Primal Rage – Sequel, Spin-Off, Start Over, or Stay Dead?

Welcome to this week’s, “Sequel, Spin Off, Start Over or Stay Dead?” Each week we’re going to look at a dormant franchise that was once pretty popular, but for some reason has disappeared into the sands of time. Diehard GameFAN staffers will have four options for what they want to have happen to the series and you can see them in the title of this piece. For a little more detailed description see below:

Sequel – A direct sequel to the franchise. This means if it used sprites and was in 2-D, that’s how you want the next game to be as well. This might involve putting the game on a handheld system instead of a console, but it keeps the nostalgia and classic feel alive.

Spin Off – This is where you take the characters or a specific character is a totally different direction from the established franchise. Examples include Luigi’s Mansion, Hey You, Pikachu!, Shadow Hearts (From Koudelka), and so on.

Start Over – This is a reimagining of the series from the ground up. Perhaps it’s time to bring the series into 3-D. Perhaps you want a totally different control scheme or to throw away the old continuity. In a nutshell, this is taking the brand name from the old series and that’s about it. Everything else is new and re-envisioned.

Stay Dead – This is pretty obvious. This is a toxic franchise that you don’t want to see return in any way shape or form. Let the dead rest.

This week, we’re not looking at a franchise so much as a pretty infamous fighter whose violence and finishers stirred up a lot of controversy and anger. No, it’s not Mortal Kombat as that actual is an entire series that is still going on strong (although with Midway’s demise, that series is now left up in the air). No, we’re talking about Primal Rage, an Atari GT fighter released in 1994 which did amazingly well financially, but was trashed critically. The sequel never actually made it into production and so for sixteen years your only chance to play as urinating monkeys or human eating T-Rexes has come through horrible console ports or, if you are “lucky” enough, through the original unedited arcade cabinet. Ten of our staff here at Diehard GameFAN decided to comment this week on what should be done with this well known, but by no means good series. Let’s see what fate awaits Primal Rage

Primal Rage

ML Kennedy – Stay Dead

Let’s just act like Primal Rage never happened. We can do that, right? It is such a shame that a game where monkeys fight dinosaurs had to sink to the lowest common denominator. (I can’t believe that I wrote that with no intended irony.)

I’m sure there will always be an audience for farting in fighting games and golden shower finishers, I just don’t want to be a part of that thing.

AJ Hess -Stay Dead

…or Stay Extinct in this case. Look, I love creative fighting games as much as the next guy, but this series is done. Let it stay in the ground for digital archaeologists to find in a few hundred years. The game relied far too much on cheap moves and cheap gags. I have no time in my life for farting apes.

Jon Widro – Stay Dead

Out of all the games covered by this feature, it’s hard to even call Primal Rage a franchise, given it is comprised of only a single game. This game is a perfect example of a “me too” production common to this day, where a popular game is cloned many times in search of a quick buck. Take the gory Mortal Kombat formula of 2-D fighting – but with DINOSAURS. The game was bad, the home ports at the time were bad, and the arcade version on Midway Arcade Treasures 2 is still not fun. It’s easy to think that a fighting game with dinosaurs would be fun, but the execution was horrendous and might have ruined any attempt at the concept in the future.

Aaron Sirois – Stay Dead

For the love of God, stay dead! Look, I like the idea of using giant prehistoric monsters in a fighting game just like the next guy, but they never work out. Primal Rage was no exception. Sure I had a little fun with it when I was young and incredibly stupid, but it really, really sucked. It’s a (pardon the pun) dinosaur from the age when a little blood was all you needed for a fighting game to be successful. It just doesn’t have the chops (I really don’t intend to write these puns, I swear.) to compete in today’s world. It would probably turn into another arena fighter and handily win Worst Game of the Year from everyone. The only good thing about the game was the random episode of Dexter’s Laboratory when they played a knock off of it.

Chris Bowen – Stay Dead

Even when it was new, Primal Rage was a me-too fighter, just trying to cash in on the popularity of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. What, pray-tell, makes Primal Rage better or even as good as any other fighter to come from the 90s? Does anything really separate it from War Gods? Primal Rage was a bad video game, and I don’t see it becoming any better.

It isn’t helped by the fact that the Primal Rage IP is owned by Atari, who can’t get out of their own way anymore. They’re a bad company with a bad name that’s only a part of bad games.

Seriously… how does rebooting this franchise make sense again? It never should have been made in the first place. Leave it alone.

Mark B. – Stay Dead

We’re never going to get to Tobal, are we? It’s just going to be a race to the bottom with fighting games from here on out, isn’t it? I’m going to wake up one morning wanting to write about how I could rock a motherfucker with Chuji-Woo and Alex is going to ask me “Hey, what did you think of Clayfighter?” and I’m just going to weep into my coffee.

I don’t like Primal Rage, is what I’m saying here.

It’s a Mortal Kombat knock-off featuring claymation dinosaurs instead of motion-captured people. It’s developed by Atari, who has brought us such wonderful fighting games as Fight For Life and Kasumi Ninja. It features a farting and vomiting ape FOR ABSOLUTELY NO REASON. The only, and I stress ONLY, reason ANYONE remembers it is because it was a fighting game with dinosaurs in it, which is a lot like saying the only reason anyone remembers Time Killers is because you could lop people’s arms off: notoriety does not make the game good.

I acknowledge that the franchise had some original stylistic elements, as DJ notes below. I counter this, however, by noting that I own a fighting game called Battle Construction Vehicles. This is a fighting game where bulldozers and cranes fight to the death. It is the most original game you have EVER seen, I swear it to you, and it is absolutely god awful. Is it great that the game has some original concepts? Certainly. Does this justify the horrid mechanics beneath the game? By no means. The game itself is little more than a “me too” fighting game with a couple neat mechanics tacked to a weak fighting engine, and time has not been kind to the game or its reputation.

Basically, as a kid I loved dinosaurs so much that I wanted to be a paleontologist when I grew up, and I still think this game should stay extinct. Hur hur.

Matt Yeager – Start Over

I guess I’m the only person on the site that liked this game, but I also liked Time Killers back in the day as well. What can I say? When I was let loose in an arcade with a pocketful of quarters, apparently I was drawn towards crappy fighting games. I had it on the Gameboy and it gave me blisters on my thumbs.

I think there would be enough interest in dinosaurs and giant apes enough that maybe a well produced Xbox Live Arcade/Playstation Network game could be made out of the series. I don’t think it would ever sell well as a full retail offering however.

DJ Tatsujin – Start Over

I usually get a bit of flack over this, but, I actually enjoyed Primal Rage when it released in 1994. As a fine connoisseur of arcade fighters, I found the title to be unique when fields of games such as Fighter’s History were content on just trying to imitate Street Fighter II. On the other hand, though, I will easily admit Primal Rage wasn’t exactly the best fighter ever developed, especially in its compressed home versions.

Given the fact most people’s impressions of the game merely stem from a monkey that urinates, flatulates and regurgitates, it’s hard to believe the common public has dove as deep as I did into Primal Rage. If I could agree on one argument, however, it is that the title has not aged very well, visually or mechanically. The stop-motion animation is fuzzy in the home versions due to compression, holding down buttons and inputting combinations to execute moves isn’t as fluid as it should be, the character roster is shallow, the single-player mode is unrewarding with no boss character to fight and balance isn’t exactly one of the game’s strongest suits. Given the title’s presentation (most notably the powerful arcade installment), though, someone could really make quite the current-day fighter with the premise.

I was 12 years old when Primal Rage first released and as a pre-teen boy, how freakin’ cool is it to see two dinosaurs battle each other to the death? The dinosaurs pulled in the younger crowd and the violence reeled in everyone looking for their next “Mortal Kombat fix.” If that isn’t appeal, I don’t know what is. Primal Rage was a fantastic idea that just wasn’t as great as a finished product, so I would believe the game has a leg to stand on in this day and age. The originality is the hook here: Onstage worshippers could be eaten to restore health if the player could combo, a volcano killed the fighters if time ran out, the HUD featured a heart that beat faster as the dino was injured and burst when the player ran out of health and a few of the finishing attacks were interesting and risqué for their time (yes, some of them are really stupid, too). If re-imagined, a lot of the game’s concepts could potentially go really far.

Given this raw appeal and a recent jolt to the fighting game arena, my proposal is to start the series over. Go back to the drawing board and fix the broken fighting mechanics while bringing the presentation up to today’s standards – i.e. not using clay models that smack each other with minimal frames of animation. Given the newer technology, the game could be ripe with different species and I doubt people would care if different time periods were introduced such as having Pleistocene era woolly mammoths or Elasmotherium going toe-to-toe with the dinos. A developer could certainly do a lot with the visceral nature of the game and the rich history of extinct animals; however, it has to play well. Even though I enjoyed the game the first time around, it just wasn’t fun to most people and fun is something we certainly expect from prehistoric beasts of epic proportions clawing and gnawing each others’ scales off.

Guy Desmarais – Start Over

I remember reading about Primal Rage in Nintendo Power back a long time ago. Just by looking at the screenshots, I knew I had to try the game. After all, it was about giant monkeys fighting dinosaurs, which is pretty much a winning concept if done right. Hell, Battle of Giants: Dinosaurs for the Nintendo DS proved that such a concept still has its place to this day.

The problem is that I eventually got to try it at a friend’s place, thankfully before I put any of my own money down on it. What I discovered was a bland game with lazy characters design and frustrating controls. The characters really are the worst part though. Seriously, dinosaurs and prehistoric stuff was pretty popular back then, so there was a lot of material that kids were already familiar with to get inspiration from. Instead, we got pallette swap characters with different names: two monkeys, two T-Rex. Even Mortal Kombat wasn’t as lazy with its identical ninjas. At least, these characters had different personalities and special moves.

There was also the number of characters. Seven characters? That’s way too short for any respectable fighting game out there. Even the first version of Street Fighter 2 had eight, and it was borderline in order to keep a kid’s short attention span. The only time I had been more disappointed with a roster in a fighting game was with the SNES version of Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game. Seriously, where were Yoko and Bam Bam? Screw you, Nintendo.

The fighting part wasn’t that much better. Even as a kid, I had a knack for remembering button combinations. I could master a couple of characters on Street Fighter 2 and Killer Instinct, but Primal Rage bouts quickly degenerated into button mashing matches, even with the Nintendo Power articles right there to show us the special moves.

If we reboot the franchise, repair all the things that were broken AND add new characters, then yes, I could see the franchise finally functioning. I still have as much interest as back then in seeing dinosaurs and monkey fight. I just want a little bit of variety, and special moves that I can actually execute without having to press everything at the same time in the hope of somehow pulling out something.

This franchise has potential, but it completely wasted it once. The original was the definition of “style over substance”. With a little bit of work and imagination, a new version of Primal Rage could avoid the fate of its predecessor.

Alexander Lucard – Start Over

Look, I found Primal Rage amusing for about an hour when I first played it in the arcades. I found the finishing moves amusing in much the same way I enjoyed the Friendships and Babalities of Mortal Kombat II. However the game was poorly made and I would eventually return to my fighters of choice like Darkstalkers or The King of Fighters.

However, as poor as the arcade version could be, the home versions were even worse. There has never been a quality port of the game (I use the word “quality” loosely) due to the weird coding job done with the original game. The weird game coding is such that there can not be a proper port of this game, and then even authentic and legal versions of the game, ranging from home console versions to the supposedly “arcade perfect” port in Midway Arcades Treasures 2 is messed up to where it is missing some combos, finishers and the like. This means the only way to truly experience the game is with an old arcade cabinet and the developers of the original game refuse to tell ANYONE how to unlock the ROM BIOS for authentic emulation or porting. This is one of the most horrible things about any video game ever as it’s basically a middle finger even to the fans who loved this game. No wonder the sequel was scrapped and eventually only released in the form of an awful novel.

With that said, the original games and all of its shitty home release versions sold extremely well. People like this franchise. When MAT2 came out, people were excited about the re-release of Primal Rage. I should know; I had to review the damn thing. That was only a few years ago too, which means there is obviously still an audience for this series. So if it would sell and actually redeem the idea of monsters fighting horribly to the death, than I say go for it. You would just need a whole new team of developers and several more characters to go with the weird dinosaur god creatures you played as in order to fill out the roster. There are people that like urine, feces and fart jokes in their game. Why else are there people that still want another Conker title? I may not be one of them, but I can still see the potential for a good game to come out of a series about magical dinosaurs killing each other, as well as the profit potential for a company like Atari that could sure use a hit on their hands.

End Result –
Stay Dead: 6
Start Over: 4
Sequel: 0
Spin-Off: 0

Wow, this was actually pretty close. I was expecting this to be a Bubsy level hate fest, yet some of us were still able to find some positives left in Primal Rage. Of course the majority of the staff here at Diehard GameFAN would still rather see these quasi-dinos left buried in the sands of time. Who knows, perhaps when Atari gets desperate, we’ll see the game reemerge. Of course my only question left is, “Why was Primal Rage on a Midway compilation when Atari has always owned it?”

Next week, we’ll be looking at the only series White Wolf ever had for consoles and if it has enough staying power to return from the dead, even after the tabletop series has long since died. See you then!



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One response to “Primal Rage – Sequel, Spin-Off, Start Over, or Stay Dead?”

  1. Nick Avatar

    I was so disappointed with Primal Rage.

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