Often when we think of childhood defining games, we gush with memories of extravagant, near-perfect slices of gaming history. Titles such as Chrono Trigger, Metal Gear Solid, or Metroid Prime, to name a few. Bloody Roar: Primal Fury, on the other hand? I’d barely call it a hidden gem. Not to say that I didn’t wear my joystick raw playing it, because I absolutely did! It’s just that it exists in a bizarre limbo of borrowed mechanics and simple combat, but I’ll be damned if I don’t love it to bits.
So hear me out.
Bloody Roar: Primal Fury is a 3D fighter which allows for multi-directional movement, ducking and side-stepping to better position your avatar. It’s main draw is the ability to expend ‘meter’ to transform into powerful beasts. These powered up forms grant extra attacks, regenerating health, and open up more combos. From the fairly standard Lions and Wolves, to the unsettling ‘Unborn’ and “Whoops, I hypered wrong” half-sized Penguin (which humorously avoids all but low attacks). It’s fairly simple — you build power as you fight, and can slip into beast form whenever you’re above a certain threshold. The higher your meter when this is executed, the longer you’ll last. However, if you wait for it to completely fill, you gain access to a much more powerful upgraded form — with a slight twist. While given access to your most powerful form at any time (even without meter), this comes at the cost of precious life.
Move-sets are fairly similar across the roster. You’ll find that if you’re comfortable with one character, those skills will generally transfer to another. Some fighters favour grappling, while others have slightly more complicated strings of combos, but it’s far from a complex and deep system — just punch, kick, grapple, and ‘beast’. Strings of attacks spew forwards as you tap the buttons, with little need for timing or thought. It plays a little like a one-button Tekken, with limited combo potential. Bloody Roar certainly feels more about mind-games than tight execution, which greatly diminishes the barrier to entry. It’s a blessing and a curse, as the skill ceiling is a little lower than you’d expect from a fighter.
Because of its accessibility, returning home after school to bash away at this with my friends never felt unfair, nobody leaped ahead in terms of skill and dominated the others. We had fun reading each other, and predicting the next flurry of blows. It’s an entry-level system which seemingly welcomes a button-mashing approach. Friends loved that they could start playing and perform flashy moves, a feeling which can certainly be lacking when playing more established fighters. I’ve dabbled in Street Fighter, Soul Calibur, and even a bit of Skullgirls — but none of these games were enjoyable when you had an experienced player and a newcomer duking it out (for either party). So I appreciate that when it comes to Bloody Roar, you can play without an in-depth knowledge of combos, setups, and spacing — you just get in and punch giant animals with black belts.
Another aspect that resonated with me about Bloody Roar was that aside from the almost auto-play move-sets many of the characters are equipped with, the direct control you have is just absolutely on-point. Dashing backwards and weaving forwards feels so snappy, and a well timed hit will send an opponent hurtling into the wall behind them. The constant back and forth even weakens walls, making accurate hits all the more important. Slam somebody into a fence too many times and it will break apart, making for an easy KO as you eject them from the arena. Even activating your beast-mode will send opponents tearing through the air. And you know what? It feels so good to see characters sent flying. Your simple blows carry so much weight and come out so quickly, that it makes for some enjoyable brawling.
So while I can’t praise Bloody Roar on its technical merits (other than running at a smooth 60FPS), or for its complex fighting mechanics, I can say without a doubt that it’s a bloody satisfying game. I wouldn’t recommend it over many other fighters, but its theme is unique, and its mechanics are solid enough. While the multiplayer may leave you wishing for more, its focus on mind-games and resource management actually makes for an entertaining little romp. Sometimes games don’t have to be marvels to be worth playing, and sometimes you just want to kick a penguin in its smug little face.