Virtua Fighter innovated the 3D fighting game genre back in 1993. Throughout the entire decade, several developing teams from different companies found several ways on how to use what Virtua Fighter started and make it unique. Tekken incorporated their gameplay based on limb movement on top of an infinite arena. Dead or Alive used stage hazards as their method of gameplay. Battle Arena Toshinden and the Soulcalibur series used weapons in a 3D fighting environment.
However, there was one game that was mostly overlooked and it had the ability to have each character change into Zoanthropes while they fight. You may have heard of it, but that game was Bloody Roar.
Bloody Roar was released for the arcades on July 15, 1997, under the name Beastorizer. The arcade version was developed by Raizing, now known as Eighting, and it ran under the Sony ZN-1 arcade board. It was later ported to the PlayStation on November 6, 1997 in Japan, October 31, 1997 in North America, and March 1998 in Europe. The European and Japanese versions were known as Bloody Roar: Hyper Beast Duel. All versions were developed by Hudson Soft and published by Sony Computer Entertainment (now known as Sony Interactive Entertainment).
Bloody Roar’s core gameplay revolves around four buttons: one for punch, one for kick, one to use a character’s Beast moves, and one for throwing. Blocking was done by either standing still or pressing down and back. Speaking of blocking, Bloody Roar introduces Guard Breaks in 3D fighters, which was originally introduced in Samurai Shodown.
Each round starts with a semi-full Beast meter that can be activated at anytime. When a player activates Beast Mode (by pressing the Beast button), their character will transform into a Zoanthrope. While their character is under Beast Mode, they can use Beast attacks in their combos which results in cancelling strings into special moves, characters become heavier, they could recover a portion of their health, they have the ability to wall jump, and their jumping has increased. In terms of blocking, all characters will take block damage in human form while fighting a character in their beast form.
The Beast Indicator turns yellow once it’s activated, and it decreases once the character takes damage. Beast Mode ends when the meter is completely depleted, and the Beast Indicator has to be refilled based on the attacks you dish out on your opponent. While in Beast Mode, you can access Beast Rave in which you have less recovery time between combos since the character moves ten times faster. Here’s the downside of using Beast Rave: once it runs out, you will lose your Beast transformation in one hit.
The game borrows elements from Fighting Vipers in terms of stages and blowback attacks. All stages are walled and you can get blasted into them after a KO. It is possible to get a ring out after a broken wall from the previous round.
Bloody Roar has eight characters to choose from: Yugo the Wolf, Alice the Rabbit, Gadou the Lion, Bakuryu the Mole, Mitsuko the Boar, Long the Tiger, Greg the Gorilla, and Hans (Fox) the Fox. Uriko the Chimera is the final boss character of the game. The storyline in this game is based on a company called Tyron Corporation that uses zoanthropes as mind-controlled weapons, and it’s up to Yugo and the others to take them down.
Bloody Roar was a success, considering the fact that the PlayStation version is a perfect port of the Arcade version. It was praised for the gameplay, character design, and sound effects. The game would later be re-released as part of PlayStation The Best range in 1999, followed by another re-release on August 25, 2009 on the PlayStation 3 via PlayStation Network. And with success comes sequels.
Bloody Roar 2
In 1999, Bloody Roar 2 was released for Arcades and PlayStation in Japan, North America, and Europe. The North American version was named Bloody Roar II: The New Breed, while Japan and Europe were named Bloody Roar 2: Bringer of the New Age. It was developed by Raizing and Hudson Soft, while it was published by three different companies based on each national release. The North American version was published by Sony Computer Entertainment, Hudson Soft published the Japanese version, and Virgin Interactive published the European version.
While the core gameplay remained the same for the most part, there were new changes added into the game. Bloody Roar 2 introduced super moves called Beast Drive. While in Beast Mode, your character can land a devastating super that can deal major damage to your opponent. Each Beast Drive has different attributes based on each character, and it uses up your entire Beast Gauge. Blocking the Beast Drive will cause a guard break, and whiffing it will cause you to turn back into your human form.
Walled stages return in Bloody Roar 2, but they are handled differently this time around. The walls are only breakable when a character is at match point. Ring outs were completely removed from the game.
Bloody Roar 2’s storyline takes place five years after the events of the first game. Tyron Corporation collapsed, but it came with a price. Tensions between Zoanthropes and humans began to rise once fear and envy kicked in with the humans, which led into prejudice and oppression against the Zoanthropes. In response, a group called the Zoanthrope Liberation Front (or ZLF for short) was formed as a way to protect the Zoanthropes against prejudice and persecutions against the human race. Turns out that they were labeled a terrorist group and they were killing humans and kidnapping Zoanthropes as a way to brainwash them into killing machines.
The characters that returned from the first Bloody Roar game are Yugo, Alice, Long, and Gado. Uriko also returns, but this time as the Half-Beast. While Mitsuko, Greg, Hans, and the original Bakuryu didn’t return as playable characters, Bloody Roar 2 gained six new characters: Jenny the Bat, Kenji (the second Bakuryu) the Mole, Shina the Leopard, Stun the Insect, Busuzima the Chameleon, and Shenlong the Tiger.
Like the first game, Bloody Roar 2 gained positive reviews. The game was praised for the graphics and design, but was criticized for the sound, music, and gameplay changes. Despite the criticism, the game was re-released on 2010 for the PlayStation 3 via PlayStation Network in North America. Hudson Soft and Raizing took the criticisms and tried to improve on the next game.
Bloody Roar 3/Primal Rage/Extreme
The developing company, Raizing, changed their name to Eighting Ltd. in 2000. After the name change, Eighting and Hudson Soft released Bloody Roar 3 in December 2000 for the arcades, followed by a PlayStation 2 port in 2001. Bloody Roar 3 was the first game to be developed under Eighting’s name change, and the first game in the series to be released for the PlayStation 2. The North America version was published by Activision this time, while Japan and Europe version were published by Hudson Soft and Virgin Interactive once again. The Arcade version ran under the Namco System 246 hardware.
For the first time ever, the Bloody Roar series would be released for more than one console. Bloody Roar: Primal Fury was released for the Nintendo Gamecube in 2002, while Bloody Roar: Extreme was ported to the Xbox in 2003. Both games were published by Activision in North America and Europe, while Hudson Soft published the Japanese version. It may interest you to know that the Gamecube version in Japan is also named Bloody Roar: Extreme.
Bloody Roar 3 retains the gameplay from Bloody Roar 2, but introduces the Hyper Beast Drive. Hyper Beast Drive increases attack, defense, and recovery more compared to regular Beast Mode. Attack and recovery speed are faster, every attack has a Cancel Point, and you could use Beast Drives (both regular and enhanced versions) while remaining in Beast form afterwards. The downside of using Hyper Beast Drive is that you can only remain in that form in twelve seconds, and once it’s gone, you will never go into Beast Mode again since the meter disappears.
Every character now has two Beast Drives to use instead of just one. It could be done by either QCFx2+Beast or QCBx2+Beast. You can also use the preset version by pressing either P+K+B or L1.
When Primal Rage and Extreme were released, the gameplay was re-tweaked, graphics were improved, and it fixes most of the problems that were present in Bloody Roar 3. The loading times from Bloody Roar 3 were fixed in Primal Rage and Extreme. The only noticeable differences between both games are the cutscenes. Primal Rage’s cutscenes are anime-styled, while Extreme’s cutscenes are CG-styled.
Bloody Roar 3’s storyline focuses on the XGC (X-Genome Code), which is to eliminate all Zoanthropes that wield that marking on their bodies. The only way to prevent the mark from happening is to destroy the source that is causing it. Yugo formed a group called the World of Co-Existance (WOC) as a way to provide a better future between the Zoanthropes and humans alike.
Primal Fury and Extreme share the same storyline since it takes place after the third game. There was a new kingdom that emerged during the feud between Zoanthropes and humans. That new kingdom focused on peace and equality, but it turns out that they were relying on mercenaries for their personal income. They even tried to conduct cruel experiments to the Zoanthropes as a way to unlock their true potential of their transformation. In order to bring the nation together, a fighting tournament was announced.
All the characters from Bloody Roar 2 returned in Bloody Roar 3, with addition of three brand new characters: Xion the Unborn, Kohryu the Iron Mole, and Uranus the Chimera. Primal Fury introduced two more characters: Chronos the Penguin and Ganesha the Elephant. Extreme introduced one more character into the roster, which was Fang the Wolf. Fang originally appeared on the Bloody Roar: The Fang manga, and he shares some of the same moves as Yugo. He was only in the Xbox version and the Japanese Gamecube version.
Bloody Roar 3 gained positive reviews and it was considered to be the best entry of the series according to the BR community. It was praised for its offensive gameplay, but it was criticized for the defensive system not on par with other 3D fighters such as Dead or Alive or Tekken. Primal Fury also gained positive reviews as well, and it was considered one of the best fighting games on the Nintendo Gamecube. Extreme on the Xbox… not so much.
Bloody Roar 3 actually had a tournament scene, which you can find actual tournaments for this game on YouTube. You could see high level play from each players from Japan and North America exploring each of the character’s potential. If you go onto the Shoryuken Wiki, there is a tier list for this game. The tier list goes as follows:
With Bloody Roar 3 and Primal Fury’s success and Extreme’s mishap, could they try to improve the gameplay with the fourth installment?
Bloody Roar 4
Eight months after the release of Bloody Roar: Extreme, Eighting and Hudson Soft developed and released Bloody Roar 4 exclusively for the PlayStation 2 in 2003 for North America and Europe, and 2004 for Japan. The game was published by Konami and it was the first game in the series to receive a Mature rating for realistic blood and violence, and the first to use voice acting in cutscenes.
There was a brand new change for the core mechanics of Bloody Roar 4’s gameplay. In previous games, the Beast Gauge was used as separate meter that allowed you to refill your meter so that you can change into Beast Mode. This time, the Beast Gauge now acts as a separate health meter. The meter increases when you get hit in your human form, and getting hit while in Beast Mode will not affect your life meter. Once your life meter is depleted, you will automatically switch to Beast Mode for the rest of the round. Holding the Beast button charges your life meter to increase your Beast Meter before transformation. If you charged your entire life meter away, you will go into Hyper Beast Drive, another mechanic returning from Bloody Roar 3.
Bloody Roar 4’s storyline takes place one year after the events of Bloody Roar 3, Primal Fury, and Extreme. It focuses on a Dragon Zoanthrope that caused natural disasters due to the Stone Seal. Nothing much, really.
With the exception of the three characters that appeared in Primal Fury and Extreme, all the characters that appeared in Bloody Roar 3 returns in the fourth game. Four new characters join the roster in Bloody Roar 4: Nagi the Spurious, Reiji the Crow, Ryoho and Mana (only Mana changes into a Ninetail Fox), and Ryoho the Dragon.
Bloody Roar 4 was considered to be the weakest entry in the series, since it gained mixed reviews from critics and fans alike. The game was mostly criticized for the dialogue having poorly translated voice dubs, and the lack of depth in gameplay such as emphasising too much on offensive options rather than the defensive options.
It may interest you to know that Bloody Roar 4 would be the last game ever made in the series. On top of that, several key people left Hudson between 2004 and 2011 such as co-founder Hiroshi Kudo and Bomberman creator Shinichi Nakamoto.
Around October 1, 2011, Hudson Soft announced on Twitter that there will be a new Bloody Roar game in production. The tweet would be deleted three days later after revealing that the fans were trolled by a fake Twitter account.
But don’t let that fake Twitter account fool you. In February 2011, there was actually a Bloody Roar sequel that was under production by Hudson. It never came to light since Hudson Soft ceased operations on March 1, 2012 and merged with Konami, along with the lack of financial push and marketing. Morgan Hero, former manager of Hudson Entertainment, mentioned on his blog that he was the one who pushed the idea for the company due to the fact that the fighting game genre resurfaced again thanks to the release of Street Fighter IV. He hopes that someday, a publisher and a developer would pick the game up and do the series justice.
As for Eighting, they are still active as a developing team. They worked on games such as Tatsunoko vs. Capcom (Cross Generation and Ultimate All-Stars), Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (Vanilla and Ultimate), Fate/unlimited codes, Castlevania Judgement, Naruto: Clash of Ninja series, Kamen Rider series, and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. The most recent title that Eighting developed was Kamen Rider: Battride War Genesis for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita, and that game was released on February 25, 2016.
The first two games have been re-released for the PlayStation Network on the PS3 and PSP if you want to try them out for yourselves. If you are curious about high-level Bloody Roar 3 gameplay, there are several tournament videos such as Kouhatsu and Bella Vista Brawl lying around on YouTube.
Also worth mentioning is that there was a Bloody Roar manga that only lasted two volumes. None of the characters in the game appeared in the manga. As previously mentioned, Fang is the only character from the manga that appeared in the Japanese Gamecube version of Primal Fury and the worldwide Xbox version of Extreme.
Bloody Roar may not be as big as Tekken, Dead or Alive, Virtua Fighter, or SoulCalibur, but it did gain a following within fighting game fanatics. One of their main flaws with the gameplay is that it emphasized too much on offense and not enough on defense.
Will we ever see a new Bloody Roar game? Who knows at this point. It’s an underrated fighter that focuses on humans changing into animals while they fight. The first two games had a great start, they struck gold with the third game and the Gamecube version, and then they lost momentum with the Xbox version and the fourth game.
Bloody Roar. Another 3D Fighter that is left unsung.
Until then... Train Up, Fighters.