Bloody Roar: Primal FuryIf fighting games have taught us one thing it's that there is nothing in the world that can't be solved by gathering a group of people from various backgrounds and convincing them to beat the crap out of each other, often with rather elaborate flashy combos. Whether it's to destroy a superweapon, save the Earth realm or just showing just who can hit the hardest then the solution is always found at the end of a round of fisticuffs.
Bloody Roar: Primal Fury is really no exception to this, although with that said actually trying to figure out why these characters are fighting is a difficult task. The game does kick off with an interesting anime opener essentially showing shorts of each character, but then after that the only further "plot progression" (if you can call it that) comes purely from very short anime endings that do very little to explain anything. Of course, saying that a fighting game has a poor story element is like saying the Earth is round so I don't expect anyone to be overly surprised by this.
There is a good delivery on the visual front as the 3D models of the characters are crafted very well, providing us with a variety of designs that means there should be at least one person in the lineup to appeal to your tastes, and when the quality extends to intricacies in their costumes and the like you can't help but be impressed. The animal design are equally cool to look at, featuring great beast/human hybrid forms that scamper around the battlefield as fluidly as their human counterparts. In fact, the animation in general is fantastic, keeping everything moving well regardless of the amount of action pouring onto the field at any given moment.
The stages tend to take a bit of a back seat, although this isn't so much about them being bad and more about the characters stealing the show. The arenas do look nice and you have a number of different areas to lay the beatdown in, but these struggle to compare to the mind-blowing awesomeness of a humanoid bunny rabbit stomping a lion into the ground.
As previously mentioned the game makes sparing use of anime sequences for the intro and endings, although these do pale in comparison to the main graphics engine, especially as they look a little dated.
The music selection is fairly uninteresting, consisting of a choice of rock style tunes that just don't manage to leave much in the way of an impression on the player. At the least the game makes good use of the grunts and shouts you would expect fighters to throw out in the midst of combat.
So then, when it comes to fighting the core idea remains the same. Two combatants fight it out until one side can't pick what's left of themselves off the floor, giving the round win to their opponent. Whoever wins a set number of rounds first wins the match.
Bloody Roar goes for the more simple approach where you only have 2 common attack buttons in the form of punch and kick. By pressing certain combinations of these and directional inputs each character can pull off a variety of attacks like lunging punches and flying kicks, with some seriously flashy looking moves available. This is really where I have to go "it's OK but nothing impressive" at the offering though, because the game suffers a similar problem to DoA2. That is to say, the combo system doesn't really favour freeform fighting but instead follows a set of specific inputs for each character. You can reasonably get along without worrying too much about it, but if you want to progress past basic short combos then you'll find yourself having to memorise specific input paths and specific links between moves. It just feels more scripted than it should do, as I'm so used to other games giving me the freedom to experiment with potential options instead of handing me a list and saying "do it this way or fail at it".
In an effort to step away from other games in the genre is the beast transformations. Delivering and taking hits builds up a beast gauge (basically this game's super gauge) and once it reaches a set level the player can hit a button to transform into their character's beast form. Most of the command list remains the same, although a few extra attacks become available that are much more powerful. In addition this mode offers increased combat power and will restore a set amount of health. This mode will last for as long as the gauge retains energy in it, which drains over time and from taking hits, although the gauge won't completely empty purely from time based draining or uses a special that drains the rest of the gauge. Which means you can potentially remain a beast for the entire fight.
This proves to be a very interesting mechanic that looks cool and gives a fresh twist on the usual fighting system. It also adds an element of strategy, deciding whether you should unleash it first or use it as a counter to your opponent's transformation. It can lead to some pacing issues though, where the power increase makes it entirely possible to wipe huge chunks off a health gauge worryingly quickly just by using regular combos while in that form.
There are other fighting mechanics in use here too, with varying degrees of success. Playing in 3D you can sidestep around the arena, although I found little reason to use this much as the game plays a lot more truer to the classic 2D fighters of old. Blocking is easily handled by pressing away from the opponent, helping you to guard against dangerous assaults ready for a comeback. A special guard that requires exact timing but rewards the player with a chance to strike back is also there, and like other games is something that takes a lot or practice to do well. At least here it isn't stupidly overpowered.
The arenas are touted as having a similar "smash through walls" element as the DoA series. Here though I have to say I'm less impressed, partly because a number of these arenas do let you smash opponents through walls but end the round in a ring out as opposed to actually transitioning to another area. The few stages that do allow that aside, the arenas are pretty good for their role in giving you the space you need but tend to lack individual features.
If you're planning on fighting the computer in this game then you might want to prepare for some bad elements. Sadly, the developers misunderstood what it means to provide a challenge and instead opt to give the computer some rather cheap tactics that can make it feel really unbalanced. What is worrying is that the computer will pull this off even on the lowest difficulty setting. It's difficult for all the wrong reasons, especially in a game where long combos that the computer will flawlessly pull out will hammer huge chunks of health away. It's frustrating even for more experienced players; newer players will undoubtedly be put off entirely.
At least the game delivers on the game mode front. Generally there is nothing outside the box in terms of modes but there is a lot to indulge in. You can play through the story of arcade mode, challenge a friend in versus, practice your skills in training, tackle the time attack, go for survival and even try combat with a team setup. Playing through arcade mode can also unlock more options like watching a computer battle. If you can enjoy the actual gameplay content then there will be more than enough to occupy your time here.
However, when it comes down to it I cannot justify investing in Bloody Roar. I really like the idea behind the beast mechanic but too much of the game is drowning in mediocrity. Especially when it has to compete with the likes of Soul Calibur 2, which does everything to a much better degree. Save your pennies and opt for a more balanced exciting fighter.