• Bloody Roar Extreme Review - Nintendo Gamecube

    The N64 had a minute library of fighting games and the handful that were available generally failed to impress. With that in mind, owners of the Gamecube will be pleased to see signs of some decent support in that genre within the early stage of its life. First up is the latest edition to the Bloody Roar series. Its origins date back to the Playstation, with a number of sequels on both of Sony's machines. Now the PS2 game, Bloody Roar 3, has received a major overhaul and has been released onto the Gamecube in "Extreme" form.

    These days a fighting game is going to need a decent gimmick to really set itself apart from the rest of the field, and in Bloody Roar's case it comes in the form of its Beast transformations whereby each of the games characters can transform into 2 other forms. Firstly there is the basic beast mode. This can be accessed once a meter at the base of the screen has sufficiently built up. Beast mode opens up a variety of new moves using the Beast button, plus some varying grapples. More importantly this also allows Beast drives to be performed. These special moves or combos are capable of significantly depleting your opponent's energy. Alternatively Hyper Beast Mode is available. This mode is available at all times and allows the same additional moves as Beast mode but is capable of inflicting more damage.
    Without a catch, players would stay in this powerful form permanently. Thankfully there is one. When transforming into Hyper Beast your own energy bar is partially drained. Sounds obvious and simple but it adds a great deal of strategy to a bout. A scenario could develop where the only chance of getting back into a match would be to use the Beast Drives. Without the power meter lit Hyper Beast mode would be the only option. But this brings the dilemma of self-damage and the danger of being left on the very brink of defeat. Split second decisions are quite common in this game. An additional gimmick is the fairly interactive fighting arenas. Hidden areas can be opened up and walls knocked down to make way for Ring Outs depending on the moves carried out. As with the Hyper Beast Mode, this adds to the games strategic standpoint.

    A good gimmick would be wasted on a poor cast of characters. Luckily that isn't too much of a problem. The cast of 14 characters, 2 of them Gamecube exclusive, is pretty varied in fighting style, looks and backgrounds. The only slight shame is the large amount of Cats. No less than 5 of the roster have Big Cat Beast forms. It would be nice to see a wider variety of Beasts in future, but as it is there is a pretty varied selection anyway including an Elephant, A Rabbit and a Bat.

    The game boasts various Anime cut scenes that are a welcome inclusion. In fact, on booting the disc you are treated to a brief introduction Anime showing each of the characters and their backgrounds. At the beginning of the Story mode you are shown a lower key Anime accompanied by Japanese Scrolling Text, detailing the history of the beasts and the tournament they are all entered into. Sadly that is the final Anime section you will see until you have won through the 8 stages and been awarded with that characters end sequence. The big plus point of the story mode, apart from being the main single player challenge, is the fact that you are rewarded with a bonus mode, arena or character each time you complete it. The learning curve is slightly uneven, but the final few stages can get slightly tougher the more times you win.

    The best news of all with Bloody Roar Extreme is that the Gamecube controller handles all the action remarkably well. Kicks are carried out using the A Button with the punch being set to the B button. Y is utilised as a Grapple with the all-important Beast Mode metamorphism being assigned to the X. The Z Trigger activates Hyper Beast mode, with L and R carrying out a sidestepping movement. Both the Analog stick and the D Pad are available to control the movement of your character. In truth, only a small amount of people will find the small and fiddly D Pad useful, most will find the Analog stick more than adequate.

    The games various moves, specials and combos use the classic direction and button combination. Most Beast drives can be carried out using a half circle and the Beast Button, but the timing has to be there in order to make contact, and either way you will be turned back into human form after the attempt.

    The gameplay becomes a lot more rewarding if the effort is put in to master each character. Sadly the control system isn't quite sophisticated enough to prevent button bashers from winning through the single player modes, but a dedicated and skilled gamer would soon tear them to pieces in a 2 player battle. Plus of course there is a sense of achievement in winning through a tournament in style.

    As for other play options, Time Attack, Survival and Training can all be found, with a couple of 2 player versus modes thrown in for good measure. All are fairly adequate, and performances throughout the entire game can be tracked via play data charts.

    The Graphics are nice and fluent, running at a steady 60 frames per second. It is certainly the best looking in the series. At some points the visuals are extremely pleasing, such as during some Beast Drives, and with the heat effect while in Hyper Beast mode. Replays are shown using a variety of faultless swooping camera angles. The Anime cut scenes are very nice and the presentation is decent too. On the other hand, some sections can be pretty rough. Some debris created during the fights appear to be sprites or, at the least, extremely low in polygons. The characters are well modelled and move around very well, but when falling to the ground they look pretty wooden.

    Despite the name of the game, there is no gore to be found in Bloody Roar. For whatever reason, the fighters emanate sparks and flashes of light. This effect looks very nice and suits certain moves, but when Yugo the Wolf plunges his claws into a human chest you don't expect electricity. These moves are somewhat lacking due to the absence of blood.

    One of the all round weaker areas is the sound. The opening theme tune is so brilliant at setting the atmosphere for the game ahead that the in game tracks are dull and irritating in comparison. In game speech is sparse but sufficient. The cut scenes use subtitles, probably for the best rather than having a group of wooden actors and actresses.

    Sadly Bloody Roar has always found itself slightly overshadowed by the big guns of the genre and this isn't entirely fair. However, the series does need to further distinguish itself in its own light. Judging by the Anime theme that the developers seem to enjoy placing upon the games characters, it would be nice to see the series head further down that path and become a fully fledged, cel shaded Anime fighter. With that and a more compelling story mode and its existing Beast gimmick, it would certainly make for a classic single player romp, and the multiplayer aspect is already top notch.

    Bloody Roar Extreme will certainly tide hungry Gamecube fighting fans over until one of the big guns arrives on the scene. The more effort you put in, the more enjoyment you'll get out.

    A review by Bob Compton
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Asura's Avatar
      Asura -
      I loved the first Bloody Roar, but I when I remember it, I kinda file it with games like Monkey Ball or Crazy Taxi, which kinda came out of the gate pretty much perfect, and while the sequels were fun, they never really improved on the formula that much.
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