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Space Channel 5: Part 2

[gameinfo title=”Game Info” game_name=”” developers=”SEGA” publishers=”SEGA” platforms=”” genres=”” release_date=”October 5, 2011″]

One of the signature titles of the Dreamcast was the original Space Channel 5. Sega’s beloved but ill-fated console would be quietly removed from the US market just a few short years after it was initially released in September of 1999. A mark of Sega’s unfortunate decline, the sequel to one of their most recognizable titles was only released on the platform primarily at fault for their hardware’s demise: the PlayStation 2.

For better or worse, I was part of the Dreamcast’s failure. I was still in high school when Sega’s final console was released and I opted to spend my extremely limited disposable income on Sony’s powerhouse instead. I missed both Space Channel 5 and the PS2 sequel but it always represented to me the Dreamcast’s willingness to create unique gaming experiences that would be ignored on other, more mainstream platforms.

Playing Space Channel 5: Part 2 today is an odd experience. In the decade since its release, rhythm games have become huge hit and then languished due to a market over saturated in plastic guitars and workout titles. During the first stage, I began to wonder if SC5 was Just Dance for lazy people.

Soon, though, I realized that the magic of the Space Channel series wasn’t playing a musical version of Simon, it was in the experience. Controlling bubblegum haired intergalactic reporter Ulala, players have a dance off with a groovy band of rogues and terrorists. Matching the enemies moves is the key success, but the atmosphere and music is what Space Channel 5: Part 2 is really about.

Everything about SC5 is pure camp. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of John Waters’ Hairspray… if it were less subversive. And set in space. If the retro-futuristic spaceports and laser guns don’t prove it, the karaoke battles with giant robots will. The relentlessly cheery characters never have much of interest to say, but they always say it with enthusiasm. Combining bad movie charm with a never ending dance party makes for a surprisingly entertaining experience.

Like all of us, Space Channel 5 is a product of its times. Character models are a little clunky and clothing textures are substandard, but the cartoon design and sheer personality of Ulala and her dance partners washes over any real complaints about the graphics. You’ll really know you’re playing a game from 2002 whenever the games ultra-low resolution cinematics fire up, though. Blurry doesn’t even begin to describe these pre-HD movies.

But who cares about the graphics? Space Channel 5 is all about the music. Gamers who only listen to Metallica and Final Fantasy soundtracks might not enjoy the soundtrack, but for those with a healthy amount of pop and dance tracks on your iPhone, I can guarantee you’ll be groovin’ in your seat after a few runs through a level.

Score: 8/10

For anyone looking for a musical gaming experience that doesn’t require you to play Smoke on the Water on your plastic guitar for the umpteenth time, give Space Channel Five: Part 2 a try. It might not be the most awe inspiring game you’ll ever play, but you’ll find taking a few ours out of your week live out a futuristic music video will be well worth your time.

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