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Bloody Roar:  Primal Fury Package Art
 GENRE
  Fighting
 DEVELOPER
  Eighting
 PUBLISHER
  Activision
 NUMBER OF PLAYERS
  1-2
 CONNECTIVITY
  no
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Bloody Roar: Primal Fury

The first traditional fighter for the Nintendo Gamecube has arrived in the form of Bloody Roar: Primal Fury from Activision. While no more a bastion of intelligent, deep combat than Office Space is fine cinema, Bloody Roar is mindless fun with a fairly cool gimmick. It’s not targeted directly at gamers accustomed to hallmark 3D fighting titles such as Soul Calibur or Virtua Fighter, but taps another, broader audience altogether.

Ever set up bizarre, mismatched battles between action figures as a kid? Does an apocalyptic battle between a G.I. Joe and a Triceratops sound familiar? If so, Bloody Roar may be perfect for you.

In the world of Bloody Roar, there are two types of people: regular humans and so-called Zoanthropes. The Zoanthropes have an inexplicable ability to transform at will into animal forms with amplified strength and abilities. The peaceful coexistence of the Beasts and Norms is unexpectedly disrupted-- rumors spread that someone is performing insidious experiments on the Zoanthropes in order to discover their secret. The ruler of the kingdom calls for a tournament of beast warriors to restore harmony and show off his impressive array of Zoanthrope mercenaries. Naturally, something dark lurks in the shadows...

This installment of the series is an overhauled build of Bloody Roar 3, released on the Playstation 2 last year. The GameCube version boasts two exclusive characters, overhauled graphics, several new interactive environments, and more, while maintaining similar gameplay. What we will determine for you is whether this title is worth a look, or is a sub-par affair made worse by a controller that is, to say the least, not optimal for the fighting genre.

visuals

Bloody Roar isn’t the most beautiful fighter ever crafted, but it certainly stands out from the pack and is by default without peer on the GameCube. At the initial boot, an anime cinema sequence sets the general artistic style for the game. All the cutscenes are represented by silent, unimpressive animation with subtitles conveying the dialogue.

Visuals have been greatly enhanced since Bloody Roar’s last outing. Character models are not cel-shaded, but are still rendered with a cartoon-like look. Each of the fourteen-plus warriors are well represented with detailed models, sharp textures, and interesting designs. Long is robed in rich, green and gold-trimmed garments while Kohryu resembles an undead ninja in intricate armor. Combatants may not be crafted to the unbelievable degree seen in Soul Calibur 2 or DOA3, but are still impressive and have few to no visible flaws. Each character has two costumes, which in some cases are radically different and in others are just a palette swap.

Beast forms are no less impressive than their human counterparts. There are a few nice touches after a transformation, such as a tattered shirt hanging from Shenlong’s arms after he becomes a tiger. No, this does not happen with female characters, though the women are suitably jiggly in a nod to DOA-style fan service. Animation routines are average, but the wide variety of facial expressions is an excellent addition to a solid graphical package.

Bloody Roar: Primal Fury runs at a blistering 60 frames per second with almost no stuttering. As a consequence, the environments are simple. Arenas are square platforms bordered by breakable walls, set in locations ranging from a subterranean, alien crypt with bizarre blue lighting to an inner city ghetto. All of the nine locales are visually appealing; fighter jets taxi in the background on an aircraft carrier, ornate wooden designs fence in an arena from a serene Japanese landscape, and cars speed down a highway at night. Walls disappear when broken and there are no objects within the ring, to maintain the slick framerate. The lighting effects make up for this, with ambience or pallid shades of color when appropriate. Blood has been largely replaced with showers of sparks, one frequent reminder of the game’s omnipresent particle effects.

The game’s general interface is a combination of stylish and unimpressive elements. Mode selection is a very simple, almost 16-bit reminiscent rotating text field, and changing the game’s parameters is done with all the flair of plain text on a dark background. However, at least the main menu background is a hip blend of sanguine colors and shapes.

audio

Bloody Roar: Primal Fury will not be remembered for sporting a soul-stirring soundtrack. Composed primarily of uninspired, anime-derived rock riffs, it resembles that of Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, sans the bafflingly poor rap selections. However, during gameplay the music becomes barely noticeable and only picky players will likely lodge complaint, as fighting games rarely have memorable sound. Younger players more concerned with graphics than sound may even like the music, though it will admittedly have a narrow audience.

The sound effects in this Bloody Roar redux are staple fare; there is no wild innovation here. There are a few one-liners interjected into the fight or at the end, slightly reminiscent of taunts from Street Fighter II. Most of the beasts sound the same, though there are a few satisfying roars and crashes into the walls. On the whole, Bloody Roar is an average aural affair.

gameplay

Bloody Roar is a standard 3D fighter with an appealing twist: the ability to transform into a hulking beast. Hand-to-hand human combat is fairly simple, and is comparable to just about any generic fighter. Punching, kicking, blocking, and beast attacks are each allocated one button, while the shoulders move a character into or out of the foreground. Combos are generally easy to execute, but the frantic pace of the game disallows them at times.

Indeed, Bloody Roar is king of the button mashers. Jamming madly on the buttons, coupled with a knowledge of when to use beast transformations, is all that’s needed to defeat the computer at first.

As the battle rages, players’ beast bars will slowly fill. Taking damage stops the process, but once it is full a beast transformation can be executed with a button press. The beast forms not only inflict more damage on one’s opponent, but can unleash absolutely devastating special moves and recover a player’s health. The beast bar empties gradually as damage is taken, culminating in a return to human form when it bottoms out or a special move is used. Animal avatars range from Alice’s puffy rabbit to the elusive Uranus’s behemoth direct from hell. Xion’s form resembles the offspring of an evil roach and a Guyver unit.

Foregoing the transformation and allowing the bar to fill a second time, then tapping Z initiates a “hyper beast mode.” The animal form seethes with energy and looks like it’s been smudged in Photoshop. The bar flashes red and white and steadily decreases, but this mode has one great advantage. Special moves do not automatically revert the beast to human form. Therein lies most of this game’s strategy: theoretically, to succeed one needs to strategize and determine when to use transformations and when to hazard using a special move, which can be blocked.

Bloody Roar offers several gameplay modes, some of which must be unlocked. Arcade mode can be easily cleared, especially if the impatient gamer tweaks the parameters to have one-round matches. “Cheap” would adequately describe much of the fighting in this mode. Simple combos and special attacks repeated ad nauseum are enough to conquer most initial computer opponents, though they will likely do the same. More than once has a match ended when a computer enemy, with its last breath, used a horribly long combo to drain half of Kohryu’s life for the victory. This is the kind of game that will have players screaming at the television, both in horror and delight.

Other modes of play include a three-man team battle, CPU-controlled exhibition matches, or extremely bizarre additions like Kid Mode in which models are reduced to childlike proportions (complete with giant heads).

A frequent topic of concern in the gaming community is the use of the Gamecube’s stock controller as an interface for fighting games. Simply, it doesn’t seem like it would be remotely adequate for the genre, with the stigma of a tiny D-pad and irregular button cluster.

Therefore, it is a shock that Bloody Roar actually performs well with such a controller. While many games use moves requiring several taps in the same direction, Bloody Roar uses circular motions that allow precision use of the analog control stick. Some gamers will prefer to use the D-pad, but frenzied jamming on the buttons can cause discomfort to the left thumb. Play control is tight and responsive, with very few problems. Delightfully short load times round out a satisfying experience.

multiplayer

While perhaps a bit questionable as a solely one-player experience, Bloody Roar shines as a two-player game. Suddenly, cheap combos are recognized as such and the average human player can either counter, avoid them, or beat his opponent senseless in the real world for fighting dirty. While many contests will likely be between two forms of Kohryu’s outstanding Iron Mole, fighting techniques are greatly varied and intelligent combat should result. True fun can be had discovering hidden areas within levels or fighting team battles. While not pure bliss like Super Smash Brothers Melee, and lacking a four-player mode, Bloody Roar is a worthwhile multiplayer diversion. Its swift learning curve makes it all the more appealing.

overall

The curse is over; a decent traditional fighting game has appeared on a Nintendo console for the first time in years. Bloody Roar: Primal Fury isn’t the end-all and be-all of fighting games, but it is a solid experience worth at least a rent. Picky fighting gamers may want to look elsewhere, but should keep in mind that the almighty Soul Calibur 2 won’t hit the Gamecube until fall at the earliest. Fighting fans who don’t demand a genre-defining experience will find enjoyment in Bloody Roar, especially those with friends they can challenge.

Impressive graphics, a simple yet pleasant combat system and multiplayer fun balance out the issues of sound and gameplay depth. This is a true leap from Bloody Roar 3, and is recommended to all but diehard fighters.

final score 7.8/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar Neil Aschliman
Staff Profile | Email
"I'm your lover, I'm your zero. I'm the face in your dreams of glass."


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