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Space Channel 5 Special Edition

Years ago, I picked up Space Channel 5 for the Dreamcast at the suggestion of a friend. At the time, I was loaded down with English papers, programming projects, and scary math homework, but I couldn't resist checking out my new game, so I popped it into the little white system. It changed my life forever.

Okay, well, maybe it didn't change my life forever. It was, however, a load of fun. I'd seen rhythm driven games before, but Parappa the Rapper never really interested me. Apparently, the missing ingredient that was needed to make me purchase such a game was a cute girl in a plastic skirt. As far as that goes, SC5 delivers in pink, sexy spades.

Ulala is a star intergalactic space reporter, the top draw of Space Channel 5. When a dark force (Morollians in the first game, and someone far more sinister in the second) causes people to groove against their will, Ulala uses her enthralling dance powers to break the trance and return them to normal.

As the player, you must control Ulala as she matches her foes move for move. The goal is to outdance the baddies and gain new followers for increased ratings.

Stylistically, the visuals are a clear homage to the 60's, though the creative folks at United Game Artists put their own unique sci-fi spin on the setting. The look that they created is very different from pretty much any other game out there, and I'd be happy just watching a good player play this game.

This package actually collects the first and the second games, both originally released on the Dreamcast. The sequel was never given a chance domestically, so most of us were forced to import it like so many other great Dreamcast games released in Japan or Europe only. I also imported the PS2 version of this game, which was released more than a year ago in Japan. But then, I found this, SC5: Special Edition, at EB Games, brand new, so I picked it up - even though I already had the first two volumes. I wanted to see what, if anything, was different on the domestic PS2 release.

This edition includes an unlimited dance mode, where you simply dance, as opposed to moving around through an unfolding storyline. There's also a load of unlockable costumes for Ulala, which can be earned by reaching certain predefined goals in the main and unlimited dance versions of the games. Having new bonus material to unlock helps increase the replay value significantly, which is nice, because the games don't take too long to play through, even with branching paths.

Visually, there's not much of a difference between this version and the originals. The Dreamcast had some very strong 3D capabilities, and the jaggies on the PS2 don't do much to enhance the graphics. However, even if the original version looked cleaner, it's still an awfully fun set of games and well worth the money.

The other change, for me, at least, is that the second game has been rerecorded in English. Once again, Apollo Smile provides the voice for Ulala, and Michael Jackson provides the voice for Space Michael in this version. The biggest disappointment for me was that the original Japanese vocals weren't included with the set. I grew very fond of my import edition of the second game, and the timing of some of the singing in English threw me off a lot at first. I adapted and got used to it, but I still prefer the Japanese version, Apollo Smile's lovely voice notwithstanding. You'd think that with three years of development time the older material could have been dumped on one of the two discs somewhere, but it wasn't meant to be. However, I still have the soundtracks.

At least the music wasn't changed. It's still the same great blend of techno, jazz, funk, rock, and classical music that made the first game so much fun. In the second game, Ulala gets to use a guitar, drums, and keyboards in addition to her dance moves. At first, it's a little hard to figure out what her enemies are doing, and thus, what you need to do to emulate them. After a while, though, you'll get used to it, and you can jam with the best of them. The music is good enough to warrant purchase of the soundtracks, of which there are at least three (one for the first game, two for the second).

In the end, this older game still holds up to the visual standards of today (well, on the PS2, at least) and it's a blast to play. With the inclusion of two games new to the PS2, and priced less than any greatest hits game, this is a game that many people have yet to play, and every person should. If the whole world had this game, I have no doubt world peace would follow soon after. We'd put down our weapons, pump up the music, and dance our way to bliss.

It could happen.

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