When the original Power Stone arrived on the Dreamcast it was one of those "Wow" moments. Back when arcade hardware was more powerful than what we had at home, playing a near arcade perfect game on your couch was a thing of beauty. The Dreamcast was essentially a slightly cut down version of SEGA's arcade hardware of the time, so a good port was expected, but the game was no less impressive. It was also the perfect multiplayer game for the system, combining frantic action with easy to pick up controls. Now on the PSP, complete with its sequel, is the series still one of the best?
For starters, Capcom appears to have done a great job with the ports to the PSP. I don't have either of the arcade cabinets or the Dreamcast games at hand to directly compare, but both games look great on the PSP. What's more, each includes a proper widescreen display option, as well as the original 4:3 display, and a stretched option if that's more your thing. The PSP's crisp display and vibrant colour reproduction makes the series a perfect fit for the system, and, despite being a few years old, both games look up there with the best the handheld has to offer.
For those unfamiliar with the fighting series, Power Stone is rather different to Capcom's usual offerings in the genre. Instead of offering equal amounts of offensive and defensive options, the emphasis is placed squarely on attack. Fought in enclosed multi-tiered arenas, players are free to run around, use objects in the environment, pick up weapons, and generally batter their opponents. The stones alluded to in the game's title can be collected and used to transform your character. In this transformed state you can perform special power attacks, which can be truly devastating if used at the right moment.
Each game is selected separately from the game's main menu, and both are worth investing time in, but for different reasons. The original Power Stone is worth playing for sheer nostalgia alone. If, like me, you were playing this on the Dreamcast, the great memories will come flooding back. It's a rather simple game by today's standards though, with only a handful of basic game modes, and battles limited to two players. It's still jolly good fun and plays great on the PSP, but nowhere near as impressive a game as its follow-up.
Power Stone 2 is an altogether more impressive game. The player count was bumped from two to four, fighting arenas changed from small rooms to constantly changing battle zones, and numerous game modes were introduced to give the console gamer a little more to do. It's the new arenas that really steal the show, with each being full of interactive objects, and they rarely stay the same for more than a few moments.
While the first game was action packed, Power Stone 2 feels like the meter has been turned up to eleven, especially with four players going at it. You have to keep an eye on your opponents as well as the environment, with traps all over the place, and changes to the playing field happening regularly. Due to the nature of the game, power moves can totally change the outcome of a fight, so the power stones are contested like they hold the secret to eternal life - with four players it gets ridiculously intense.
Adventure mode was added to the home port of Power Stone 2 in order to give players something extra to play through. Calling it an adventure might be stretching the definition of the word slightly, but it introduces a few new elements to the gameplay, and is worth playing through if you enjoy the core Power Stone gameplay. A number of unlockables have also been included, such as mini-games and a movie theatre (to view end movies, credits and the like), but to get the most out of the collection you really need to play with friends.
And this is Power Stone Collection's biggest problem. Without online play, in order to get the most from the game you need to know and frequently visit someone who owns a PSP and a copy of the game, and ideally two more people on top of that. A game sharing option is in the menu for Power Stone 2, but this is sadly just a demo and doesn't let you play against PSP owners who don't own the game. On the Dreamcast four players could gather around a single TV and relive the arcade experience, but on the PSP it's a much less likely situation.
As a port of a popular fighting series, Power Stone Collection is excellent, but as an alternative to the Dreamcast classics you might have tucked away in a box under you bed, it fails. Multiplayer is at the heart of the Power Stone experience, and on the PSP without online play, two or four-player games are never as likely to occur. If you know for sure that you can arrange multiplayer games, then picking up Power Stone Collection is a no-brainer, as the gameplay is a fun as it ever was, but solo players will be left wanting.