Bloody Roar: Primal Fury

Bloody Roar: Primal Fury / Bloody Roar: Extreme - Nintendo GameCube, Microsoft Xbox (2002)

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The last good thing to come out of the series before the dire ending that was Bloody Roar 4, Primal Fury isn’t quite a sequel, nor is it just a revision. Rather, it’s somewhere in between, featuring new characters (and new designs for the old cast), new stages, and new mechanics while using BR3 as a base. It’s often considered by series fans to be the best of the series, and there’s plenty of reason to see why. It’s not that it’s drastically different from what the series already established, but adds a layer of polish that helps edge this title out.

As with previous games, Primal Fury is a 3D fighter, with offensive gameplay and over-the-top moves that bring more to mind games like Fighting Vipers than Tekken or Dead or Alive. While it’s commonly believed the series never had the depth of its competition, they’re solid, thrilling fighters in their own right, regardless. The series’ trademark is the ‘beast’ button, which allows fighters to transform into powerful werecreatures as long as they have the meter for it. From there, claw swipes, pounces, and neck bites join the usual martial arts moves, many of which have the opponent bleeding a shower of sparks. (The violence was toned down a little in this entry, but it’s forgivable.)

There’s two new fighters on offer, each of them generally the opposite of one another. Ganesha the elephant is an ultra-heavy grappler who’s much tougher to get a juggle on. Chronos the penguin has a lot of tricky, dance-like moves, and has an extra-short penguin form and a much stronger phoenix form to confound opponents with. There were also some tweaks under the hood, such as being able to sidestep, as well as tweaks to the “Hyper Beast” super transformation mechanic, giving you all the benefits with far less of the drawbacks. Potentially broken, perhaps, but much more usable than it was before.

Anybody who isn’t so familiar, however, will find a lot to love. There’s a certain speed and blistering intensity to every match that’s difficult to find in any 3D fighter, where offense never lets up and almost anybody can let out a constant barrage of moves. That’s not to say there’s not plenty to learn, however, from Stun’s devastating chain throws to Uriko’s six-level combo tree. Despite this, it’s also far easier to pick up on than your average Tekken — most moves come from holding a direction as you pound a button or through simple quarter circles, letting you discover a character’s foibles quick.

It’s a game any fighter fan can enjoy – beginners for its fast and responsive controls allowing for a lot of freedom, as well as the variety of unlockable features. More advanced players can enjoy the risk and reward the meter mechanic offers, the viability of the whole cast, and the pure offense the game focuses on. It’s the peak of what took three games to establish, and has sadly never been topped since. While it’s often dismissed for its gimmick, anybody with a fondness for 3D fighters owes it to themselves to try this one out.

An Xbox version, released in all regions under the name Bloody Roar Extreme, also exists. It features a new fighter based off of Yugo by the name of Fang, who previously appeared in a manga based off of the series.

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