Review: Powerstone Collection (Sony PSP)


Powerstone Collection
Publisher: Capcom
Genre: 3D Fighter Collection
Release Date: 10/31/2006

Sega’s Dreamcast was a fertile incubator of new games that are still in many ways ahead of their time. Enter Capcom’s Powerstone, which was originally scheduled to be a trilogy in the arcade using the Dreamcast-based Naomi hardware. Unfortunately only two of the three games were ever made, but both represent the birth of a subgenre of 3D fighting — the free roaming 3D brawl with crazy weapons and interactive with the environments.

Capcom has been doing perhaps the best job of any publisher making the most of Sony’s PSP, releasing collections of older games and revamping 2D classics with slick new presentations. Powerstone Collection is in the same vein as these other releases, but is a more modern game than some of the other classics. The real question is how faithfully the games were ported to the portable PSP.

1. Game Modes
Powerstone 1 features a standard one player mode for fighting games, pitting each character against a path of the other fighters in scaling difficulty. There is also a single player mode that progresses through the fighters and has some boss battles.

Powerstone 2 has similar modes, but also an adventure mode with a more fleshed out single player experience.

New to the PSP is the ability to play with the characters from both games in either game. Some characters appeared in 1 and not 2, and vice versa, and all are playable in both games in the Powerstone Collection

Story Rating: 8/10

Graphics
At the time, Powerstone and Powerstone 2 were good looking 3D fighters. However they are now 6-7 years old and they show their age a bit. The characters have a unique anime style, and are all different and varied models. They animate well and have a fair amount of detail, but retain an overall blocky look.

The environments are varied and very colorful and seem to burst with life and energy. They share the somewhat blocky appearance of the players, but they still do the job well.

The game ported nicely to the widescreen of the PSP, which is the only major change implemented by the developers to the graphics from the Dreamcast versions. For true Powerstone Dreamcast purists, the option exists to letterbox the games and have them run at the same resolution and dimensions as on a TV.

Graphics Rating: 6/10

3. Sound
Both games on the Powerstone Collection have an aural style that matches the games well.

The music is epic in nature and makes the game feel grander in scale. The voice over is typically bombastic, bellowing out the fight matchups before they begin. To match the mayhem of the game, there are a ton of crunching sound effects, and every grabable item has a sound associated with its use.

Overall the audio in both Powerstones does a good job of framing the game and complimenting the chaotic nature of the fights.

Sound Rating: 6.5/10

4. Control and Gameplay
Powerstone was released at a time where 3D fighting was dominated by Tekken and Soul Calibur, which feature a somewhat linear version of 3D to keep the fights focused. Powerstone blows that formula out of the water by featuring true free roaming 3D levels where opponents can attack from any angle.

The fights are conducted on wide open fields, allowing the players to attack from any direction. There is a light and a strong attack, and they can be strung together in combos or done from the air for air attacks and combos. The attacks are enhanced by weapons that appear throughout the levels, including guns, swords, missile launchers and more. In addition to just the provided weapons, the environments themselves can be used, either by tossing crates, twisting around polls or using embedded weapons like a sit down gun turret.

The levels are multi-tiered and feature a variety of treasure boxes filled with special weapons and the Powerstones themselves. When a character collects three Powerstones, the character upgrades to a super, nearly invulnerable version of himself, able to do massive damage for a short amount of time. There are only 3 total stones per level in Powerstone 1, and Powerstone 2 upped the ante by having 6 stones per level, allowing more than one player to upgrade to a super character at a time. Some change the options to limit Powerstone 2 to only 3 stones per level, making four player battles a mad scramble.

Each fight in Powerstone is a fast paced, frenetic affair that relies more on quick thinking and avoiding the enemy than detailed combos or deep strategy. The main goal is to go for those Powerstones, and doing anything necessary to collect loose stones or knock them loose out of the opponents.

At times it degenerates a bit into a button masher, and especially in Powerstone 2 when 2 players are powered up, it can become hard to follow the action at times. That being said, the game is just fun to play, and has a variety of attacks and effects to keep things interesting.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 7/10

5. Replayability
To begin with there are two complete games here, and especially Power Stone 2 has a nicely fleshed out single player mode. However, as with most fighters, the replayability lies with the multiplayer, and Powerstone Collection drops the ball a bit. There is no online support, only supporting multiplayer for ad hoc, requiring both players to have the game and be close by.

Replayability rating: 3/10

6. Balance
The game play’s pretty well balanced in the sense that any player can become powered up and unstoppable getting the Powerstones. The Powerstones, themselves, however, make the game feel somewhat unbalanced at times, because a close fight that has one player use Powerstones usually results in that player winning. It’s kind of like in gameshows the first 2 rounds meaning nothing because the final round has more points than the last 2 combined.

Balance Rating: 3/10

7. Originality.
Amazingly, Powerstone holds up as an original gameplay experience years after their initial release. There have a been a variety of games that have used the same type of style of wide-open fighting, but most are cartoony and aimed at younger kids. None have the strong character design, but all are unique and there aren’t pallete swaps or repeats.

Power Stone 2 introduced a single player Adventure mode, very much like that seen in Super Smash Brother Melee. It guides the player through a single player path fighting against various combinations of the other players, but it’s well done and adds some depth to the game.

Originality Rating: 9/10

8. Addictiveness
The true addictiveness of Power Stone lies in multiplayer battle, and that is basically not a factor in the PSP versions. Of course you can find another friend who has PSP and the game and be near each other, but it’s not the same as gathering around a console, or online support.

There is an adrenaline rush with getting all of the Power Stones and wrecking shop for a few seconds amongst the typical Power Stone madness, and that is enough to keep the game as a possible short burst after the core single player game is worn out.

Addictiveness Rating: 4/10

9. Appeal Factor
It’s tough to call any game that only appeared on Dreamcast as incredibly appealing to the mass audience, but those who did experience the games the first time around would likely be interested in taking the games for another spin. Of course the assumption would likely be that the games could be played online, but alas that is not the case.

With a relative lack of new fighting series in modern gaming (most seem to be sequels, upgrades or re-releases), Powerstone’s relative obscurity could make it appeal to a new gamer, with a variety of cool characters and interactive environments.

Appeal Factor: 5/10

10. Miscellaneous
Capcom has discovered how to use the PSP better than any other company so far, using a combination of classic revivals, compilations and new games that bring unique experiences to PSP. Most gamers likely missed Power Stone the first time around, as it never even was ported to another system after the demise of the Dreamcast. Capcom is allowing a whole new audience to experience these games, which began a genre that has largely degenerated into cartoon ports.

The box continues in the style of the other Capcom PSP games, with a white cover, logo and bursting circle with game characters. Unfortunately it also continues in the tradition of not having a color manual, which is a shame for games targeted towards the hardcore gamers.

It’s nice to see a Dreamcast-exclusive finally make it to a system where it can get more exposure.

Miscellaneous Rating: 6/10

The Scores
Story: 8/10
Graphics: 6/10
Sound: 6.5/10
Control & Gameplay: 7/10
Replayability: 3/10
Balance:3 /10
Originality: 9/10
Addictiveness: 4/10
Appeal Factor: 5/10
Miscellaneous: 6/10
Total Score 57.5/100
Final Score: 6

Short Attention Span Summary
Capcom is doing it right on the PSP, and Powerstone Collection continues that trend. While it might appeal mostly to fans who already have played it on Dreamcast, there is enough originality and charm here to warrant a purchase by new gamers as well.