|The early reviews have been
in for a few weeks now, especially in the print media, and they've all panned Power Stone,
Capcom's Dreamcast venture into the 3D fighting game realm. But after spending these last
few weeks with the game, I must admit that I disagree. Wholeheartedly. Power Stone brings
Capcom's signature anime-esque style into three dimensions, and, while it is admittedly
"small" for a fighting game, they have managed create a game that is actually a
great play for hours and hours. Power Stone proves that it's not the quantity of
characters and arenas, but the quality. In addition, Power Stone makes huge leaps and
bounds in the evolution of the good-time brawling game, showing that graphics aren't the
only thing the Dreamcast has improved on.
Power Stone's graphics are unbelievable. They aren't mind-blowingly realistic, like Soul Calibur, but highly stylized and detailed. Capcom has sacrificed none of their trademark aesthetic. Power Stone looks as pretty as their 2D titles. Textures, such as wood, snow, and rock, are gorgeous, clothing ruffles in the breeze, and water in ponds or the fountain splashes when you run through it. Everything is smooth as can be, and there are no clipping, polygon, or transparency problems. Camera movement is quick and precise, always providing the closest and clearest possible view of the action.
Normally a smooth camera is unnoticeable, the way camera movement should be in a fighting game, but in Power Stone the environments don't exactly lend themselves to clear viewing. Each environment, from the boiler room, to the bar, to the town square, has poles, boxes, tables, chairs, pots, and various other architectural elements that can be yanked around, tossed, shoved, and blown up. Needless to say, things get hectic, just like you would expect in any good Capcom title. Frantic is not enough to describe Power Stone: It's pure insanity.
The arenas are completely interactive. Rolling across a table, jumping on a box, climbing a pole, or hanging from the rafters are all skills that you'll have to master in order to become a Power Stone champion. The pace of the game is so quick that you will need to get to the point at which you can utilize whatever object might be around you to gain a strategic advantage. It can be the difference between getting that last power-up or crying in the corner like a little girl.
Just so you can't get lazy while fighting, Power Stone incorporates the drumroll please Power Stone element. When you begin a fight, each player has one Power Stone. There are three stones, red, blue, and yellow, that you must get to power up. You can knock stones out by beating your enemy with whatever is handy, which may include ray guns, sticks, swords, bazookas, and a number of other items that appear in the form of treasure chests as you play. When you collect all three stones, you transform into a larger-than-life fighting machine. Each character has different special attacks and moves that they can only use while powered up, and each of these does a huge amount of damage.
Control in Power Stone is fairly simple. You punch, kick and pick up objects. Your punch and kick vary depending on whether or not your are powered up or holding a weapon, and you can pull off major special moves by pressing jump and punch or jump and kick at the same time. You can also configure the DC triggers to do these combos. Combinations are done by button and joystick variations, but are fairly simple to pull off. As with everything in Power Stone, timing is key.
Many people have been put off by the sparse, intimidating beast that Power Stone is when you first open up the package. At the outset, there are eight characters and arenas, an arcade and a versus mode, and the one player game is incredibly difficult. Even on the easiest setting, the game is tough to beat, especially with little or no practice, and it would benefit greatly from a training mode. While a whole heap of fun can be had just button-mashing in Power Stone, an experienced player can wipe out a novice in seconds.
Once you've built up your skills enough to beat the game on easy mode, I suggest you do it. There are two extra characters to unlock, both of whom are formidable opponents. The first time you beat the game, you gain access to the extra options menu, where you can turn on extra items. These enable the new weapons you unlock, as well as some items that restore varying amounts of energy. You'll need to keep plugging away to beat the game with everybody to unlock everything. After the fifth, sixth, and seventh times you beat the game, you will be able to access the three VMU games. These are among the best VMU minigames we've seen so far. The first is Falcon's airplane game, where you guide your plane through a mess of bombs and birds, collecting Power Stones and coins. The second is Ayame's ninja throwing star game, which is a basic target game. You huck throwing stars at different ninjas who run across the screen. The third is Gunrock's slot machine, which plays just like you would expect. All three of these games are saved on the VMU at once, and they are ideal for bus rides or boring waits.
In all, Power Stone is imperfect only in its size. Ten characters and arenas are not enough these days, even if they are the coolest characters and arenas we've ever seen. The ugly side of Power Stone becomes apparent after losing for the twelfth time on your third match at medium difficulty. The game is hard. Really hard. Versus play is definitely limited by the lack of fighters and settings, and if it isn't a well-matched bout things get boring quickly.
If you are a fan of the Capcom lineage, then you will seriously dig Power Stone. I don't think Capcom could have made a more impressive debut on the DC. The play, graphics, and innovations are incredible, and, regardless of your preference for games, Power Stone is interesting at least for an evening. But ultimately it will come down to a question a lot like that age-old personality test: The Beatles or The Beachboys? In the 21st century, it looks like we're destined to ask: Power Stone or Soul Calibur? Which side of the fence are you on?