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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Power Stone Review

Original release:
Japan: February 25th, 1999
North America: September 9th, 1999
Europe: October 14th, 1999

Game details:
1-2 Players
VMU Compatible
Standard controller
Arcade stick
VGA box

Power Stone is the most fun you'll have on a Dreamcast with friends. Hands down, there's not a better party game. It's sort of like Super Smash Bros. in the fact that it can be competitive, but the game is just sort of too over the top and unbalanced (angry Smash Bros. fans can vent below where you'll immediately be ignored) for there to be any real bitterness over it. It's such a great party game because it's similar to SoulCalibur where it's basic enough that anyone can mash buttons and put up a fight (you guys can do the same as the Smash Bros. fans) but the atmosphere is a lot more lighthearted.

Power Stone becomes a very frantic game even when you're playing against the computer because of the pivotal power stones. Once a player has all three of them, they'll go into a powered up state and deal far too much damage for it to be considered fair. Two power stones appear immediately, with the third appearing later. Players can steal the stones from each other in order to get all three. As you can imagine, this leads to a mad dash for the stones every time one appears. There's a little gameplay flaw there that's very much worth mentioning; only the final hit of a sequence of moves can knock the stone out of the other player's possession. To explain a bit more, tapping the punches you'll get a combo of different punches. You could hit with every single punch except the last one and deal a lot of damage, but you wouldn't get the stone since the last one didn't hit. Likewise you could miss with every punch and hit with the last one and get the stone. It's a minor annoyance and it can lead to some frustrations.

Power Stone also features a lot of different items you can pick up and use, from swords to rocket launchers. The environment can be used as a weapon too, with the ability to kick tables and crates at your opponent or pick up said things and throw them. There's usually one or two locations in a level that you can climb and drop on your opponent from above as well. This interactivity does a lot to bring the game above the average 3D fighter and give it its own identity. Finally, some of you are probably questioning my party game logic since it only supports two players. Power Stone 2 does support four players, but it can get a bit too hectic and it just turns into sort of a mess. You're better off trading controllers and playing the winner. Somebody other than me should probably review Power Stone 2 when the time comes.

Power Stone isn't a wildly impressive game graphically, but it is vibrant and has an interesting look. It's definitely far better than some of the unfortunate ports that the Dreamcast would suffer, but it's no Shenmue either. Characters are fluidly animated though, especially when hopping over chairs or tables. Even though the characters were animated fluently, they can't move their mouths. I suppose this wasn't terribly critical since the only spoken parts are win quotes, but it couldn't have been that hard to implement.

This game has the worst announcer EVER. You know you're in for something unique when he declares the game as "POWAAAAAH STOOOONE." I don't know what the hell Capcom was thinking. They probably could've paid their building's janitor $10 and had a better announcer. Character win quotes are in the original Japanese, but I'm going to go with a hunch and guess that they're awful even though I can't understand them. The music is ignorable, cutesy stereotypically ethnic tracks to go with the different locations around the world.

I love this game. I spent a lot of time playing it when I first bought my Dreamcast and I'm sure I'll be spending a lot of time playing it now that I have the game again. Being so familiar with this game, this review basically picked out little niggling issues that are completely minor. Highly recommended.


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