BY AGETEC & UGA, 2003
25 WORDS OR LESS:
Relive the funkiness of the original Space Channel 5 and/or revel in the American debut of its sequel.
Class of 2000
For being part of a genre that’s still a little bit niche, the plot-driven rhythm game is somewhat unappreciated itself. In fact, you can almost count them all on one hand: there’s Parappa and Lammy’s rise to stardom, U-1’s discovery of the guitar-jamming hero within and yes, Ulala’s choreographed adventures against the forces of space evil. To call it a dying subgenre is somewhat of a misnomer, since there’s barely enough titles to consider that it even had a chance.
But Agetec is aiming to get you to care about characters again rather than buttons and arrows and pulsing wireframes. The company has taken it upon themselves to grab the Space Channel 5 duology from Sega and release the PS2 ports over here. While their intention is not to make Ulala a pop culture icon like Sega tried three years ago, they are giving us these games for a ludicrously low price, which is the first of many reasons why you need to own this package.
The second is that they’re simply good games. Well, at least that’s what you hope for when you pop in disc 1, the original Space Channel 5. Despite rumblings that Sony made Agetec go back and have the games further technically improved, SC5 still feels rough around the edges. For a Dreamcast game it was acceptable, but as a recent PS2 game it just doesn’t feel the same anymore. While the music is still great and the characters unforgettable, playing it practically demands constant practice in order to decipher the game’s crazy timing, diminishing its appeal to all but hardcore rhythm action fans and making an hour-long game drag on for no good reason.
For the most part though, none of that first disc really matters, because the real star of the show here is SC5 Part 2. For all it adds and improves, it’s almost a completely different game. To start with, the production values were pumped up considerably, with much more boisterous foot (and leg and arm) -tapping music, helped along by Ulala’s newfound ability to play various instruments as well as shake her groove thing, not to mention fully polygonal graphics that free up the choices in camera angles. It gives you the feeling that this is the game Tetsuya Mizuguchi really had in mind.
Most importantly, Part 2 is a lot more forgiving. Ill-timed button presses now usually go unnoticed until it’s actually time to press them, which leads to a far more accessible game. However this doesn’t diminish the challenge at all, since the flucuating tempos will do you in more than slipping on the controller. This smoothed over gameplay makes the game peceptually shorter than the original, but with a ton of new costumes and items for Ulala to unlock, and just the insanely polished experience in general, replaying is worth it.
SC5 SE marks a time when you can now get every obscure adventure-packed music game on the same system, as well as say that you have every Space Channel 5 game, dinky keitai apps excluded. If you have been wondering if SC5 is as good or bad as people have been saying, well … why? Think of it this way: for $15 you get a decent game in Space Channel 5 and a really, really good one in Part 2. And both have Space Michael! All in all, we call that a winning combination. —Ray Barnholt