By the time Sega were ready to release the Dreamcast in Europe and the US, a decent launch line-up had amassed. Sonic Adventure wasn’t the first 3D Sonic game, but it’s still arguably the greatest, Virtua Fighter 3 was almost arcade perfect, Toy Commander put a neat twist on war games, and Hyrdo Thunder was the best watery racer since Wave Race. There was one launch title that we kept coming back to long after the rest had been put through their paces though, and that was Power Stone.
Of course, there had been 3D fighting games before. We couldn’t begin to count them. None, however, were truly 3D – in most the characters moved on a 2D plane. Power Stone gave you complete control over your character, letting you leap to higher areas, pick up tables and such to use as weapons, and interact with environments. It’s a formula that’s still being cloned – Shrek Super Slam comes to mind most recently. The sequel introduced morphing arenas, four player battles, controllable vehicles and more bosses, but didn’t go down quite as well. We’d wager that it was down to battles being more focused on getting the best weapons, rather than rushing to get three gems to become powered up, as in the original.
The key to Power Stone’s success is that it’s wonderfully balanced. Speedy characters have weak attacks in normal mode but powerful attacks once transformed, whereas initially strong characters become sluggish. The fast characters can launch into attacks by swinging around poles; the strong characters can knock down the pole and use it as a weapon. The handguns are powerful but you can only walk slowly with them, making you an easy target. The only weapon out of place is the bazooka – grab one and you can pretty much guarantee three perfect hits.
The sequel is the more varied of the two games, as the levels are more involving – one battle starts in the an aircraft, followed by fighting while falling through the air, before one last skirmish on the ground below. Some of the bosses, like a freaky Egyptian robot, have to be tackled with a CPU player, and if the three-on-one battles become too hectic then you can go back to one-on-one affairs. The only thing we dislike about Power Stone 2 is that the camera is zoomed out further, which makes it harder to keep track of your fighter amidst the colourful chaos.
We recall that in the Dreamcast original some of the detail on character models, such as logos and badges, was very pixellated up close. Here everything has been sharpened up – you can even read the menu outside the pub in the arena set in London. The controls work perfectly too – the Dreamcast only had one analogue stick, remember. The loading screens are the biggest problem in respect of the conversion, especially as the character selection screen has to be loaded up every time you lose a fight. We’re sure there was a way to carry on playing as your chosen character, but Google is telling us otherwise. Capcom have even been kind enough to include the three VMU mini-games, now presented on a faux Game & Watch LCD handheld. We like!