
There's a load of extra modes, including a 100-level "Ulala Dance" mode, which lets you play without a storyline, but I found it to be way too hard. Each level is a long string of moves, and one screw-up forces you to start over. The two-player mode is definitely worthwhile, as it allows one player to control the directional moves while the other takes care of the shooting. I didn't find Part 2 to be as fun as the original game, but fans will find a lot of extras to keep them occupied. Overall Space Channel 5 Special Edition is a great value, especially considering its low retail price.
There are a lot of things I could say about Space Channel 5 Special Edition, and I'll get to most of them in due time, but what I want to talk about up front is this: value for money. It's the reason a lot of people refused to hand over $50 for the first game back when it was on Dreamcast, and though I'd disagree (I disagreed with my wallet, in fact), I certainly understand the argument against paying full price for a 40-minute game.
As we enter another phase of the perennial and slightly tedious video game violence debate, it's always nice to have an example of a game to point to that is fun, well-made, attractive, and completely lacking in any killing or maiming. But, more importantly to me, it's lovely to see a game that trades solely on its cleverness, style, and sense of fun. Space Channel 5: Special Edition contains two very unique and terribly enjoyable games, and is quite unlike anything else you'll find on the market.
For a game that received so much marketing, hype and pure fanboy love, it's still quite sad to know that the original Dreamcast Space Channel 5, the dance-rhythm game from United Game Artists designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi, was a giant flop. It never sold well and, despite its bold sense of style and hip female power, it took about three hours max to beat. The Dreamcast needed a whole lot more than short, pretty dance games to stay alive, and clearly, Space Channel 5 wasn't the answer.
Played from beginning to end, both of the Space Channel 5 games are extremely short--you can finish them both in less time than you'd spend on one game of average length. But the good music and intense style make them replayable, and there's a respectable amount of stuff, such as character profiles and Ulala costumes, that you can unlock. There's also the matter of the game's price, which at release is an extremely budget 15 dollars. At that price, any PS2-owning rhythm action fan shouldn't feel too bad about adding this unusual and endearing game to his or her library. If you're not a fan of the genre, this won't do anything to win you over, but it's charming and solid for what it is. And if nothing else, SC5 Special Edition is also notable as the last time we're likely to see Michael Jackson starring in a video game.
Space Channel 5 might go down as one of the Dreamcast's most beloved rhythm games, but on the PS2, it will be remembered as a budget title to cherish. Even if you own the Dreamcast version, do yourself a favor and try out the PS2 version's added game, Space Channel Five Part 2. The package might look like it's from 2000, but you're sure to have a swingin' good time with this one, if you get past the difficulty.