It’s well over two years since I broke out my Dreamcast for a gaming session but to be honest, I don’t have that many games. Certainly not that many that I haven’t played or aren’t shit. but when I first got into Retro Gaming and I asked around on the internet what was good beyond the top 5 Dreamcast games people list (Shenmue, Code Veronica, Crazy Taxi, Sonic Adventure, and MSR) the name that appeared most was Power Stone. I had never heard of it at the time as the Dreamcast was an abysmal failure but that didn’t stop me buying Power Stone 1 and 2 to give them a go.
Power Stone is a Tournament Fighter at it’s heart, but the core mechanics and gameplay make it more of a party fighter which depending on who you speak to, the term party fighter (if anyone else has ever used the term) could be a good or a bad thing.
A traditional tournament fighter you’ll fight several characters in a one of one arena performing various types of acrobatics and pummelling your opponent using deft touches, quick combos, and frame perfect reactions. In Power Stone, you mash A. Not really A, because the A button is jump. But you just mash a couple of buttons and depending on which character you are controlling will either do 3 hits or a 10 hit combo. You can mix it up and press other buttons, but you can reliably get to the end of the game knowing 1 button.
The quirk/gimmick, because every fighter needs a quirk/gimmick is that each stage is fully 3d and periodically a Power Stone will appear, collect all three and you morph into Mecha-version of yourself. So the skill and nuance of a good fighter is lost as you and your opponent run around the level gathering the Power Stones. In multiplayer or arcade mode this is all your opponent does so don’t bother trying to land a punch just gather stones, throwing scenery at opponent and then special spam. If you are playing in 2 player mode versus a human it can be a little fun as the screen is always smothered in particle effects (that considering the age, hold up well). But it never feels tactical. Which is why Power Stone doesn’t especially deserve full tournament fighter status. The only time your opponent will try to attack you is if you have 2 of the power stones, as landing a good hit on your opponent will cause them to lose a stone, which anyone on the stage will be able to gather. So beyond that it is two people running away from each other.
In the 19th century adventurers are looking for treasure, they find the Power Stones, it makes their dreams come true.
That is it.
It says something when I have done several playthroughs with different characters and a couple of character swaps when I’ve gameover’d that I can’t name a single character off tye top of my head. So here is what I call them and their fluff according to the internet:
Garudo (Galuda): Is a big lad, hits slow and hard, is an Indian Chief, has a feather in his hair. Turns into an Eagle. Not as racist as Chop Sticks guy in ClayFighter.
Gunlock (Gunrock): Even bigger lad, hits even harder and slower. I guess he is a pirate? Turns into The Thing from Fantastic Four
Captain Falco (Captain Falcon): loser poster boy, turns into a Power Ranger.. Is apparently British
Wangtang: no that’s really his name. He turns into a lame Dragon Ball Z flamy thing.
Ryu (Ryoma): Is a samurai, turns into a silver samurai. Utterly forgettable.
Rogue: Persian Princess kinda vibe. Looks a little like Jasmine from Aladdin. Is an all rounder.
Jack: a fucking bug. Crawls around like a scuttly-boi which makes him difficult to hit. He is house-ruled out under the Oddjob Clause. Fast as hell, and pretty powerful. Turns into Scyther from Pokemon.
Ayame: generic female ninja. Fast and weak.
Pirate Captain dude (Kraken): the sub-boss is difficult, but fair. Pretty cool design but will spam fuck out of specials
Black Goku (Valgas): This is the final boss, he is just broken. His arena is completely open and he super fast and super hard. Fully expect to die in 5 hits, and fully expect him to have a cheat moveset. Oh, and when you beat him her turns into an even more douchey version of himself.
Battles are either done in 10 seconds as you whomp an enemy or they whomp you since most battles comes down to first hit and then grabbing the first stone that generates. Doing that will give you all three and an almost unassailable lead.
In fact I had one match go the full 99 seconds as the Pirate Bastard ran around the stage ignoring me trying to hoover up all the gems.
So not turns out that when people say buy Power Stone, they mean Power Stone 2 the far superior sequel. Power Stone 1 is a clusterfuck of slightly off controls, boring attack styles (hammer buttons is a valid tactic) and special spam. There is no tactic in fighting, just run around ignoring opponent and gather the power stones so the game always feels a little hollow.
Oddly though, this means Power Stone passes my tests of 1) Can you pick up and play versus a mate, and 2) Do cool moves. But it fails at everything else as the game simply isn’t fun to play. These problems arrise because there is no skill to the game. It is that boring fighting style that is inexplicably popular in Super Smash Bros series. Spam an attack and call it strategy. Thrown into the mix is a character roster that are all overly quirky and designed which when viewed together make none of them stand out.
None of this makes Power Stone inherently bad, it just means it isn’t very good. And dull, so very dull.
Pros: makes for a fun party game in small doses
Cons: the flat narration for the story, bullshit final boss, clunky controls, dull roster, dull fighting
Back in the Day:
The reviews for Power Stone are a little all over the place, it scores fairly “averagely” with mid 70s scores, but it did receive plenty of 5 Star reviews as well as the odd low 90%
Also Available on: Arcades, PlayStation Portable (2006)