Genre: Fighting Developer: Probe Publisher: Time Warner Interactive Players: 1-2 Released: 1995
Early last year, I reviewed the Genesis version of Primal Rage. For those of you who haven’t heard about the game yet, in Primal Rage dinosaurs (and two King Kong-like apes) battle one another in a gory one-on-one fighting match until only one remains for world domination. The game was pretty much an amalgam of what was popular in the nineties, taking dinosaurs, fighting games and gore, using digitized characters (in this case digitized versions of clay figurines) and putting everything together in one bloody brawler with Mortal Kombat-style fatalities (or as they’re called here, “domination moves”). While this probably doesn’t sound all that original in hindsight, back when it hit the arcades in 1994 the game stood out, mainly because it was one of the first fighting games sporting a cast not of humans, but of prehistoric beasts. Gory or disgusting fatalities, like dissolving your opponent in a stream of acidic piss, also contributed to the reputation of the game. Plus, Time Warner Interactive heavily marketed Primal Rage, resulting in the title getting released almost on every home console imaginable, as well as being caught up in the violent video scare in the mid-nineties. Now, after we already had a look at the Genesis version, let’s see how the 32X port fares.
Gameplay-wise, there is no difference to its Genesis cousin. Best played with a six-button pad, the controls are pretty decent, and the ability to freely map out your attacks (even up to two special moves) to individual buttons is a very handy option. One thing I failed to mention in my review of the Genesis version however is that both the Genesis and the 32X-port are apparently based off the 1.7 revision of the arcade game, while the SNES, PC and fifth-generation console ports are recreations of the 2.3 revision. This means that unfortunately, the 16-bit-Sega ports are lacking a number of combos and a few new special moves in comparison to the other iterations. On the other hand, both on the Genesis and the 32X the game retained its full gory glory, while the SNES version has been toned down in a move similar to the first Mortal Kombat.
As was to be expected, the graphics received an update. The 32X itself only is in charge of the character models. As a result, the individual fighters are crisp and nicely detailed, giving them more contrast and depth than what their 16-bit counterparts had to offer. The Genesis itself, meanwhile, is handling the background graphics. The shared workload pays off, as the overall visual impression is more vivid and livelier that way. The Vertigo and Diablo stages in particular profit from this: Billowing smoke, flowing lava and heavily contoured stone figurines definitely improve the games atmosphere. It’s still not as colorful as the arcade-or even the Super Nintendo versions were, but the smoother animation and more detailed graphics improve the overall impression.
Except for the slight optical overhaul, the game hasn’t improved much over the Genesis iteration. It still has the same hidden options, with bowling and a volleyball mini game as some Easter eggs. However, this also means that it inherited pretty much all of its flaws. Apart from the already mentioned missing combos and special moves, the most obvious one would be that the fastest character in the game, Talon, is still small enough that most projectile attacks simply pass over his head, giving the character an unfair advantage. Being based off an earlier revision also means that other balancing issues (like stun-locking attacks or somewhat imprecise collision detection) haven’t been smoothed out.
While Primal Rage had an uncommon premise when it was released, it lacks originality in hindsight. In terms of gameplay, it doesn’t offer much variety, and while the character models were somewhat impressive back when they were brand new and fresh, they haven’t aged particularly well. The 32X graphics look fresher and more vivid than the washed-out Genesis version, and the smoother animation come closer to the original arcade feel. But that’s about it; dinosaurs, giant apes and gore aside, this brawler doesn’t have much to offer. So if you’re a fan of giant beasts tearing into one another, give this game a go. Everyone else shouldn’t expect much more than a slightly above mediocre experience with some nice animation. As far as fighting games on the 32X go, Mortal Kombat II is probably the better option here.