Metacritic score: 87
VGChartz sales to date: Unknown
WHAT MADE IT GREAT
The follow-up to the successful arcade fighter and Dreamcast launch title, Power Stone 2 is a frantic fighting game known for its fully 3D interactive stages and colorful, fast-paced mayhem. Released less than a year after the console launch of its predecessor, Power Stone 2 was designed to improve on every facet of a game that was genuinely good but ultimately outshone by the competition. The series stood out for its interactive 3D stages at a time when most stuck ardently to 2D design. It also eschewed the long input chains and strict timing demanded in most of those games, instead using a basic set of moves whose input remained constant but effects varied by character. Power Stone was Capcom's answer to Nintendo's incredible Super Smash Bros. but without the world famous mascots. What at first appears to be a very basic fighting mechanic can, in the hands of an experienced player, offer a surprising amount nuance to experiment with.
|Clever use of the environment is a must. Failing to maintain a tactical advantage can be punished with a facefull of turret fire.|
|Let your opponent collect three Power Stones and you're in for a world of hurt.|
Perhaps Power Stone's biggest innovation in the genre is the hugely interactive 3D arenas each consisting of multiple sub-stages that change over the course of battle. One of my favorite stages begins atop a massive warplane that is gradually destroyed by the chaos, sending everyone into a free fall to Earth. Rather then interrupt the fighting, players continue to slug it out until reaching the platform floating below. Each stage is also packed with unique environmental objects ranging from simple chairs up to airships that can be used to upset the balance. These backdrops look gorgeous thanks to Sega's excellent NAOMI engine whose shared architecture with the Dreamcast made porting arcade hits to the console a breeze. Super Smash Bros. may have the star power of Nintendo's stable of mascots, but nothing can touch Power Stone 2 in terms of fast, fun and frenetic four-player fighting.
|Just because you're all plummeting to your death doesn't mean you should stop beating on each other.|
WHAT WENT WRONG
Did you own a Dreamcast? Well, neither did anybody else. Sega's missteps in launching the Dreamcast have been well documented and their surprise decision to push the North American launch to coincide with 9/9/99 (desperately trying to beat the PS2 to market) didn't fare much better. You'd think getting a console early would be a good thing, but Sega managed to piss off retailers, developers, and publishers who were caught off guard by Sega's grand surprise. The Dreamcast put up record sales in the few months before the PS2's released killed demand and Sega only managed to sell around 10.5 million Dreamcasts before production ended in 2001, a mere two years after its North American release. To put that in perspective, it's widely rumored Sony still produces new PS2's over a decade after launch and has shipped a record-setting 150 million units globally. The smaller your player base, the harder it is to launch a successful game since it requires that practically everyone who bought the console also purchase the game.
With the odds already stacked against it, Capcom further ensured the Power Stone franchise would become a cult classic by releasing it alongside their own Capcom vs. Marvel arcade fighter. Just like Power Stone and many other Dreamcast games, MvC was originally a visually stunning arcade-only title that made its console debut during the Dreamcast launch. Unlike Power Stone, MvC appeals to the hardcore fighter crowd and has a massive stable of well-known characters with huge fanbases among both Western and Japanese gamers. If that wasn't bad enough, there was even more competition thanks to the Dreamcast's other groundbreaking 3D-fighter: Soulcalibur. I can't recall another time when three incredible fighting series were launched in the same year, let alone on the same day! Despite positive reviews, gamers flocked to the more hardcore-oriented Soulcalibur and MvC which outsold poor Power Stone by a margin of over 2:1. Capcom immediately went to work refining what they knew was a winning formula, but it was already too late. The missteps launching the series effectively killed any chance of building a solid fanbase and thanks to the phenomenal PS2 launch just a month earlier the writing was already on the wall for the Dreamcast faithful.
|The Temple of Doom inspired boulder chase isn't just an example of inventive stage design, it's also a fitting metaphor for what it felt like to be a Dreamcast fan in the days after the PS2 launch.|
Sad to say, but I'm afraid this series is well and truly dead. It's not that fighting games can't succeed in the era of the FPS, there will always be a small but dedicated market for people looking to wail on strangers. Power Stone's own litter mates Soulcalibur and MvC outlived their console of origin and continue to find success with new iterations as well as HD and collector's edition re-releases of their classics. Even the brawler sub-genre has proven it's staying power as evidenced by Nintendo's critically acclaimed Super Smash Bros. series and Sony's joining the mix with their upcoming Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. But humble Power Stone remains the black sheep among Capcom's extensive roster of fighting games. An attempt to re-energize the series was made in 2006 when both original games were merged to become Power Stone Collection for the PSP, but only 80,000 copies were sold worldwide.
An outspoken minority continues to stalk Capcom's forums with pleas for a Power Stone 3, or even some HD reissues for download on PSN and Xbox Live. A quick YouTube search returns dozens of fan-made trailers and pleas all hoping to spark a renewed interest in the franchise but hopes are fading. The realities of game development today are fairly hostile towards new and unproven IPs, and Power Stone simply lacks the brand recognition enjoyed by its now well-established competitors. Capcom could take steps to breathe new life into the series, for instance including some of the Power Stone cast in the roster of their crossover fighting games. But they passed on the opportunity with the recently released Marvel vs Capcom 3 (and it's even more recent "Ultimate" re-release) despite including characters from relatively unknown series such as Darkstalkers and Final Fight. It seems that even Capcom is content to pretend the Power Stone series never existed at all, and that's a real shame for all the people who enjoyed it and everyone who never got the chance.
|A fun cast of characters, but not a Mario or Kratos in the bunch.|
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