Power Stone 2, Capcom - Dreamcast, 2000
Way back in 1999 Capcom released Power Stone for SEGA's new console, the SEGA Dreamcast. Power Stone brought an entirely new look at fighting games to the table in what I can only describe as Super Smash Bros. meets Street Fighter in full 3D. Needless to say the game was a hit, with its roster of colourful characters and interesting mechanics. Consequently, a sequel was put into works right away and released the following year: the epic Power Stone 2.
So how does it play? Well, in true arcade style you pick a character and beat tougher and tougher enemies in order to reach the final boss and ultimately complete that character's story arc. Pretty standard for a beat-em-up, but the thing is that the fights themselves are fantastically varied and damn fun to boot. Most rounds consist of four fighters vying for dominance in a selection of dynamic environments. For example, one level begins with all four characters having a punch-up on top of a gigantic plane, only to then find themselves duking it out in thirty thousand foot free-fall, then finally ending up finishing the fight in sun-bleached ruins. The fact that the landscapes changed as the fight goes on meant that the player had to be quick on their toes to avoid being left behind whilst keeping up the offensive.
The main way to get ahead in any fight is to collect three randomly generated power stones either by collecting them from containers and chests about the landscapes or by savagely beating them out of your opponents. Once collected, your character transforms into their alter-ego with Super Saiyan like power then you can bring the hurt to your opponents in a pleasantly satisfying manner (an influence to Super Smash Bros. Brawl's final smash attacks I expect). Whilst most characters earn projectile attacks in this powered-up state, some gain remarkably strong melee attacks that will have your opponents running away in fear. All characters, however, have two ultimate attacks that deal tremendous damage to one or more foes but will end your transformation, so timing is the key to victory here.
The characters themselves are a veritable grab-bag of eccentrics; ranging from a heroic pilot to a charming seductress, a homicidal french chef and an asian-style martial artist that seems to borrow heavily from Akira Toriyama in his transformed state (if you get the reference). Everyone will find a favourite character and yet will play with the others in order to discover what special abilities they have hidden up their sleeves, and it's that intrigue that kept me playing until I had finished the game a dozen times over.
On top of the well-designed characters, the solid mechanics, the dynamic landscapes and the tide-turning transformations, Capcom decided to spice up the gameplay even more by filling fights to the brim with literally hundreds of interesting items with which to batter, beat and bludgeon your belligerent buddies. Okay, I’m aware this is sounding more and more like Super Smash Bros., but I am sure you will agree that's very much a good thing. So one moment you will be throwing barrels at a machine gun wielding enemy, the next you will be racing about the level on a skateboard, parachuting off of high objects with an umbrella then moving in for the kill with a battleaxe. The choice, as they say, is yours and there is a great deal of it.
Needless to say this four-player title is tremendous fun to play with friends. I, myself, recall many a weekend that would end with hour-long punch-ups on Power Stone 2 and can say from recent experience that it stands the test of time. Knocking out your best friend with Wang Tang's “Dance of the Dragon God” attack, only to be defeated by his girlfriend and her beam sword is an experience we should all share.
So why not give Power Stone 2 a chance? It's a very underrated fighter on an equally underrated machine, but it has more character and excitement in one skirmish than modern-day blockbusters have in their whole campaign. Don't have a Dreamcast? Well, thankfully, the Power Stone games are available on PSP so there is really no excuse. Don't own a PSP? Go get one, I'll wait. Get a copy of Monster Hunter while you're at it too.
That about wraps up this episode of Hooked Retrospectives, I’m Dil and I hope that you, like me, prefer offline gaming because when your opponent keeps cheating you can simply reach over and slap them across the face.