Reviewed: July 28, 2003
Released: May 27, 2003
Bloody Roar Extreme is the latest game in the evolutionary beast-morphing fighting genre. Take two parts Tekken and one part Altered Beast and you get one of the most ingenious franchises in the fighting game history and only one of a very few Xbox fighters.
Bloody Roar has been around since the early days of the original PlayStation and its unique beast-morphing concepts easily had this game competing with the more technically savvy Tekken and Dead or Alive titles. Throughout the years there have been several sequels that have driven the franchise slowly forward, but in comparison to other fighting franchises, Bloody Roar is starting to show its age and limited vision.
Bloody Roar Extreme, much like each new game in the series is only a marginal improvement on the title that came before it; in this case Bloody Roar: Primal Fury for the GameCube which was an incremental improvement over Bloody Roar 3 on the PS2. As the game hops from one platform to the next it picks up a few new characters with their own moves and unique beast modes but that’s about it.
The Xbox is a bit on the shallow end of the fighting game pool with a few cross-platform ports (DOA, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance) and even fewer original or exclusive titles like Tao Feng. So while Xbox gamers may be hungry for a new fighter they might find the simplistic nature of the Bloody Roar combat less than challenging.
This becomes quickly apparently when you start to learn the combat system comprised of two attacks, punch and kick. The other two buttons are reserved for blocking and shape shifting while the triggers circle-strafe around the arena. With such limited combat inputs you can count the total moves for each character without even breaking out your pocket calculator. You get a unique move for each button multiplied by the eight possible directions on the D-pad. Throw in some special attacks and you have a fairly basic fighting game that, while fun, just doesn’t remain competitive with modern fighters and their vast libraries spanning hundreds of moves.
Of course the hook to the series is also the game’s saving grace. Changing into your beast form will give you more powerful attacks but you also keep the health you had as a human. This leads to some interesting moments of quick-thinking strategy. You can only change when your Beast Change meter is full – this is done by delivering or receiving damage. Knowing when to change and when to save your morph for a more appropriate time is about the only thinking you will do in this game. Otherwise, it’s just a button-masher with very little strategy.
Perhaps my favorite part of the game is the innovative ring-out system. This is nothing new to anyone familiar with fighting games; some games even have multiple tiers and fighting areas when you knock an opponent out of the immediate area. Bloody Roar approaches the concept with a unique vision. You first have to smash through the walls or barriers surrounding the ring by knocking your opponent into them then knock them back through the hole you just created. Not only does this create some interesting strategy of its own, but it also eliminates the easy victories of those other games where you could trick the AI into getting close to the edge then kicking them off.
There are plenty of game modes to keep you busy including all the traditional ones like Training, Survival, Vs., and multiplayer team modes of all these. There is also the Arcade mode that you need to take each character through to unlock special moves and other gameplay modes. This is where you may experience a small problem and excessive frustration with some incredibly unbalanced gameplay.
You will easily walk all over the ladder-style arcade tournament in the preliminary battles, but when you reach the inevitable final boss you will be quickly educated as to the rules of “cheating AI”. This guy is insanely difficult and not because he is any “good” but simply because the computer plays the character flawlessly. He blocks 99% of whatever you throw at him and his attacks do double or triple the damage you are used to. While I don’t mind a difficult finale it would be nice if the ladder leading to that final boss were preparing me. The huge gap in difficulty between the final boss and the character you fight just before him is immense.
I was quite impressed with the visuals on this latest Xbox edition. The PS2 version of Bloody Roar was very nice and the GameCube offered some slight improvements but this is by far the nicest looking of the series. The characters are large and the up-close camera lets you see every last detail of these colorful characters.
Obviously, the beast mode gives you a lot more eye candy than watching their human counterparts dance around the screen, but there is plenty to enjoy during the entire game. The animation is quite fluid and the moves all merge together with some nice transitional animations. The combat moves are short and sweet so you don’t get caught in the trap of entering a move then watching it play out in some lengthy scripted animation and everything is running at a flawless 60fps.
Some of the framerate goodness can be attributed to the less-than-stellar backgrounds. Nothing is that creative or elaborately constructed and there is an apparent lack of ambient items to bring the levels to life. There are many games out there that do a better job creating atmosphere. The arenas of Bloody Roar Extreme are as simple and generic as it’s combat system.
I have to give the designers some serious credit with their sound package. Everything sounds great and totally realistic for the actions being depicted on the screen. Kicks and punches land with a satisfying thud and you get some spine-tingling slashing sounds when claws streak across the screen and slice into your opponent. There are a few ambient environmental effects to help bring the world to life and there are plenty of fancy sound effects to accompany all the over-the-top actions and morphing animation.
The music gets the job done with nothing that really stands out as being exceptional. The guitar rock is mixed with some other instrumental tracks to create a soundtrack that is as dated (or classic) as the franchise itself. Custom soundtracks and Dolby Digital Surround would have been welcome additions to the game, but what we have is still good.
With 14 challenging characters to master, multiple game modes, and plenty of stuff to unlock you will find at least 20-30 hours of fighting action waiting for you in Bloody Roar Extreme. The two-player modes will extend this considerably and offer even more challenging gameplay.
Konami has wisely positioned Bloody Roar Extreme in the budget classification by selling it for only $30. I can easily recommend this game at that price while anything higher would have had me screaming “rental”. The gameplay is certainly dated, the combat is simple, but may be just the thing the younger kiddies are looking for. The low-blood count gives this game a Teen rating which is probably the perfect audience. Anyone older or more experienced will probably scoff at the two attack buttons and lack of sophisticated combos, but there is an inherent charm about morphing into powerful beasties and fighting with claws that just can’t be denied.