Review by Kane

"A game for the sociable"

Power Stone 2 is the sequel of a critically acclaimed three-dimensional fighter that was Capcom’s first hit on Dreamcast. Highly anticipated, it marked a major change of direction for the series and surprised many players by its originality. But behind the concept, is this opus really worth a purchase?

Hardly.

Contrary to its ancestor, Power Stone 2 is NOT a fighting game in the broad sense of the term. I repeat: contrary to its ancestor, Power Stone 2 is NOT a fighting game!

Yes, the title of the game may be misleading, but PS2 (haha) really is a party game. The fighting is limited to a single attack button, whereas most of the battles consist of shooting nukes, flames, or throwing other insane stuff found in the arenas at the enemy. The meat of the game still has to do with the famous Power Stones: the first to get a hold of all three of them -six in four-player mode- will morph into a devastating creature, increasingly lowering his opponents’ chances to survive. But this is where the game severely denies what it inherited from its predecessor: not only are the environments interactive and multi-level, they’re also surprisingly large while the screen is in constant motion. Power Stone is, in effect, a hybrid: half party game, half platformer, half beat them up (I couldn’t care less if it makes more than one).

Power Stone 2’s most attractive feature is, without a doubt, the irreplaceable possibility to gather four players around your Dreamcast for some good old-fashioned fun. Only then does this title become really fun, as your friends incessantly fall from the arena or die buried under a rock you’ve just dropped on them. Very much like Super Smash Brothers, PS2 is solely based on the notion of total battle, which I’ll admit is definitely unwinding, but also naturally creates a regrettable feel of chaos and confusion. Moreover, where Power Stone was balanced, PS2 gives an unfair stamina bonus that is not made up for by their slowness to the bigger characters.

There’s no such thing as strategy in this game. No such thing as skill. Mashing the buttons –thank god the controls are perfect- and using anything that can be used as a weapon is almost the only way to survive in this fun but simplistic world. Great for casual gamers, but undoubtedly tedious for the most experienced players, Power Stone 2’s gameplay is double-edged.

The graphics however have what it takes to please everyone out there, from the six-years old brat who claims to be your foreign cousin to your aging grandmother who sees in PS2 an artistic representation of the moral values involved in World War II. The arenas are very detailed and originally designed -the oriental house and the submarine come to mind- although they could have done with more animations.

On the other hand, the characters are cute and charming in spite of their disarmingly simplistic designs. This can be immensely felt through a description of the sole four new characters: Pete the dorky kid, Julia the Princess Peach clone, Accel the hyper cowboy and Gourmand the overweight chef. So clichéd, yet so charming. Despite the non-stop mayhem, the engine never slows down, showcasing the underestimated capacities of Sega’s last piece of hardware.

The music is uninspired and reeks of laziness, but it’s extremely well hidden behind first-rate sound effects, limiting its effect on the general quality of the game. The voices (actually, screams seems infinitely more appropriate here) are flawless and capture the peculiar feel of the character design, except for the announcer, who made me feel guilty for playing this game at my advanced age with his tone taken straight from an episode of Barney or Pokemon. Power Stone 2 is a game that doesn’t take itself seriously, as is obviously reflected by the awkward yet technically lamentable soundtrack.

The arcade mode is disappointingly easy except for the last boss, who is particularly frustrating. This disproportion of challenge is certainly annoying, but to be honest this part of the game is extremely repetitive and uninteresting anyway. Worse yet, even the fan favorite multiplayer mode loses its appeal once the novelty and flashiness wears off, proof that the replay value really is abysmal, even though there are numerous extra weapons to unlock in the adventure mode: alas, they don’t really add anything new to the mix.

Power Stone 2 is indeed refreshing, fun and relatively beautiful. It’s also shallow, short-lived and repetitive. To put it simply, it epitomizes the perfect profile of the rental. It may only come out of the closer when friends are coming over, narrowing its potential target to the popular gamers (could that be an oxymoron?). The point is that PS2 is just an average game. Some people must have been out of their minds when they called this “the future of fighting games”.

It’s not even a fighting game, damn it!


Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 11/26/01, Updated 02/02/03


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