27: Power Stone
Format: Dreamcast, Arcade
The most exciting thing about a console launch – which I view as a short list, I bloody hate the fact that you have to buy a whole new machine every five years or so, but at least it’s still less of a headache than PC gaming – is looking for games that weren’t possible before. Titles that simply could not have been done on the previous generation of hardware, because their ideas were simply too complex. Enter Power Stone.
A 3D beat-‘em-up, except it was proper 3D. Rather than two fighters facing each other in an empty 3D arena that automatically locked them onto a 2D axis facing each other, Power Stone had two fighters in large, detailed arenas that they could run all over and smash up in their quest to knock each other out. There was a traditional Japanese house exterior – you could climb up onto the roof, or dangle off the overhang. There was a courtyard outside a pub – you could swing round the lamppost before launching yourself feet-first at your foe, or pick up a billboard and chuck it at them. There was a Wild West saloon – you could kick someone into the wall so hard, the large barrels above them would be jarred out of their alcove and smack them satisfyingly on the head. Basically, it was what would happen if Jackie Chan programmed a beat-‘em-up. And it was glorious. Astonishingly advanced for the time, and still slick and enjoyable today.
But that was only the half of it. Like Super Smash Bros., which debuted the same year, various weapons were periodically dumped into the fight, from the basic (lead pipes, daggers) to the advanced (flamethrowers, bazookas) to the silly (giant fizzing cartoon bombs). Plus there were the titular Stones themselves. Nab three for super mode, where your character morphed into a fearsome character that nodded to something else – so Wangtang turned into a Dragon Ball Z extra, Gunrock basically became The Thing from Fantastic Four etcetera – and could pull off all sorts of fancy tricks for a few seconds (and became super-strong, so you could now pull up that lamppost outside the pub and smack folks with it).
Fast, frantic, fun and certainly not possible on a 32-bit machine, it was Power Stone that declared the Dreamcast and 128-bit gaming had really arrived. Like that guy arriving at Athens from Marathon and turning into a giant red robot with a jet for a head. Or something.
MAGIC MOMENT: the gloriously weird Jack, a sort of spider-mummy-thing with stretchy arms that the game tells us is, in fact, Jack the Ripper.