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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
GENRE: Fighting
PLAYERS:   1-4
October 31, 2006
Power Stone 2

Power Stone

 Written by James Dauer  on June 14, 2007

Review: It's like Dragon Ball only without all the obnoxious dialogue.

1999 was an exciting year for video games. The PlayStation was ending its run, the eagerly anticipated PlayStation 2 was about to be released to the world, Nintendo was still trying to squeeze the last bit of life out of its N64 console, the idea of Microsoft standing a chance in the home console market was laughable and Sega still had enough life left in it to release its final system, Dreamcast. Even though it had almost a year head start on the competition, Dreamcast was doomed to end its run long before the PS2-GameCube-Xbox generation began. With that in mind, it's sad to say that a lot of gamers passed over this great little 128-bit gem of a system with its awesome arcade-style games. It's sad to think how many people missed out on great titles such as Shenmue, Jet Grind Radio, and Power Stone.

Luckily, many of triple-A Dreamcast games were ported to PS2, Xbox and GameCube, or, in the case of Shenmue II and Jet Set Radio Future, continued on those systems. But what about Capcom's fun arcade 3D fighter Power Stone? After having been locked away for a good 8-or-so years, Capcom has finally ported it over to the PSP in a great collection that might make even the most faithful Sega fan miss the Dreamcast just a little less.

The gameplay in Power Stone Collection makes the transition fairly well to the PSP. Given that both systems have roughly identical control schemes, it's a wonder why more Dreamcast titles haven't been ported yet. These games play the exact same way you remember them. For those unfamiliar with the ?Power Stone world,? the game's controls are very simplistic for a fighter. There is one punch, one kick, one grab and one throw button. Each fight takes place in a 3D arena that is filled with items such as tables and chairs, all of which can be thrown at the opponent. As the fight progresses, weapons will materialize around the map. These weapons range from pistols and flamethrowers to parasols and skateboards. Even Son Goku's Nyoi-bo (or to you DBZ fans, Goku's power pole) makes an appearance in the game.

Besides weapons, the titular power stones will also materialize throughout the fight. When a player picks up three stones, his or her character will transform into their super state. While in the super state, the punch and kick buttons do various super moves such as homing projectiles or damaging melee attacks and the shoulder buttons will do one of two desperation moves. When the desperation moves are complete, the player will instantly revert to his or her normal form, but of course the enemy will have taken serious damage. The only problem is, the super state will only last so long. There is a small energy bar at the bottom of the screen that shows just how much time is left in this state. When it runs out, the player reverts back to their original form and loses all their power stones, casting two of them somewhere in the stage allowing for the other player to get a head-start on collecting stones.

The games feature story, arcade and versus modes. The only real difference between the story and arcade modes is the order and number of enemies the player will face. When players finish story mode, items are unlocked. These items can include new playable characters, new weapons to use in fights or a random assortment of other goods. Power Stone 2 features a special shop mode that lets players buy and sell weapons that were collected throughout the game.

There are a few changes here and there from the original. The major change is that Power Stone 2 characters are now unlockable in the original game. Also new items and weapons have been added. One big change that got me excited was the inclusion of the three unlockable VMU (Dreamcast's memory cards) based games from the first Power Stone. While these monochrome games are really about as exciting as an epic Tiger Electronics game, players of the original Power Stone will at least be happy that they can now play them without having to worry about going out and buying replacement batteries after an hour of play.

Much like the classic Super Smash Bros Melee, multiplayer is where the original Power Stone games really shined, but unfortunately in this version, players are limited to ad hoc multiplayer. The only way to get the solid human-vs-human action is to have up to three of your friends nearby, all with PSP systems and all with Power Stone Collection discs. This, unlike the simplistic combat control scheme, is probably tricky for most gamers to pull off.

There were a few other problems with Power Stone for PSP, the first being the load times. Not since Untold Legends have load screens been this slow. Simply selecting which Power Stone to play within the main menu triggers a load time that runs over 45 seconds long. The time it takes to select a character and get into a fight takes 25 seconds. That load time is nearly doubled whenever you are killed or win a fight because the game has to reload the character select screen, then the battle. In the end, you'll be spending more time waiting to play this game than actually playing the game. I'd like to say that the load times don't detract from the gameplay, but when you're waiting nearly a minute to start fighting, it's hard not to get frustrated.

The second problem with the game is actually the hardware it runs on. The PSP is portable, so of course the screen will be smaller than your average household TV or arcade display, which is what the games were made for. This means that objects far away from the player are nearly microscopic at times and depth perception can be a real issue as a result. Occurrences in which I found myself running past items that I thought were were in front of me were definitely troublesome, but rare enough to be forgivable.

Besides gripes about the objects being too hard to see at times, the graphics are a perfect port from the original. This means that while you've probably seen better on the PSP, the game looks about the same as it did on the Dreamcast. The textures are all a little on the simple side, but this is a game from 1999.

The audio also makes a perfect transition from Dreamcast. From the beginning, you'll hear the Japanese announcer shout ?Welcome to Power Stone world!? at the title screen, a voice clip taken from the first Power Stone. Music within the game still sounds like a swashbuckling epic and a lot of the character voices are also Japanese. If you've played the original, you'll know what to expect here.

Bottom Line
Power Stone Collection definitely proves that PSP makes a great home for all the lost classics of the Dreamcast era. While this handheld port presents new problems like long load times and a limited screen size, it still gives players access to two great arcade-style brawlers at one low price. The price is right for gamers who never got a chance to play either Power Stone or former Dreamcast who still love the craziness of this Capcom classic. Now, let's hope the company releases a Rival Schools Collection sometime soon.

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