SPACE CHANNEL 5 2 / Sega / PC
I'm a fan of rhythm games in general, and I dig Space Channel's goofy retro-dance-party style. It has a ton of panache but is also capable of being maddeningly obtuse and repetitive, and it's around for a good time but not a long time.
You could use that little blurb I just wrote for either the original game or this sequel. Sega continues along the same track, with this game just being a wee bit longer and having a little more in the way of unlockable outfits. But it's pretty much the same verse as the first, so if that one didn't do it for you, this one won't either.
This time out, the Morolians have peacefully integrated into human society, but now there's a new threat in the form of the Rhythm Rogues. This evil dance troupe kidnaps the Space President for some reason, and most of the game is tracking him down and using funky dance moves to defeat Rhythm Rogue robots.
There's six levels in total, each stretching about 15 minutes or so, so that almost triples the runtime of the original game ... but in the grand scheme of things it's still not much. As with the first, Sega goes back to their arcade mentality and tries to stretch out the value by just making it hard and demanding. The game is actually mostly pretty forgiving for the first four levels (as there doesn't seem to be a minimum score to complete them), but the final two levels have brutal sequences you're almost sure not to make it through on the first try.
Space Channel 5 is unique among rhythm games in that you have to completely use the beat to determine timing, there's no bar and only occasional visual cues. That's one of the things that makes it so challenging, and it'll probably run off people who struggle with the genre. But there's also some cheap little bullshitty bits, like enemies who slur words together -- "right" and "left" are often said in a mushmouth way so they sound really similar, also "up" and "hey" -- and control is sometimes kicked back to you too suddenly for you to effectively respond. The timing of some of the "chu" presses in particular also just feels off to me, there's a number of levels where that's the only mistake I ever make. One thing that helps is to play in Japanese Mode, where you'll get English subtitles for the dance instructions. The actual practice mode is useless, however -- you have to do 100 sequences in a row, fail even one press on one of them and you're kicked all the way back to the beginning.
Fans of the MJ should also know that the King of Pop makes a poorly-advertised but substantial cameo in the game (I had no idea he was even in it until he just appeared out of nowhere). You rescue Space Michael at the end of level 4 and he's pretty much your constant companion from there until the end of the game, with a lot of his signature dance moves incorporated into the routines. He also does some voice work with is oddly faded compared to the other voice tracks, guess everyone was afraid to ask him to speak up in the studio.
SC52 is a fun little ride through a weird and colorful world, but not your most longevous entertainment product or one that everyone is going to be able to handle. With regards to this PC port specifically, Sega made a classic Sega Business Decision in releasing the sequel for digital distribution but not the prequel ... you don't need to have played the first game to get or enjoy this one, but the Playstation 2 Special Edition came bundled with a port of the first game, so I don't know why they didn't just use that for the PC port and pack the two games together. Would have seemed reasonable since they're so short but, y'know, Sega.
* Gameplay Video