A Quick Look At The Level Design of Powerstone 1 and 2

· 780 words · 4 minute read

Powerstone (SEGA NAOMI/Dreamcast, 1999) 🔗

Powerstone started as a game for the SEGA NAOMI, which was an arcade board rather than a home-console. The SEGA NAOMI shares quite a few of its internals with the SEGA Dreamcast, and Powerstone was subsequently ported to the Dreamcast. Since the game was originally designed with the arcade in mind this helped drive the level design.

The levels are small but well thought out, and there are quite a few surprises. When I was first playing the game, I came to the tavern level with my smaller character, Ayame. She was was able to swing around a wooden support beam to kick her opponent – but her large opponent was able to rip the beam off the floor and swing it!

Map of Dullstown showing the beam locations

Map of Dullstown showing the beam locations

If you are nimble enough with your thumbs then the levels pack a few secrets. Levels provide you with means to escape the all-powerful ultimate attacks of your opponents, should they managed to get all three Powerstones before you do – some of them can be quite beneficial such as these poles:

Falcon hiding on a pole above Rouge’s fire attack

Falcon hiding on a pole above Rouge’s fire attack

Another secret I found was being able to hang from the roof of the boss level, monkey-bars style! While my thumbs were not quite nimble enough to land that each time, it could very well be used as a spot to dodge the powerful boss attacks.

Each character has their own themed level. Most of them have some form of obstacles for the players to navigate around or use as weapons. The final level, with Valgas the boss, has only two boxes with some stairs on the sides. This is to force the player to rely on their skills as opposed to items present on the level (even though items still spawn), as well as creating a feeling of intensity as you cannot “hide” as easily from this enemy.

Powerstone 2 (2000) 🔗

Powerstone 2 starts off immediately with a different feel. The orchestra oozing on the opening credits as the camera pans over the ocean makes everything feel much more epic than the previous iteration. Powerstone 2 leads with a continuation of the credits scene with the airplane at the end of the original Powerstone. Our heroes encounter a storm, which causes them some turbulance – then a floating castle appears out of the sky and the heroes crash-land on it. The Arcade mode follows the fighters going through this castle.

Powerstone 2 gives a feeling more reminiscent of fighters such as Super Smash Brothers as opposed to feeling like a true arcade fighter like its predecessor was. Levels have multiple parts, causing the player characters to move around and requiring them to be cognizant of their surroundings. Each battle in Arcade mode is a four fighter free-for-all, as opposed to one-vs-one matches, with a total of five Powerstones floating around between all four characters in each battle. Items are again present in fights, with some of the items that were unlockable in the previous game being readily available from the start here.

Powerstone 2 took the ability of Powerstone to subvert expectations to the next level. Not only do levels have multiple parts but they have features such as breaking apart, catching fire, and interactable siege weaponry – to name just a few.

My personal favorite example I came across during my play time was the level where you are on some sort of airship which breaks apart mid-flight and you have to free-fall to the ground. While free falling you can still fight each other using a sort of air-swim push.

Clip of player characters in free fall in the sky

Clip of player characters in free fall in the sky

Powerstone 2 also introduces several boss-style fights into the Arcade experience. These fights are against large enemies, such as the Pharoh’s Walker. These fights also have interesting mechanics. For example: you can destroy the legs on the Pharoh’s Walker, but if you destroy just the two legs on the same side it will fall over.

The final level for the Arcade mode in Powerstone 2 is an endurance level. You must run through a long hallway where wooden figurines come down to fight you. They can absorb a lot of damage. This, coupled with the obstacles that also come for you, makes for a tough stage. Once you get to the end of the hallway you have to fight the boss itself. The boss is a giant green puppet-esque humanoid and you are standing on its dinner plate. This battle is quite tough, especially considering that you do not heal from the damage taken while you were fighting your way through the hallway.