Reboot This: Primal Rage
Why Primal Rage should be the next fighting game reboot
I don’t like to say that I hold a lot of weight in the gaming community, because I don’t. That won’t stop me from pretending I do.
I’ve done the research, crunched the numbers, and I can personally guarantee that approximately one person (me) would purchase a new Primal Rage. Day one, 60 bucks, won’t even look for a sale. I’ll even buy the $150 collector’s edition. Just throw in one of those old Primal Rage toys that were all the, ahem, rage back in my youth. I can’t speak for others, but I know what I like, and I like seeing extremely violent (and if possible, scientifically accurate) dinosaur bloodbaths.
I’ll be honest, Primal Rage was fairly mediocre. The dinosaurs were cool (if inaccurate) but the originally planned sequel wasn’t released for a reason. The ‘Rage’ didn’t quite gain the popularity of a Street Fighter 2 or Mortal Kombat in the arcades. It did gain a strong niche due to riding the coattails of those aforementioned arcade hits alongside the popularity of the original Jurassic Park movie. 1994 was simply a perfect storm for prehistoric pugilism.
Once Primal Rage left the arcade, home console versions of the game were found to be of notoriously poor quality, depending on what system you brought the game home for. My own SNES version of Primal Rage was painfully slow to a point of unplayability for gamers of more discerning tastes. I persevered though. There were dinosaurs in it! Of course I’m going to play it, but it was not a cakewalk.
In my youth (before things were a Google search away) I happened upon a cheat code that would almost double the speed of the game, although it would also turn off the sound.
What the H?
It’s like a car slowing down because someone turned on the radio. Fortunately, it wasn’t a tough compromise considering how bad the music and audio quality were on the SNES port.
The storyline to this game was standard fighting game fare, even to this day. It was somehow deemed solid enough to warrant a short novel based on the video game. A novel I am honestly just dying to read.
Let me break it down for you: Dinosaurs are getting things done. Dinosaur gods. Armageddon. No more dinosaur gods. Humans hit the scene. New Armageddon. Dino gods reawaken on new “Urth.” Battle between the forces of good and evil. Also, space dinosaur who lives on the moon.
Why Michael Bay isn’t rebooting this franchise into a movie is a mystery.
As for gameplay, controlling the characters is ridiculously backwards. Unlike the ‘so common it goes completely unquestioned’ idea in fighting games that you input a few directions, then tap a button, resulting in an attack, instead you hold down several buttons, then input a series of directions. Imagine playing Super Mario, and you couldn’t throw a fireball unless you held down B then hit forward. How about a racing game in which you couldn’t hit the gas without first deciding which way you want to turn? It’s like playing the Heavy Rain version of Mortal Kombat.
What gameplay designer made this decision? There are dinosaurs fighting! You are not trying to redefine the standards of a genre and shake up the industry. Just let me down-forward-punch this disgusting monkey in the face!
Herein lies the issue. I honestly don’t think a lot of the programmers cared a whole lot about this game (despite the amount of work that went into the stop motion animation). It was another me-too fighter riding on the wave of popularity/controversy of the Mortal Kombat series, as one can tell in the motion capture graphics, not to mention the ability to piss on fallen adversaries.
Why bring back a video game that was by many standards nothing of any value, with it’s only gimmick being offensive, over the top violence? The offensive over the top violence obviously.
I look out on the video game market, a market that seems to demand increasing levels of satisfyingly visceral and kinetic violence. Then I look at fighting games. Fighting. That’s the whole game. It’s bloody and violent and… no wait, it’s more often than not, cartoonish and colorful. How did we come to this?
That is not to say that the art style or quality of these games is sub par, far from it in fact. I love any well built game, fighter or otherwise, no matter what ridiculous direction they decide to go in, but they simply aren’t going in enough ridiculous directions these days.
Let’s set this all on the table. In a country with an endless stream of over the top violence flowing like a river, and in a video game genre specifically about violence, Mortal Kombat is still the only tournament worthy fighter with a little blood? One game that actually looks like a battle, and not just a jovial sparring match? Perhaps in a supernatural fight between the greatest hand to hand fighters the earth knows, someone might end up getting a little bloody, maybe even killed. Just an assumption.
It wasn’t always like this though. Back when Mortal Kombat was released in 1992, the doors were flung open on violence in video games. For me, it was love at first fatality. Companies couldn’t release titles like Primal Rage and Eternal Champions fast enough. Even the squeaky clean Nintendo (who made the Mortal Kombat developers change out their more violent fatalities) acquiesced and allowed Rareware to put some (bloodless) fatalities in Killer Instinct, not to mention gave MKII free reign with even more violence.
Now we are in the midst of a second coming of fantastic fighting games, and yet it still remains that only Mortal Kombat brings both the violence and the arcade fighting flavor to this genre.
All these issues could be things of the past once a studio, preferably Netherrealm, decides to reboot Primal Rage.
Besides the fact that Netherrealm, creators of recent best selling fighters Mortal Kombat and Injustice, are the only ones who have proven themselves in the narrow field of extremely violent 2D fighting games, some internet sleuthing would make it appear that the Primal Rage name may have ended up in the hands of Warner Brothers, and thus free to use should those guys in Netherrealm need a new game to make between Mortal Kombat titles.
Primal Rage was nothing but a prehistoric carbon copy of Mortal Kombat, right down to having seven warriors, (including two who were merely palette swaps a la Scorpion/Sub-Zero). If that is true (it is) then it stands to reason that the creators of the original MK can make Primal Rage everything it could, and should be. Throw some feathers on Talon, put a Spinosaurus in the game. Toss a Quetzalcoatl in and have it just flying around the stage shrieking and flapping. There will be blood splattering and bones flying everywhere. There is not one polygon in this game that doesn’t have the possibility to blow my mind.
I doubt Netherrealm will hear me out, but I hope there are others who feel the way I do about Primal Rage. We have had a renewed taste of the over the top violence that defines Mortal Kombat with the series’ 2011 reboot. Gamers are many things, including bloodthirsty, and we demand more. What better place to continue the burnings and beheading than the savage future the natives call Urth?
Since it is dinosaurs fighting, a developer could probably even sneak off with a T rating, although, just take the M because I want to play some human-eating volleyball!
Anthony Ruybalid is freelance writer residing in Los Angeles, California. He’s been writing about video games and video game music since 2006. When not writing, he spends time on the 3DS, or playing the latest fighting or racing game. You can follow on Twitter: @genoboost or challenge him to a fight/race on PS3 by adding PSN ID: genoboost