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Dreamcast Retrospective Day 4: Power Stone

It is truly remarkable how many times I have seen fighting games attempt to utilize the element of 3D space and completely miss the point.

The element that the third dimension brings to a fighting game is that of being able to move around on more than two planes.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

3D movement in a fighting game should bring interaction with the environment, increased evasive abilities, greater defensive options, and in general a better sense of space. 

But yet time and time again, I see 3D fighting games totally miss the mark. 

I applaud Street Fighter IV for using 3D graphics but sticking to a 2D plane.  Far better that than do what so many other games have done and move into the 3D realm while not truly taking advantage of any of its strengths. 

For examples, look to nearly any 3D fighting game in existence.  So few of them have done it right that you can use just about any of them as demonstration of the point.

Dead or Alive almost gets it (a point which somewhat surprises me considering its utter failure to generate my interest in any other area of its design or gameplay).  Its large, open stages, decent level of environmental interactivity, and multi-level playing fields are aspects to be commended that other fighters perhaps should borrow from.  In terms of the game’s fighting mechanics themselves, however, 3D space plays very little part.  Quite simply, being able to move in multiple directions is not useful in a gameplay sense.

Far be it from me to claim to be a Virtua Fighter expert, but this game as well seems lacking in this department, though it’s a moot point considering its sheer depth in other areas.  As much depth as Virtua Fighter possesses, I was never able to glean much benefit from being able to move on a multi-dimensional plane in that series.  The movement is too slow and the evasive capabilities not geared toward that sort of evasion. 

Plenty other examples exist, but those two examples alone should show you that some of the biggest names on the market have somewhat managed to evade the point of having 3D space in your game in the first place.  Need we really delve into topics such as Mortal Kombat’s abysmal 3D incarnations to further belabor the point? 

I think not.

One modern fighting title that has gotten it right is Soulcalibur.  It has managed to develop its fighting mechanics in such a way that 3D space is vital to the strategy of a good Soulcalibur player.  Unlike any other fighting game, Soulcalibur manages to weave 3D space into the very fabric of the fighting mechanics themselves so that it feels as if it truly has a reason to take place in more than two dimensions. '

Well, unlike any other fighter save one, that is. 

Power Stone is an under-appreciated Dreamcast gem.  I cast no blame with the under-appreciated” label, for I am one of the under-appreciators.  I never played it nearly as much as I would have liked. 

Power Stone truly showed what was possible with a fighting game in 3D space.  No longer were the fighters tethered to one another with some invisible magic rope tied around their wastes, keeping them ever in close, face-to-face combat with no freedom to break away and move around. 

In Power Stone, you could roam around wherever the hell you wanted to.  You were encouraged to run around freely, interact with the environment, pick up items, throw things at the other player, and just generally wreak havoc.  Power Stone tapped into the true potential of an open space on a chaotic brawl like no other game.

It combined that wonderful hook with a wacky cast of characters, a great cartoony art style, and a general sense of over-the-top-ness that was really enjoyable.

Any fan of Super Smash Bros that has not played Power Stone is truly missing out.  Power Stone is very much in the same vein of quick, chaotic brawler, yet there’s a little more to Power Stone.  It is still simple, still accessible, but the 3D realm adds much to the proceedings. 

As if all that weren’t enough, there was also the additional task, on top of the fighting itself, of collecting the aforementioned Power Stones, which would randomly appear throughout the levels.  You see, in the Power Stone universe, every character has a super powered version of themselves they are able to transform into.
Obviously, you want this to happen for your character.  Equally obviously, you want to deny this happening for the other character. 

In order to make the transformation happen, you had to collect the shiny crystal things that would appear all around the levels, either by themselves or after breaking things.  This forced you to run around and be on the move, taking advantage of the 3D space, more than you otherwise might have had to. 

This frantic mixture of environmental interaction, object collection, and wacky, chaotic brawler is really like no other fighter I’ve played.  It was truly intense (not to mention sometimes truly difficult in the more-robust-than-you-would-think single player game). 

It was a tiny bit platformer, a large bit Smash Bros, a little bit action game, and a little bit Power Rangers.
Power Stone 2 bumped the number of simultaneous players to four while greatly increasing the environmental interaction, making it a bit more complex and appealing, but also immeasurably more chaotic.  It’s not for the faint of heart.

Anyone who enjoys fighting games, who enjoys action games, who enjoys a little bit of chaos, or who even has a passing interest in crazy games like Smash Bros really should seek out Power Stone and give it a shot. 
It’s still a fantastic game to play with a group of friends. 

Power Stone was a key part of the Dreamcast library.  It was addictive, chaotic, and easily accessible, while providing those all-important multiplayer titles that kept gamers pulling out their Dreamcasts when friends were over. 

It also, perhaps inadvertently, hinted at what truly could be done with the fighting genre in an open, 3D space and provided a unique fighting experience that’s still unmatched on some levels by anything other than its own sequel. 

So, Capcom, you seem to be on a fighting game bent as of late.  You’ve brought back Marvel vs. Capcom.  You’ve resurrected Street Fighter.  How’s about bringing us a Power Stone 3, hmm? 

I’d certainly be the first in line for it. 

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