My $345 Quest for a Space Channel 5 part 2


This is the story of how I spent $345 for a video game, Space Channel 5 part 2.

It's no secret that I *LOVE* the Space Channel 5 series of games. I understand that they are simple rhythm games but the combination of style, musical dance numbers, music, characters, just everything about them made it one of my more cherished video game experiences. I loved the first one so much I made my computer desktop a Space Channel 5 theme and I made 2 Space Channel 5 clocks and sent one to the lead artist. I heard she had it on her desk for a few years.

The sequel came out in early 2002 and it was just as good. It might have only taken me 2 or 3 tries to clear it but it didn't matter. Like a good movie I just totally enjoyed that time.

So, about 8 months ago my nephew asked about Space Channel 5 part 2. He had played part 1 because I had given him my Dreamcast to when I moved to Japan in 2000, but he had never played part 2. "Never played part 2!!! Come over!!" So, one day he was over at my place. I had a Japanese PS2 I had traded for a PSX when I left Japan since you can't use a PSX in the states as they only have a Japanese tuner.

We popped in the disc and .... grind grind ... the PS2 would not play the game. I thought maybe the PS2 was broken so I got out another Japanese game but it played fine. That suggested it was the disc. Ugh, getting a copy of a Japanese game from 2002 from America is not going to be easy. So I thought, I know, I'll get the American version. Hopefully the localization will not have ruined it with bad voices and writing.

So, I order it from Amazon. $10 gets me the "Space Channel 5 Special Edition" which contains both the original and part 2. I only have an American PS3 so I pop in part 2 and start playing. It feels a little harder than I remember but I make it through the first 2 levels. Then I get to the 3rd level and I can't finish it for the life of me. In fact I can't even make it half way through. It could be that I suddenly suck at playing but I cleared the first one the 2nd or 3rd time I played. My skills couldn't have gotten that bad could they?

I start think maybe the issue is that I'm using a PS3. My older PS3 does some emulation for PS2 games and maybe that emulation is adding some lag. That is common for emulators. Try playing a Gameboy rhythm game on an emulator. It's impossible.

So, I'm like, WTF, I'll buy an American PS2. I order one from Amazon for $120. A few days later it arrives and I'm all excited to check it out. I come home, setup the PS2, pop in American Space Channel 5 part 2. Work my way to level 3. FUDGE!!!! It's still impossible to pass. My nephew is over and he tries. He's one of those gaming gods who plays Guitar Hero or Rockband on expert and he can't pass level 3 either.

Now I'm really curious. Could it be that this is a slim line PS2 and something has changed since the old full sized PS2s? Maybe they changed construction of the controllers? Well, I'm going to Japan in February so I'll go to the used game stores and try to find a copy of the Japanese version. When I'm in Japan I go looking and about the 4th store I find a BRAND NEW COPY for $25. I buy it all excited.

A couple of weeks later I get back to America, take a cab home, set my suitcase down and the first thing I do is unwrap the disc and pop it in to my Japanese PS2 and ..... grind grind. The exact same sounds as before. I'm so angry I go grab my hammer and SMASH the PS2!! Of course in my fit of rage I didn't take the new Space Channel 5 disc out and so that has been shattered as well. Ugh!!!

After I recover I look online to see if I can get a new Japanese PS2. Play−Asia sells them but there's no point in buying one unless I can get another Space Channel 5 part 2 disc.

Sooo, I ask a friend in Japan to not go out of his way but if he happens to wander by a used game store from time to time to please keep an eye open for Space Channel 5 part 2.

A couple of months go by and he tells me he found one! Yay! It's used but it looks like it's in good shape. By that time I luck out, my company is sending me to Japan to give a talk in just a few weeks. So, in June I get to Japan, my friend gives me the Japanese Space Channel 5 part 2 and I'm praying it works. I go to buy a new Japanese PS2. They are $150. Sheesh! I thought they'd be down to $99 or less by now. Well, I've come this far. I buy it and take it to a friend's. I plug it into his TV and .... I play all the way to level 5 without dying once. The Japanese version IS way easier than the American version.

Here's what I suspect happened. In Japan it's illegal to rent video games but not in America. Given that the game is so short the American publisher was worried they wouldn't sell any copies because people would just rent it, finish in a few plays and then return it. So, they instructed Sega to make it nearly impossible to clear hoping that would make it take longer and prevent rentals. Instead it just made the game impossible and absolutely no fun.

Honestly, I guess they were in a lose lose situation. Leave the game fun but short and no sales. Make the game frustrating and no sales. Maybe today with downloadable games they wouldn't have to make that decision. Games like Flower, Flow, etc can have a market when they can both be sold at a reasonable price and can not be rented or resold.

So there you have it.

Original copy in 2002:  $40
American version: $10
American PS2: $120
Japanese version: $25
Japanese PS2: $150
Used Japanese version: free (my friend gifted it to me)
Total $345 ... chaCHing!

Yes, and I still love this game. And even more apropos, Micheal Jackson is in it! (advance to 7:00 on the video below)

O3D Presentation at Google I/O 2009