Format: Dreamcast Genre: Fighting Released: 2000 Developer: Capcom
It was a tough call deciding between Power Stone and Power Stone 2. In the end I went for the sequel – perhaps Power Stone is the better game (it’s much more finely balanced than Power Stone 2), but the sheer mayhem of Power Stone’s second incarnation never failed to bring a smile to my boat race.
The original Power Stone was almost unique – a 3D fighting game in which the environment was just as important as the actual fighting. The focus was less on punching your opponent than on trapping them under collapsing walls or gunning them down with the assorted weaponry that materialises on the level. In this sense the game shares many similarities with Super Smash Bros., but I’m surprised that the Power Stone template hasn’t been used more often since the original was released back in 1999 – considering it was such a breath of fresh air in the generally stale world of fighting games, it’s spawned remarkably few imitators (I can only recall two – Kung Fu Chaos and a Naruto game I played in Japan).
Power Stone 2 was Power Stone with all the dials turned up to 11. The game switched from being two player to being four player – a move that was both its triumph and its downfall. The utter chaos of playing against three human opponents was a delight, but the major difficulty was persuading anyone to play against me for longer than about ten minutes. The game was so intense and so much was going on at the same time that most people I played with just couldn’t work out what they were doing – or even where they were on the screen. Full-on four-player Power Stone 2 – with all its diving submarines, deadly gun turrets, screen-filling special moves and overpowered laser guns – had roughly the same effect on novice players as that Japanese cartoon that induced epileptic fits.
One of the best aspects of the game was the item shop. As well as letting you purchase new items, the shop allowed you to ‘mix’ two items together to create totally new weapons, which would then appear during the game. For example, mixing a kitten with a leg trap produced a panther (natch), and mixing the soap-bubble gun with a trumpet produced a loud speaker (which could knock down opponents). Trying out all of the various bizarre combinations was hugely addictive, and it gave you a big incentive to keep playing through the single-player game in order to find some of the rarer items.
Of course, Power Stone 2 was not without its flaws. I’ve already mentioned the confusing multiplayer mode, but there was also the character line-up – some of the new characters brought in for the sequel didn’t quite fit the art style of the originals, or the supposed Victorian setting of the game (Jack – presumably ‘The Ripper’ – was one of the original characters). I particularly disliked Gourmand the chef, who looked a little bit like an early Mickey Mouse villain.
However, the sheer explosion of imagination contained within this game more than makes up for its shortcomings – any game in which you can whack someone with an umbrella before setting a kitten on them has the thumbs up from me.