If you had a Dreamcast, you owned Power Stone. It’s as simple as that. Capcom’s 1999 arcade port presented players with a range of whimsical characters and set them loose in 3D arenas unlike anything they’d seen before, and it was a hit. They soon followed it up with Power Stone 2, which let four players duke it out at once and became the defining party game for the Dreamcast. The series even got its own anime.
But Power Stone hasn’t seen a release since the 2006 PSP Power Stone Collection, a compilation of the first two games with some minor additions. So what happened? Well, the Dreamcast floundering didn’t help. But more than that, Power Stone tried to take on a certain red plumber — and like so many before, it just couldn’t win.
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Welcome to Power Stone World
In the beginning, there were ten adventurers battling it out for the power stones. These oversized gems had the power to make the dreams of whoever collected them come true, kind of like the Dragon Balls. Because Power Stone is a 3D fighter, having your “dreams come true” in-game translated into becoming your character’s much more powerful alter-ego capable of completely destroying your opponent with enormous attacks. It was over the top, arcade-style action. But it wasn’t the only game in town.
Only a month before Power Stone was released in arcades, Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. burst onto the stage. It, too, was a chaotic fighting game with interactive arenas and tons of items to use in battle. But it had a couple of things Power Stone didn’t — brand recognition and support for four players at once. Power Stone‘s fighters were striking, sure, but nobody had grown up with one-eyed knife mummy Jack or Iron Man-wannabe Falcon (unfortunately changed from the original “Fokker”).
Without Warning a Dark Cloud Fills the Sky
Imagine you’re working at Capcom at the end of the millennium. Smash Bros. has just changed the entire fighting game, uh, game, and you’re working on the sequel to Power Stone. So what do you do? Why not borrow from the best? Power Stone 2 followed Smash‘s lead in allowing four players to battle at once. It even shifted the health bars from the conventional location at the top of the screen to the bottom, just like Smash had.
Capcom toned down transformations, removed the all-powerful homing jump kick, and added several new characters. One of these, Gourmand, somewhat resembles Mario, while another, Julia, looks quite a lot like Princess Peach. They added new items, too. You were no longer limited to just swords, firearms and other melee weapons, now there were, uh… trumpets and leg weights.
Power Stone 2 also added dynamic levels with hazards and interactive elements. The arenas could now transform midway through the fight, with a battle that began on a plane becoming a mad scrabble for parachutes as it went down, then continued on land with tanks and other features. The levels took on more character, becoming more dangerous — like Smash‘s acid-filled Planet Zebes and Pokemon-infested Saffron City.
The Power Stone Legacy
Ultimately, though, Power Stone lost its battle. The Dreamcast collapsed under the weight of the Playstation 2 and later, the Xbox and Gamecube. And the latter console saw the release of Super Smash Bros. Melee, the number one bestselling game on the system that solidified the position of Smash as the party fighting game to end all others. Power Stone was pushed out of the niche it had tried to adapt to.
Today, most people probably associate the term “power stone” with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even search results for the game have been overwhelmed with images of the Infinity Gems. And Power Stone never truly took off as a franchise. It did get its own anime series, broadcasted on TBS in Japan and Canada on YTV in 1999. The series was developed by the legendary Pierrot, a studio whose credits include Bleach, Naruto, Yu Yu Hakusho and Tokyo Ghoul, and followed Falcon in his search for his missing father and the power stones. However, it ultimately was not terribly successful, running for only 26 episodes.
And so, aside from a compilation for the PSP in 2006, Power Stone has laid dormant ever since. Earlier this year, the game’s 20th anniversary came and passed without much fanfare, and it seems unlikely that it’ll return anytime soon.
Things could so easily have been different, though. If Capcom had stuck to the series’ one on one origins, maybe the series would have a competitive audience. Or they could have gone all the way in on emulating Smash and turned the series into an all-stars battler featuring characters like Mega Man and Ryu — who, somewhat ironically, are now in Smash itself. We’ll never know. But hey, we’ll always have Londo.