Bloody RoarOne great beat-'em-up!
Developer: Hudson Soft
If the battle for console superiority were based on fighting games alone (PSX Vs. N64), the N64 would be a furry, flattened roadkill.
Case in point is Hudson's brilliant Bloody Roar. Called Beastorizer in the arcade, Bloody Roar is a schoolbook example of how to take the best attributes from past fighting games and hone them into one great beat-'em-up. The most mind-bending part of this is that Hudson, which created the horrific, pathetic Dual Heroes for N64 in Japan (and which can't pay to find a publisher for it in the West), can make a sound, deep, original fighter like Bloody Roar.
Taking cues from Tobal's smooth, 3D movement; the simple, effective, and killer moves from Virtua Fighter 3; and three-times playback cinema from Fighting Vipers, Bloody Roar implements each of these aspects with skill and taste. Add to that two interesting ploys -- the metamorphosis of your character into an animal and a Rave Mode which doubles your strength and simultaneously leaves you twice as vulnerable, and gamers now have a full-on contender for the top spot in all 3D fighting games.
For those of you who love the idea of real 3D fighting, this game is all about the third dimension. The full realm of movement doesn't always enable gamers to get away with every single move, since round-house kicks and punches will still connect, but there is nothing better than trapping your opponent in the corner with a quick dodge to the side. Shoulder buttons L1 and L2 enable side-stepping that's more effective than even Tekken 3, which is a big deal, since Tekken 3, well, is Tekken 3 (this is poetry, no?); Circle turns you into a beast, Square is punch, X is kick, and Triangle is Rave Mode. The mastery of the side-step is not to be ignored, as the fighting system is build around it, so for those who ignore it, you'll be sorry (and you'll lose a lot, too). You also can turn side-stepping off in the options menu if you want, but in my opinion, that takes away all of the fun.
Technically, there is little to complain about. Although it initially seems as if there aren't a lot of moves, half- and quarter circles, and easy-memorize moves are here in abundance, while high frame rates and a speedy graphic engine enable moves to be executed quickly and without wait. The game also contains two health meters: a sweet, complex little power bar that enables you to grow back your health to a certain degree; and a Beast bar, which measures your beast power. With the exception of Virtua Fighter 3, I haven't seen a game that handles turning around that well. Bloody Roar is not an example in turning around, as gamers will often find themselves somehow trapped, unable to simply turn around and fight back, and losing points more often than not.
But Bloody Roar is a good example of balance. While Greg has massively powerful moves that do a lot of damage, he is a slow guy who can be very frustrating at times. And like Zangief in Street Fighter, he's an acquired taste. Alice is speedy and agile, but doesn't do as much damage, and characters like Yugo, Bakuryu, and Mitsuko are generally well-balanced.
The combo-system isn't as damage-heavy as games like Tekken or Killer Instinct, something I like. There are combos, but you need to find and link them yourself. You need not just learn how to fight, react, and play defense, but move up a solid learning curve that's built into the game. When you get really good, you can get at least a multiple-hit combos.
The animal transformations prove to be more than just a good marketing ploy, too. Besides being visually enticing, the beasts pack an entire arsenal of blinding, kick-ass moves special to their animal side. Add to that the "Rave" button (would it have been a "Rap" move if the game appeared in the '80s?), which doubles your strength, and you've got yourself a game to play for months to come. At the end of a battle, with little energy left, you can hit your transform button (which pushes your opponent back), and then perform combos to waste their sorry asses as a last resort.
Graphically, the game is sweet, with great shadows, detailed textures in both the background and on the characters, and likable but yet bizarre design character design. In fact, despite the cool-looking characters, the character design is, ironically, where the game goes flat. Don't get me wrong, I like their look and feel, but they aren't addictive or moving. You can only walk so far away from Street Fighter, but you're driven back because you just know you can beat that arcade loser with Guy, Chun Li, or Ken if you have just one more chance. With a game like Star Gladiator or Bloody Roar, you simply don't fall in love with the characters, and you aren't driven back to play over and over again because of their charm, character, or appeal.
The sound effects and sound overall can be given a good score simply because they do their jobs. I actually like half of the tunes, while half of them sound like they've been ripped off from forgettable '80s heavy metal tunes. The only character whose sounds are annoying are those from Alice. She's like a broken record. If anyone remembers Demonica from N64's Dark Rift, you know what I mean.
Overall, this game is a tight, playable fighter that ranks in the very upper tier of brawlers on any system, and after playing this to death, my favorite N64 fighter, Fighter's Destiny, pales in comparison.