Powerstone Review

Gameplay
"OOOPS!!!" was my next reaction. =) To put a long story short, I got my crap kicked out of me. "Oooooooooookaaaaay", I muttered and chanted the gamers’ first axiom: "When at first you don’t succeed, try again". Same thing happened again... and again... and again.

"While I still got thrashed over and over again, I began to pick up some new techniques, which made the overall game much more interesting."

Time for a change of strategy, methinks. I went into Options, switched to "one star" difficulty (out of eight, four was the default), and flipped through the manual.

Here are the keys you need (default configuration):

X - punch
Y - kick
A - jump
B - use

Pressing A and B in quick succession (or a combination of the two) gives you access to some pretty impressive combos.

The alarm in my head began to go off. This sounds awfully like a button-mashers dream come true, i.e. no finesse or skill, just mash the buttons and hope something good turns up. This also seemed awfully similar to the fighting system developed by Capcom in the short-lived Star Gladiators.

Screenshot from Dimension-S

But this was not to be. I went back to the game with this new-found knowledge (not to mention reduced difficulty level) to practice more button mashing, and promptly got my butt kicked again and again (see a pattern emerging here?). =P

At this point, I was so frustrated with the game, and promptly went back to VF3, utterly disappointed with my purchase.

But, it kept gnawing at me (otherwise, this would be an awfully short review!), and I kept going back to play it, and again. While I still got thrashed over and over again, I began to pick up some new techniques, which made the overall game much more interesting.

First of all, button-mashing was not going to get me anywhere (as you can tell from my account above). I was going to need to time my moves a little.

Secondly, I also had to start to understand that we are not in SF/Kansas anymore, and needed a change in mindset. This was because the fighting plane was no longer in 2D. OK, what do I mean?

"With Powerstone, there are NO blocks allowed at all. All you can do is time your jumps and get the hell away from your opponent. This can get quite hairy when he is all charged up, and launching some major fireworks in your direction and there is nowhere to run or hide!"

When you play VF3 and Tekken3, even though the graphics are in 3D, the gameplay essentially takes play in 2D, i.e. you move forwards and backwards. True, you do have the ability to sidestep your opponents, but this seems more like an afterthought (in fact, the original VF and Tekken did not feature the ability to "sidestep").

The best example I can think of to describe this new 3D arena is Ehrgeiz, which is a 3D fighting game in the arcades and on the Playstation (developed by Square and Dream Factory).

You have three degrees of freedom, forwards/backwards, left/right and up/down. The first two are controlled by the directional pad (or the analogue pad), while the third is provided by the "jump" button.

In addition, the stage design is quite varied. While the fighting arena takes place in a confined area (there are no Ring Outs), you do have the ability to move up and down different levels/floors in the fighting area.

ps4.jpg (21876 bytes)
Screenshot from Dimension-S

All the areas also come furnished with props that you can interact with. One of the stages take place on the deck of a ship (your opponent is a pirate), and there are cannons that periodically fire, and heaven help you if you get caught in its line of fire. Another interesting level is the steam room, which features cogs and wheels (in which you can get entrapped) and steam vents which release hot gasses periodically (get out of the way!). You can also fight in a town square with a lamp-post you can pull out of the ground and swing against your opponent.

In most levels, there are some crates that you can pick up (use the "Use" button) and throw towards the opponent. There are also some treasure chests which reveal arms or swords. While these additional weapons increase your range and destructive powers, they also encumber your movement and dexterity.

"I have since learned to appreciate the visuals in Powerstone a little more. It is after all a different genre from VF3, with emphasis on anime-like storyline and graphics."

You just need to make use of all these additional props in the levels effectively to win the opponent.

BUT, to REALLY make the difference in the game, you need to collect powerstones. There are three in each level: red, blue and yellow.

When each round begins, the two fighters carry one gem each (1P has blue, 2P has red). The third (yellow) materialises a few seconds after each round commences.

When you get pummelled by your opponent, you lose your powerstone, and your opponent can run over to where it has fallen and pick it up.

The objective is to collect all three powerstones. Your character then becomes supercharged, and your normal P or K moves become more devastating for a short period. At the end of the period, the red and blue gems will be out in the open, for any of the fighters to collect. The third (yellow) will, as before, materialise several seconds afterwards.

When you are charged up, you can also press P+J or K+J which will release special moves of even more firepower, but the gemstones will immediately be released into the open once special move is completed.

For instance, Fokker (the default character) becomes suited in a mech outfit, and can rocket towards the opponent, connecting 5 to 15 hits in a row.

The downside is that for a brief instant after these moves, you are vulnerable, and if you missed your opponent completely, he can either bash you up, or have a headstart in picking up the gemstones. Still with me so far? =)

Suffice to say, there is a lot more depth to the game than meets the eye.

Another major change is the lack of a Guard button/move, like in most fighting games. In Tekken, eventhough there are no Block buttons, you automatically perform a block if you do not press any of the action buttons.

Screenshot from Dimension-S

With Powerstone, there are NO blocks allowed at all. All you can do is time your jumps and get the hell away from your opponent. This can get quite hairy when he is all charged up, and launching some major fireworks in your direction and there is nowhere to run or hide! =)

Combos are allowed, and this involves the usual button mashes, but in a full 3D arena, it is pretty easy for your opponent to get out of your way. You are then pretty much vulnerable when you launch into your selected series of combos, while your opponent waits behind you, and readies himself to bash you to pieces when you finish the combo against empty space. (trust me on this... I have been used as a throw mat by some of the bigger characters who punished me severely for the missed moves)

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