Though I've shared many a good time across all of my systems the Dreamcast will forever hold a special place in my heart. It was the go-to console for parties at the time, between Crazy Taxi and Soul Calibur, but it was never a real gathering until Power Stone came out. A combination of hilarious characters, memorable stages, overpowered super attacks and ridiculous items, the only real issue with the game was the fact that only two players could participate at a time. That was of course until Power Stone 2 came around. Then my mind was officially blown.
Let's start with the fact that the game somehow managed to take an already quite memorable cast and then extended it even further. Being able to throw down pain with a continuously expanded roster is the staple of any fighting game, but the fact that each character was largely defined by their super attacks made things even more interesting. It's the only fighting game that's allowed players to be Goku (more or less) without having to deal with the rest of the Dragon Ball cast, while at the same time tossing in mechanics that were unique to the fighting game genre up until the arrival of Super Smash Brothers Brawl. No two characters were truly alike and the few bonuses that you could ever derive from one were easily negated by the fact that the levels themselves largely defined how victory could be accomplished.
Each stage in the game was broken down into sub sections that would eventually lead into a final level, and being prepared for the shift meant knowing when the changes were going to happen and how you could best cheat other players from taking part in them. Between falling from the sky while desperately fighting for umbrellas to slow the fall to running away from a boulder Indiana Jones style, there's not a single level in Power Stone 2 that doesn't stand out in my mind. There's even a damn aliens level that features a queen alien which attacks players after going through multiple James Cameron styled floors. It's impossible to convey how amazing this is and how disappointing that it has never happened again since.
Filled with various items that could be thrown, dodged behind, mounted or simply avoided at all costs, Power Stone 2 was an amazing blend of platform game and 3D fighter. Avoiding the constant obstacles and fighting for mini-objectives was as much a part of the gameplay as dashing after players in an attempt to steal their own items or power-ups, there was always more to do than simply focusing on attacking the other player. This became particularly important when throwing in all four players at once as a mad-dash for items would quickly turn into a chaotic struggle for survival. Being unable to control where the Power Stones themselves would land would be enough to turn the tide of most fights, but even worse was getting caught off guard by a player that no one suspected was up to anything important. Lines were drawn and constantly crossed as players would be more or less threatening depending on where they literally stood. It didn't help that the game never threw in enough items for everybody, but that was half the fun.
Power Stone 2 also featured what is a more or less dead art in today's multiplayer titles: a relevant single player mode. Playing solo would allow me to unlock new items for multiplayer on my spare time, meaning that I wasn't just wasting my time trying to unlock character colors or useless art pages. It makes me wish more games today offered incentive for single player outside of it just being there to play, games simply felt more rewarding (and easier to play through) when you were playing for actual rewards that were valuable across all game modes instead of for pretentious bragging rights.
There's no doubt in my mind that Power Stone 2 represents not only the best of the Dreamcast gaming era, but some of the most creative and engaging gameplay that gaming has to offer to date. Graphical disappointments aside the title still handles quite nicely considering its age, and I can only hope that somewhere out there in the world Capcom representatives are preparing to re-release the title on XBLA or PSN. No doubt I would feel pretty dirty tossing down cash on an obvious cash grab that will likely receive zero content updates, but it would be worth every virtual penny. The game is just that fun.