As if the idea of beating people up using exaggerated martial-arts combos weren't enough of a draw, the Bloody Roar games also let you transform into anthropomorphic animals that, according to the games' fiction, are even better than people at beating people up using exaggerated martial-arts combos. The fourth game in the series, Bloody Roar: Primal Fury, is based on Bloody Roar 3 for the PlayStation 2. It adds a couple of new characters, some new extras, much better graphics, and much faster loading times, though it retains its predecessor's rather simplistic fighting system. Bloody Roar: Primal Fury may not be representative of the sophisticated side of the fighting game genre, but it certainly looks great, and it can be fun. It's also the first traditional fighting game for the GameCube.
The influence of anime upon Bloody Roar: Primal Fury is apparent from the get-go. The game opens with a colorful animated sequence that shows the game's various characters doing their thing. You'll find that each character also gets his or her own brief anime-style epilogue when you finish the arcade mode. All the anime stuff looks pretty good, yet Bloody Roar's actual in-game graphics are much better--the 3D-rendered character models do an excellent job of flaunting the GameCube's processing power. Though the animations of the fighters aren't exceptional and the default view of the bouts is just far enough away from the fighters that you can't really see them in detail, when the camera zooms in for a close-up of the winner of a match, you'll undoubtedly be impressed. Less than a year ago, you'd hardly expect to find such highly detailed characters in prerendered cutscenes, let alone right there being rendered on the fly. From subtle changes in the characters' facial expressions to tiny details seen in their clothing, Bloody Roar: Primal Fury looks great, and it runs at a perfectly smooth 60 frames per second. The background scenery isn't quite as striking as the characters, though it still provides plenty to gawk at.
The characters sound much like you'd probably expect them to. Their voices fit them well, though when they shape-change to animal form, they sound pretty generic. The game's bubbly soundtrack, consisting of completely uncool guitar riffs, is perhaps a suitable match for its anime-influenced character designs, though it can also get rather irritating. All told, Bloody Roar: Primal Fury sounds about as good as most fighting games do these days.
Its gameplay is best suited to those who aren't too serious about the fighting genre, though there's at least some level of depth. The controls are simplistic--there's a punch button, a kick button, and a button that makes you instantly change into your character's beast form, if you can do so at the time. You can also use the shoulder buttons to sidestep left or right, though such tactics are usually unnecessary. You'd do just as well to jam on either the punch or the kick buttons rapidly in order to produce long strings of dazzling attacks. You might think that varying up your punches and kicks, or using throws or counters, would be a good idea. In practice, though, you don't really have to. Not against the computer, anyway. The computer is easy to beat by using the same moves over and over. At higher difficulties, and especially toward the end of the eight-stage arcade mode, the computer starts fighting cheap. You probably won't mistake this for a challenge, though. At any rate, if you've ever wondered what the pejorative expression "button masher" really refers to, you'll find out when you play Bloody Roar: Primal Fury. It's unfair to say the game's fighting system is totally superficial, since there are a few complex tricks that can be learned. However, you could get by more easily without bothering. The difference between an excellent fighting game and a game like Bloody Roar: Primal Fury is that Bloody Roar offers little reward or advantage to players who bother to learn all the moves.
Fortunately, Bloody Roar: Primal Fury controls well using the stock GameCube controller, which actually doesn't seem well suited for fighting games. The controller's most obvious problem--the tiny little directional pad--is mitigated by the fact that the analog stick actually works fine here. That's mainly because most of the special moves in Bloody Roar: Primal Fury require circular Street Fighter II-style motions rather than the staccato taps of the D-pad often required in fighting game series like Tekken and Virtua Fighter. Whether the GameCube controller would be good for other fighting games is still an open question, but it's perfectly fine for use with Bloody Roar: Primal Fury.
The combat is visually spectacular. Many attacks send the opponent on the receiving end flying backward, fast and hard, sometimes into walls, and sometimes straight through them. Other attacks send opponents skyward, letting you follow up with juggle combos. Every character has a couple of devastating super moves that turn the screen into a porridge of hit sparks as a gratuitous combo meter racks up dozens of effortless hits. These super moves, though toned down somewhat from Bloody Roar 3, are still really powerful, letting you easily shave off about a third of your opponent's health. Meanwhile, transforming into beast form, as in previous Bloody Roar games, is just as much a gimmick as a gameplay element. Actually, if you've played previous Bloody Roar games, then it's far less of a gimmick by now. At any rate, characters in beast form gain a few new moves and abilities and regenerate some of their lost health, but otherwise aren't too different from their standard forms. The characters aren't too different from one another either, once you get past their looks.
Bloody Roar: Primal Fury has a number of secrets that can be unlocked, from hidden characters to a "kids" mode that inflates the heads of all the fighters, making them look "cute" but also emphasizing their changing facial expressions. Since it won't require much effort for you to beat the game with any of the characters, it's nice that the game at least throws in some bonus stuff for variety's sake. Even so, since the computer won't pose much of a challenge, you probably won't get much value out of Bloody Roar: Primal Fury as a single-player game. There are more than a dozen characters, but you could finish the game with all of them in a sitting or two. As a two-player game--and fighting games are always better when you play them against a willing human opponent--Bloody Roar: Primal Fury can be fun, though it can also be frustrating because of the punishing super moves and all-too-easily performed chain combos. Still, if you don't take your fighting games too seriously, you'll probably enjoy playing the game against a friend for a while. At the very least, you'll both agree it looks good.
Perhaps it's unfair to expect all that much from the first traditional fighting game for the GameCube. Then again, the Dreamcast did get the exceptional Soul Calibur right off the bat. Overall, Bloody Roar: Primal Fury isn't as good as any of the latest installments in the major 3D fighting game series out there, though it's totally competent and quite appealing in some ways. It's a fine way to show off your GameCube and a fine way to kill some time, especially if you've got some friends around who'd be willing to try it. Even if they're not into fighting games, you wouldn't be lying if you tried to reassure them that it's easy to get into and get good at Bloody Roar: Primal Fury.