Power Stone Collection compiles two of the best brawlers ever made, but some frustrating issues prevent those games from realizing their full potential.
Although some people think of the Power Stone series as Sega’s Super Smash Bros., Power Stone Power Stone 2 are without a doubt, two of the most under-appreciated fighting games ever made. But what exactly makes these titles so unique? Their random nature, gem-collecting system, stylish characters and frantic battles make Power Stone, a series that no fighting game fan should miss. Power Stone Collection has all those qualities, but unfortunately, some quirks put a barrier on your enjoyment.
Let’s start with the original Power Stone. The game is set in the 19th century where people strongly believe in superstitions and legends. One of those myths is related to the Power Stone, a precious gem that’s said to have the ability to make any dream come true which is why many adventurers in the world are after it. Each of these adventurers represents a different fighter in the game. Overall, there are eight fighters to choose from and two unlockable ones. Battles take place in well crafted 3D environments, including pirate ships, restaurants, traditional Japanese gardens and bars, among many other exotic locales.
But what makes the original Power Stone such a memorable brawler? Once you’ve selected a character and an environment, you are ready to fight. Apart from the traditional jumping, grabbing, punching and kicking, you have access to multiple items that randomly appear inside chests and crates. Some items recover your health and others assist you in battle. Weapons are pretty bizarre and include footballs, hammers, staffs, chairs, rocks, bombs and so on and so forth.
Power Stones are the most important items of the game and if you manage to obtain three of these colored gems, your character can transform into a more powerful version of himself/herself. Once you have transformed, you have a limited amount of time to use two special attacks that are usually more than enough to defeat an opponent. One of these attacks is long-range and the other one is short-range which encourages you to adapt your strategy and use the most useful assault at the precise moment.
Apart from the single-player mode where you can unlock new characters, there’s also a versus, network and training modes. While most of these modes are pretty self-explanatory, it’s worth mentioning that playing against others via network mode is only possible through a local connection. Another aspect that’s worth bringing up is training mode, since the game does a poor job of explaining the basics and this mode is sorely lacking to say the least.
Other problems are related to bad camera angles which usually go askew, preventing you to see the position of Power Stones. A rear-view mode can be unlocked in which the camera follows you wherever you go, but this doesn’t mitigate the camera issues. In fact, it makes those problems far worse, since the camera doesn’t know how to showcase the action in tight spaces. Furthermore, loading times tend to be pretty long which definitely hurts the experience, especially if we take into account that this is a portable game.
Power Stone 2 includes some innovations when compared to its predecessor. The basic storyline from the first game is still here, but the only difference is that the Power Stone heroes have been transported to a mysterious floating castle. Apart from a new setting, the most important addition is the possibility of facing up to three enemies instead of just one. Watching a battle, gives you the impression that anything can happen, because it so often does.
One of the main problems with the original Power Stone is that the game encourages players to run around collecting precious stones, completely disregarding everything else around them. As a way of avoiding that, a high level of interactivity has been added to Power Stone 2’s levels. Basically, each level is dynamic which means that they are in constant change. There are water levels, air levels, a level inspired by Indiana Jones’ most iconic scene (where the characters need to escape from a boulder) and so on and so forth. In general, level design is much more creative than that of the first Power Stone.
For instance, while one of the fights begins in a picturesque Japanese garden, you eventually move on to the top of a tower to finish the brawl in a small room. Even as you climb the tower, you’re fighting foes and grabbing items, so the action seldom stagnates. Another level allows you to hop on small vehicles, jump off a moving plane and grab an umbrella mid-air to avoid the fall. Other levels include fights against gargantuan bosses and in these, you collaborate with another player instead of fighting each other (though you can still fight the other player if you want to.)
But despite having some truly creative ideas, Power Stone 2 isn’t without some issues. First of all, there’s no block button and as far as I know, the only way to dodge an attack is by pushing the up button right before receiving an attack. Another problem is that while the dynamic stages contribute to the game’s raucous action, Power Stone 2 can become so over-the-top that the action is extremely hard to follow. Finally, some of the problems from the first Power Stone are still here: long loading times are a common occurrence and there’s no online mode.
In conclusion, Power Stone Collection is a really entertaining bundle that clearly shows why the series is so fondly remembered by Sega Dreamcast owners. It definitely helps that the games in this compilation have stood the test of time. Sadly, some issues (such as the long loading times or the lack of a proper online mode) make Power Stone collection a PSP title that’s easily recommendable to anybody who likes fighting titles. If you don’t, Power Stone Collection will keep you engaged for a week or two, but after that time, the game won’t have much to offer.