A theme that will come up over and over again as I write about the Dreamcast is how creative and innovative Sega was in the late 90's and early 2000's. But a truly great system needs great support from third party partners.
Unfortunately, one of the big factors in the downfall of the Dreamcast was its lack of third party support, specifically from EA and Square, who were arguably the biggest publishers of the time. Publishing games for the PlayStation was big money, and the failure of the Sega Saturn made publishers more than a little leery about hitching their cart to Sega once more. In the long run, not having games like Medal of Honor, the EA Sports titles, and Final Fantasy really hurt the Dreamcast’s ability to compete with the likes of the PlayStation 2.
That being said, there were more than a few companies that produced quality titles for the Dreamcast. Activision, Namco, and Ubisoft all produced or ported over great games, but Sega’s greatest partner was Capcom. Capcom ported over games like Street Fighter Alpha 3, Resident Evil 3, and Dino Crisis. They also did a hell of a job providing the Dreamcast with games of its own, most notably the Marvel vs. Capcom series, Resident Evil: Code Veronica, and the main topic of discussion today, Power Stone.
Power Stone is a 3D arena fighter that Capcom made for the Dreamcast in 1999. Power Stone is still an absolute blast to play, as is its 2000 sequel, Power Stone 2. You face off against another player (or two other players with a tag team partner) in arena combat.
Power Stone was unique for the time in how it approached combat. You can go and punch people in the face, but frankly, that is the boring way to play Power Stone. Pick up that flamethrower over there! Hit them with that lead pipe! Pick up a table, jump in the air, and throw it into your opponent. Using your environment and item drops is a big part of being successful at Power Stone.
Even though the game is classified as an “arena fighter” and often compared to Super Smash Bros. due to the random item drops, four player combat, and general mayhem. But Power Stone is best described as an “objective fighter”.
Even though using weapons and objects are imperative to your success, the real key to winning the game is obtaining the Power Stones. Each character starts with one stone, and a third will randomly spawn in the map about 10 or so seconds into the fight. Hitting an enemy with a weapon or combo results in them losing their Power Stone, and it goes flying out of them in amusing and satisfying fashion.
Once you get all three Power Stones, your character transforms into a more powerful version of themselves with enhanced attacks. Your opponent’s best option is to flee your attacks or maybe try to create space by throwing stuff at you. Simply put: Trying to throw hands with someone’s enhanced version will get your ass kicked. Thoroughly.
Once the timer runs out or you use your characters ultimate attack, all three Power Stones are released back into the world, and the mad chase for them begins anew.
Even though your real goal is to deplete your enemies’ health bar, the real fun of Power Stone comes from trying to get all three stones before your opponent(s) do. Power Stone is less about combos and frame data, and more about the control of an objective and your environment.
Aesthetically, the Power Stone series is a delight as well. The series is set in the 19th century, and the overall look and feel is that of a swashbuckling adventure. Hilariously, the game’s characters transform into mechs, use rockets, flamethrowers, and laser weapons, so the setting doesn’t inform the sort of weaponry on display. It is a mix of anime, steam punk, and historical art that sort of bounces off of each other, but still works as a cohesive whole. A quick note has to be given to the sound design, which is absolutely terrific. The sound choices in this game are key to giving Power Stone a bit of heft in the combat department.
Power Stone 2 is being rolled into this article, because it is an expansion and refinement of what made the original game so great. There are four new playable characters, more weapons to pick up and use, and items that can replenish your health or make you temporarily invisible. Power Stone 2 revolves around four player combat, even in the single player. The main story mode has you and an AI controlled character (or a friend!) face off against another tag team of characters. There are also encounters against giant boss monsters.
However, the biggest change in Power Stone 2 is the level design. The first game’s stages are populated with tons of items to use, but remain static throughout the fight.
Power Stone 2 has larger stages that are constantly changing throughout the battle. For example, one stage takes place on what can best be described as a flying pirate ship. Eventually, the ship breaks apart (“the sky is falling!”) and all of the fighters fall to the ground, fighting in the air all the way down. Another stage catches on fire halfway through the battle, forcing the players to flee up a wall covered in platforms. There is a stage where you can ride on the top of a submarine, jump in the turret on top, and lay waste to your enemies.
Needless to say, it is the good shit.
Unfortunately, other than the Power Stone Collection PSP rerelease, the series has laid dormant since the death of the Dreamcast. The recently released LASTFIGHT is an obvious homage to the series, and might help scratch the itch for those who have wanted a new Power Stone game. I have only played it a little bit (still stuck on Dark Souls III and Overwatch, sorry not sorry), and I am not ready to give it a full review or even an in depth comparison to Power Stone, but my initial impressions are positive.
Power Stone 3 is probably never going to happen, but we can hope. Until then, track this one down. It is fondly remembered for good reason.
Next game(s) in the Summer of the Dreamcast series: Sega Sports!