Power Stone Collection Hands-On

We spend some quality time with a near-finished version of Capcom's handheld brawler.

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Currently scheduled for release next month, Power Stone Collection boasts enhanced versions of both Power Stone and Power Stone 2 (originally released for the Sega Dreamcast), along with a host of unlockable bonus content. We recently had an opportunity to spend several hours with some near-finished copies of the compilation, and we're pleased to report that both games are shaping up to be every bit as good as, if not better than, the 1999 and 2000 originals.

Weapons and interactive environments are a feature of every battle.
Weapons and interactive environments are a feature of every battle.

In case you're not familiar with the Power Stone series, the games' most interesting features are undoubtedly the fully interactive environments in which each battle takes place. Each environment boasts numerous objects that can be thrown or slid toward enemies, and many of them also feature immovable interactive objects, such as poles that you can swing from, hazards that you can force your opponents into, and--in the second game--gun turrets that you can climb into. Treasure chests containing powerful weapons or food items are also commonplace, as are the titular power stones that have the power to transform your character into a superhuman fighter with an over-the-top arsenal of moves for a short time. The two Power Stone games have a lot in common with each other, but they're also very different in places, which is why we'll be talking about them separately going forward.

Power Stone is all about one-on-one fights, and at the outset, you'll have eight different characters to choose from: Falcon, Ayame, Wang-Tang, Gunrock, Jack, Galuda, Rouge, and Ryoma. The controls for each character are the same--jump, grab, kick, and punch on the face buttons, power fusion moves on the shoulders--but their varying speeds and fighting styles make them feel quite different. Additional characters can be unlocked by playing through the story mode, as can previously unseen weapons such as ray guns, soccer balls, machine guns, and power shields. Features of the PlayStation Portable game that weren't present in the original include new health meters and a small radar that points to power stones off-screen.

In addition to the story mode, you'll find a versus CPU mode where you can fight against any opponent in your chosen environment, a training mode that lets you practice with any character, and an ad hoc network mode for head-to-head fights against your friends. There are plenty of customization options available ahead of each battle, including time limits, number of rounds, damage levels, and screen formats, and you can also turn the new radar on or off. Plus, there are no fewer than eight difficulty settings.

The fights themselves are fast-paced affairs, as the combatants run and jump around each level, attempting to get their hands on the best weapons and all three power stones. Repeatedly hitting an opponent in possession of a power stone will force that player to drop it, which, along with the health-restoring food items that appear from time to time, can make for some lengthy power struggles. A significant number of our fights were still in progress at the end of the default 99-second time limit, at which point the win was awarded to the character with the most health.

Power Stone 2 plays quite different to its predecessor, largely because it supports up to four players simultaneously in free-for-all, team-based, and tag-team battles. The environments are also a lot bigger and are constantly changing and forcing you to adapt to your surroundings throughout the course of a fight. One of the levels is set on two submarines that occasionally submerge or pass by icebergs that you can jump onto, for example, while another that's set in a tomb sees you all falling through the floor at one point and being chased down a corridor by a giant boulder. The gameplay is even more dependent on items and interactive environments than the first game, even going so far as to replace the kick and punch buttons with just one attack and a drop-item button. The game's character roster adds a further four fighters to the first game's eight at the outset, including Pete, Julia, Gourmand, and Accel.

Gameplay options in Power Stone 2 include one-on-one and one-on-three story modes, a versus CPU mode, training, ad hoc network support for up to four players, and an adventure mode in which you can collect money and rare items. Furthermore, the game features an item shop where you can purchase items and even create new ones by combining those that you already have. The PSP game purportedly features more items than its Dreamcast and arcade counterpart, along with all-new Bomber Battle minigames in which you'll fight your opponent in a level full of giant bombs.

Neither game suffers from any slowdown right now, even when there are four players on the screen.
Neither game suffers from any slowdown right now, even when there are four players on the screen.

Both Power Stone and Power Stone 2 are looking great right now, and given the amount of mayhem that's onscreen in the second game particularly, it's impressive that we haven't once noticed the frame rate stutter. The camera is also performing its job admirably, and although you might occasionally wish that you could rotate it somehow to afford you a better view of your immediate surroundings, we've never really found its positioning to be a cause for concern. You do have the option to zoom the camera in and out between three different settings using the PSP's select button, but we found that the default option was generally the best for showing off the characters' great animations without being so close to them that we lost all sense of where weapons and power stones were located.

In addition to the two enhanced Power Stone games, Power Stone Collection boasts four unlockable "Collection Features" that are accessed from the same menu where you choose which game you want to play. We managed to unlock two of these during our time with the compilation, including a movie theater where we could watch ending movies and such and a minigame arcade. The arcade has slots for three minigames, though the only one we've been able to play thus far is Aerial Assault--a simplistic 2D flying game starring Falcon. The gameplay is certainly nothing special, but the presentation--a picture of an old-school handheld appears on the PSP screen--is great, and we're looking forward to finding out what other unlockable content is available when we get our hands on the finished game next month. We'll bring you more information on Power Stone Collection as soon as it becomes available.

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