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Continuing its solid support of the Sega Dreamcast, Capcom recently announced several new titles for the console, including the extremely promising Power Stone 2. If you're worrying that the sequel might fall victim to the "more of the same" syndrome that Capcom is somewhat notorious for, you could be in for a pleasant surprise. New characters? Of course. New environments? Yes, and they're even more interactive than before. Four-players simultaneously??? Just keep on reading....

The original Power Stone was unlike anything Capcom had ever done, and it was really quite different from anything we've come to associate with the fighting genre. Large polygonal arenas offering free 3D movement, the ability to interact heavily with the environment, and simple but enjoyable gameplay made the game a best-selling launch title and also won it top honors in the 1999 CBS Toy Test.

However, like many innovative titles, the game had a few minor flaws. Because the game was designed to be simple and accessible to a wide audience, Power Stone was easily mastered and soon became repetitive for some players. Matches would too often consist of the wanton abuse of the jump kick to quickly secure the power stones that transform you into a super-powered state.

So, will Power Stone 2 be able to overcome this problem? It looks like four-player simultaneous action could very well be the answer. The simple controls of the original game seem like they could be easily adapted to a multiplayer brawl, and you can bet that getting a hold of three stones is going to be a whole lot trickier. Besides taking part in a hectic free-for-all, Capcom has revealed that you'll also be able to take sides and fight it out on teams. The accessibility of the first title should carry over to the sequel, so you shouldn't have too much trouble rounding up other players.This news alone should have any fan of the original excited, but it's by no means the only improvement in the works. Next on the list are better stages and an even higher degree of environmental interactivity. Screenshots show that stages are less static than they once were, and controllable vehicles have been thrown into the mix as well. One stage has the combatants battling it out in a midair free fall then continuing the fight on the ground where poles, a ladder, and a tank await your use. Another stage dumps the fighters into the ocean where they must swim desperately past icebergs to reach a pair of ships. On the ships, players can use massive gun turrets or try smashing crates on deck to find weapons. Other stages include a dark castle complete with moat, an Egyptian tomb, and a space station.

It's not known how much of the original cast will be returning to romp around in these new environments, but several original cast members can be spotted in the screenshots along with some new faces. Making their Power Stone debuts are Axel the gunner, Guruman the evil chef, the spectacle-wearing lad Pete, and a parasol-toting young woman in a hoopskirt by the name of Julia.

Graphically, the game seems to be about on par with its predecessor, which is impressive considering that there are four players running around instead of two. When everyone is onscreen at once the models do seem to get a bit small, but if the first game is any indication you can expect fancier camera work for super moves and the like.

If Power Stone 2 can live up to its seemingly enormous potential it could end up being one of the premier party games of the year. The Dreamcast and arcade (running on the Naomi board) versions are both already available in Japan, and they are able to exchange information with each other via the Virtual Memory Unit. Capcom has given no reason for us to believe that it will not release the title here in the States, so stay tuned for an announcement.

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