I never owned a Dreamcast. A sin, I know, but I had moved on from SEGA by the time it was released, and it’s fair to say that so had most other people. Although short lived, the Dreamcast has reached almost cult status due to some of the wonderful games it had to offer; most of which came direct from the East.
Space Channel 5: Part 2 is one of those games. It’s completely bonkers in both idea and execution; but somehow manages to steal you with its infectious gameplay. The story involves Space Channel 5’s ace news reporter Ulala, as she investigates an incident on a space shuttle. It turns out that a rogue dance troop, The Rhythm Rogues, have started making people dance uncontrollably and abducting them. It is down to Ulala to ’out-dance’ the Rogues and free her fellow passengers.
As the story suggests, this game is about dancing; a rhythm game that involves you copying the moves of the Rogues, proving that you are the superior groover. The levels are broken up in to very basic dance routines, where you copy the moves with the directional pad and the A and B buttons. They will perform a dance, which generally involves multiple moves, and you will then attempt to repeat the dance exactly as they performed it. The problem with this is that unlike more recent rhythm games, there is no visual marker to let you know when you need to press the buttons. The timing required to complete the move needs to be exact or you will fail the move (which will result in you losing health). I cannot tell you the amount of times I got extremely angry because I felt I was pressing the buttons correctly, only to have Ulala fail the move. Luckily, the game’s infectious music and cheerful tone soon returned me to a more stable frame of mind.
It really is the game’s quirky style and chirpy music that keeps you going. If it wasn’t for that I would have given up after the first level. For some bizarre reason, the whole tone of the game reminded me of the opening to an Austin Powers movie, where Austin is dancing down a 60s London street, with a crowd of followers copying his every move. Sounds odd, but you will understand what I am talking about if you ever play the game.
The visuals in the game have been given the once over by SEGA. The game supports widescreen and has a wonderful glow about it. It’s a shame the same cannot be said for the cut scenes. These have been left ’as is’ and stand out like a sore thumb.
The game comes with two modes: the story and Ulala’s dance challenge, both of which can be played with another player (which is kind of cool). Ulala’s dance challenge is a survival mode where you cannot put one step wrong, as you only get one life. As with the main game, you copy someone’s moves in order to continue, but there is no margin for error this time. As you progress, the moves get longer, faster and more complicated.
The game does throw other challenges at you, such as having to play an instrument instead of dancing, but these all work on the same copy system; so you can expect the game to get a little stale after a while. It also gives you the option to map all of Ulala’s moves to one button, meaning that if you do have trouble, you can always take some of the edge off.
Space Channel 5: Part 2 is a rhythm game from a time before they were popular. With its bizarreness on show for all to see, it certainly helps carry the game forward. But for all of its charm, the game falls down in the key area of control, making it difficult for you to see the adventure through to the end.
Review copy provided by publisher.