Spac Channel 5 Part 2

   Everyone's favorite sexy Space Reporter has sashayed her way onto the PlayStation 2 in Space Channel 5 Part 2. Though the gameplay has been expanded in a number of interesting and enjoyable ways, it remains true to the spirit of the original. Gamers who never "got" what the first one was all about will only be confused further by the sequel, but music fans who adored the first game's retro-kitsch will find a sequel that improves on the original in every way.

 Style and substance
The truth will set you free

   The story is more of the lighthearted nonsense that marked the original. This time, the mysterious Odoridan (Dancing Group) is enslaving people through the power of dance. The original's Morolians have since turned to the side of Space Reporting good; the new and most visible villain is the enigmatic Shadow and his dancing Robos. Shadow's mysterious employer plans to kidnap Space President Peace, who keeps the galaxy united through the power of his mellifluous singing voice. With Peace out of the way, the people of the galaxy will have no choice but to dance, dance, dance! Into this panic and chaos comes intrepid-yet-sexy reporter Ulala.

   Fundamentally, the gameplay remains the same as the original. Dancing opponents fire off a series of directional movements and shouts ("Up! Down! Up! Down! Chu! Chu! Chu!"), and the player then mirrors the movements through well-timed button presses. The sequel adds a few new twists not present in the original, however. The first is the ability to charge button presses. The directive "Chuuuuuuuuuuuuu! Chu! Chu!," for example, tells the player to hold the "Chu" button for a length of time, release it, then finish up with two regular taps. Also new are instrumental sections. These parts of the stage are entirely rhythm based; pressing any of the four controller directions in time with the pattern will play the correct note. Different directions lead to slightly different versions of the correct note, allowing for a small element of freestyling. Some songs now have lyrics; though the player does not tap buttons to perform these, they provide for brief pauses and rests in between longer sequences.

   As in the first game, Ulala's status is measured by hearts and ratings. Run out of hearts, and it's game over. Each segment of a stage has a certain number of hearts, and each mistake costs a heart. Success and failure will also raise and lower ratings, respectively. Though the first game's five stages were graded out of a combined, cumulative 100% rating, each of Part 2's stages is graded separately on a 100% scale. The importance of ratings gets a twist with the sequel's new "Special Battles." In these climactic encounters, Ulala's rating is exchanged for a number of special "stars" that behave like hearts for the duration of the battle. After a battle, the remaining stars are converted back into ratings. Making mistakes here can cause ratings to plummet precipitously, while fancy buttonwork can lead to a hefty post-encounter reward. Finally, the game has "Hidden Input Points," where the player can press a button without being prompted to earn a ratings bonus. Clues to these points' locations can be found in the biographies of rescued characters.

Future's here, comes every year
Band from the end of the world

   The presentation is excellent, even though the gameplay engine hardly taxes the PlayStation 2. Backgrounds are now rendered in real-time, instead of FMV. This helps eliminate the camera "jumps" of the first one, where the characters would be rendered from a different perspective than the current background camera location. The engine can also render more simultaneous dancing "followers" than the first game, and the followers are far more varied and unique. Nearly every character you rescue has a unique model and signature dancing moves. For the most part, however, the graphics remain stylistically similar to the first, presenting a clean, clear, and colorful art deco future. Even so, the art style and locales have been naturally extended beyond the original's to include more varied locations. Pre-level FMV is strangely artifacted, perhaps because it was encoded with the Dreamcast's inferior codecs. The music, of course, is great, melding the big band funk of the original, with a more modern, driving beat.

   Worth noting is the increased role of Michael Jackson, now Captain Space Michael. Limited to an mid-game cameo in the original, Space Michael now boasts full voice acting, signature dance moves, a significant story role, and even voice samples as one song's backbeat. The King of Pop's androgynous features and belief in the universal healing power of dance make him a perfect fit for the world of Space Channel 5. Other returning characters include pirate news broadcasters Pudding and Jaguar, as well as everyone's favorite Space Nihonjin. New additions include Space President Peace and Sexy Space Policewoman Pine.

   An Ulala Dance mode minigame challenges the player to input 100 moves in a row without making a single mistake. Though the graphics have Ulala dancing in a minimalistic void, the music is a non-stop megamix of tracks from the original Space Channel 5, the sequel, and even some original fare. Though challenging, the mode is strangely addicting. Other extras include a gallery of of rescued characters' models and biographies, as well as a wardrobe of forty different unlockable Ulala costumes. Available costumes include Ulala's in-game costumes and variants, costumes from the first Space Channel 5, other in-game characters, and unique costumes unlocked by successfully completing particularly difficult gameplay challenges. Once a costume has been unlocked, Ulala can select it in between stages.

   Finally, gamers who imported United Game Artist's Rez and Trance Vibrator peripheral will be happy to know that Space Channel 5 Part 2 is only too happy to shake its USB-peripheral groove thing. Combine with vibrating headphones for the full-body music-game experience!

   Though the PlayStation 2 version is currently available, the retail Dreamcast version has been delayed until March 28th. Despite the first game underperformance in America, Sega executives have commented that we haven't seen the last of Ulala in the States, making a US release seem quite likely.

Preview by Andrew Vestal and Nich Maragos, GIA.
Space Channel 5 Part 2
Developer United Game Artists
Publisher Sega
Genre Rhythm action
Medium GD-ROM (1)
Platform PlayStation 2
Sega Dreamcast
Release Date  02.14.02
More Space Channel 5 Part 2 information, screenshots
124 screenshots and 23 Ulala costumes
6 character designs
Desktop wallpaper