Review by shiva

"The best 4-player fighter on ANY system"

Power Stone 2 is the sequel to the underrated but revolutionary arcade and Dreamcast fighting game Power Stone. It is a 1-on-1 combat game, you and the enemy fight in a totally interactive arena, and try to get power stones. If you get 3, your character transforms into a powerful alter-ego, with devastating attacks that can kill reckless opponents in seconds. This is how Power Stone works. When Power Stone 2 arrived, the game concepts had changed a lot:

- 4 player fighting - this is, without a doubt, the biggest change. You now have to fight against 3 opponents, not just 1. Your fighting strategy has to change and adapt to this new reality. Due to the higher number of combatants, there can now be a maximum of 7 power stones scattered in each arena, allowing for 2 characters to simultaneously transform!!

- The next thing you'd notice are the stages. They are even more interactive than in the 1st one (though they lost a bit of personal feeling, since in PS each character had his/her own stage). For instance, one moment you're fighting on a cannon-filled airship, the next you're free-falling, while battling for an umbrella, and after you land on a suspended castle! These stages have to be seen to be believed, since gigantic is the word that best describes them . They are totally interactive, and they have no slowdown effect on the game.

- The characters: there are 4 new characters: Accel, the gunfighter, Julia, a mademoiselle, Pete, the brought-to-life toy, and Gourmand, the evil chef. All these characters are totally different from the original ones (starting on their comedy looks). Add to them the secret characters: Pride, Falcon's/Fokker's father, and Mel, the item shop lady, for a total of 14 characters (28 if you count with their powered up form). On a mysterious (and to some people wrong) move, Capcom didn't include the bosses from the 1st game: Kraken and Valgas. The bosses are now Pharaoh Walker (a giant robot that tries to smash you and has a laser so deadly that can drain all your life in one go), and Dr Erode, a green giant salivating for Power Stone heroes. While this boss seems to be totally stupid (above all if you compare him to Valgas and Final Valgas from the 1st title), you quickly change opinion if you fight him in the hardest difficulty setting: he's CHALLENGING, something Final Valgas never was.

- Transformation: while the power up process remains the same (get 3 power stones), the system is very different from the 1st game: your powered up character isn't armored anymore - you can, and WILL be hit out of specials, supers, etc. - and fusions (supers) don't drain all your power bar in one go. Also, 2 characters can now transform at the same time, meaning a lot of new circumstances for the players to adapt to. This is, probably, the most different from the original game sequel I've ever played.

Ok, now that we've cleared some differences between the 1st title and this, onto the review...

STORY - 5/10 - Our heroes are all transported to a floating castle, each for his/her personal reason. It is the castle of the evil Dr Erode, who wants to chew on them… Now, they have to escape from the castle! (OK, Capcom was HARDLY inspired, and the game lacks personal endings, that the previous Power Stone had). But still, are you here for the story?

GAMEPLAY 10/10 - The most important part of the game, and in case of Power Stone 2, it is compulsively addicting. The control scheme is still quite simple: you have a button for attacking, other for grabbing (anything: items, poles, enemies, boxes, etc.), other for jumping and other to release a picked up item. Transformed, ‘X' or ‘Y' will activate your power drive, and the shifts perform your power fusions. The rest is “relatively untouched” from the original: you fight in gigantic arenas, where you're totally free to go wherever you want to, use items, pick up power stones and try to transform to beat your other 3 opponents. Mind you, not always ‘3 opponents', since the game allows you to set up teams, if you so desire, too. This is, as I've stated in my Power Stone review, what separates the game from other fighters: everyone can easily take control of a character and perform all the actions and his/her best attacks, due to the user-friendly control. This makes Power Stone 1 and 2 a game where you fight not against complicated input motions, but against the other players. Strategy is what determines the best players, not their ability to exploit loose systems where you're allowed 90% combos that you can repeat, after hitting with the initial hit, every time.

GRAPHICS 10/10 - This game features anime inspired characters, and beautifully rendered ones at that. They are fully detailed, as are the stages. Gigantic patios, icebergs and submarines, airships, all filled with lots of items to use against the other players, 4 characters trying to beat the crap out of each other… Sometimes the action is so frantic, you wonder how the game is still running at full speed and with a 60 hz frame rate. The camera is now farther away, but always shows the 4 characters on screen, meaning it has no trouble in perfectly following the intense matches. The only gripe I have is that you can't close-up on your character after winning anymore, and that's too bad, as Power Stone 2 features the most charismatic set of characters I ever took control of. Outside of the fights, the menus are highly 19th century stylized, and the intro, just as the ending, uses the game's graphical engine, which can never be a bad thing…

AUDIO 10/10 –I'll put it simply: the music deserves an award. It's such high quality, you'll sometimes wonder if it wasn't performed by an actual orchestra. There's a certain adventurous tone to it, which fits the game like no other could. It also combines very well with the frantic nature of the stages. For instance, the Tomb Area music is dashing and has lots of rhythm, unlike Dr Erode's theme, ghastly and anxious. The sound effects are perfect, each character has their voice and you'll hear it often. The stages have many sounds effects, and the perfectly-voiced japanese-speaking characters convey in making this department a treat.

CHALLENGE (Max difficulty) 5/10 – The game's cpu-controlled characters are absolutely ‘brain-dead', meaning they never put up any sort of fight. To compensate for it, the level ‘8' cpu does double damage, which many players think it's a lazy way to add difficulty. The bosses are a different story, if you're a new player and are playing in level ‘8', prepare to be “raped”. Just don't feel discouraged: the more you understand the game's mechanics and adapt to their attack patterns, the easier they get. But even now, having played this game for a long time, I don't feel I will never again be beat by Pharaoh Walker nor Dr Erode… This is great, in stark contrast to the pansy Final Valgas was… Also, if you try to get items in level ‘8' Adventure Mode, 3 cpu-characters will gang up on you, so if you think the normal Arcade Mode is too easy for you, try it. As a final remark, I just wish Capcom had programmed real ‘AI' for the normal characters, though I reckon the difficulty in doing it for a free-roaming fighter like this…

REPLAYABILITY 10/10 – More like “infinite/10”: Unlike the first game, this one has modes aplenty: in Arcade Mode, you go through several stages, fighting cpu-controlled fighters and bosses, and you can team up with a human player, since the two remaining fighters at the end of a match go to the next stage; Original Mode is where you'll be passing the most time, as it privileges human competition, allowing you to set up free-for-alls, 2 on 2s and 3 on 1 matches, and also watching dumb cpu matches; for the purists of the original, there's a 1-on-1 mode, more fast paced and with a camera that tries to mimic the 1st Power Stone; in Adventure Mode, you battle 3 cpu opponents on a team while trying to get items; speaking of items, in the Item Shop you can try to mix items, creating all kinds of weird stuff that can then appear on the matches: want a scooter, a wedding cake, a lightning rod, or a fork? These are only some of the 121!!! items you can create, which means you'll be spending a lot of time here too. Aside from all this, there are numerous extras to access: extra options, extra characters and stages. Combined with human competition, you simply can't put Power Stone 2 aside.

FINALLY, all I want to say is that, if you own a DC and don't own this, you're missing out the best 4-player fighter ever created. Just as POWERful as that.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 03/23/02, Updated 04/06/05

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