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Primal Rage (Sega 32X) artwork

Primal Rage (Sega 32X) review

"Fossilised Fighter"

Primal Rage is an arcade game best played in the arcades. Strictly speaking, thatís often the case, but was especially universal back before the home console market upgraded fully to 32bit and could match (or at least look like it was able to match) processing power with most cabinets. But Primal Rage deserves special notice; it existed in a very odd place. Born out of a desire to make a carnage-heavy tourney fighter in the mold of Mortal Kombat (but, like, more rad), it pit prehistoric dinosaurs against each other then had them tear one another to bloody ribbons.

In its natural habitat of the arcade, Primal Rage flourished. Though thoroughly and inescapably accepted as Mortal Kombat: Dinosaur Edition thanks to its rebranded fatalities and stop-motion animation (but using clay models because, spoilers, dinosaurs are extinct), it seems thatís what people wanted at the time. It helped that it was produced by Time Warner, who threw their huge weight behind the project, promoting the hell out of it, and ensuring it featured on every home console available. It even had a 3DO port, which makes the 32X strain Iím about to talk about seem slightly more relevant.

The 32X edition of Primal Rage is weird. No, scratch that; the handling of this game across the entire 16bit SEGA console platform makes exactly zero bloody sense. Most of the versions found on rival platforms worked off the more recent arcade strain of v2.3, which adds in several new combos, takes out a few easily abused stun-lock moves, smooths over some graphical issues and introduces a handful of unique special moves. However! Both the Mega Drive and 32X ports work off the then-obsolete v1.7 strain, making them considerably poorer performers. The dilemma here is that, much like Mortal Kombat before it, arch rivals Nintendo were trying to save the souls of the youth by censoring the hell out their versionís heavy gore, Primal Rageís most prominent selling point.

When this same slice of ethical warfare happened with Mortal Kombat, SEGAís arcade-faithful goreathon stomped Nintendoís tame PG-13 effort so hard that Nintendo literally went whining to Americaís congress with comparison videos in an attempt to kneecap their rivals and even out the embarrassing gulf in sales. Primal Rage would never have the ravenous fanbase collected by the very game it aped, but it had already been proven that gamers were willing to pick a platform. And that they were happy to vote with their wallets in the battle between content and morality. The fact that SEGA gave themselves such a bizarre handicap in a race they had proven pedigree to win at a canter remains a mystery to this day. The v2.3 16bit strain was gutless; with the talon shredding, the throat tearing, the acidic piss fatality domination moves all cut away under the gaze of moral censorship, it has no novelty value and becomes a sub-par tourney fighter. But the v1.7 SEGA version wasnít the arcade game Atari were trying to sell; it was decidedly incomplete in direct comparison to every other home console release.

It wasnít the only port issue, either; the obligatory small and weak but fast fighter in Primal Rage fell to Talon, the velociraptor, whose model was shrunk just enough to see the majority of projectile attacks soar harmlessly over his little scaly head, making him a smug, untouchable target at range and the inevitable flurry of unblockable rage up close. What made all this a greater shame was that it was one of the few games that made use of the 32Xís hidden special ability; the fact that it was actually two consoles wedged together. To this end, it used the base Mega Drive unit to process the scenery only, leaving the heftier 32X to manage just the character models, meaning that both looked great. Backgrounds popped and sizzled with volcanic ash and rising smoke and little cavemen scampering about, just begging to get trampled. All this while smoothly animated character models made an impressive stab at equalling their true 32bit counterparts.

Still, it doesnít hide the fact that thereís better versions of Primal Rage available for you to play at home. The 32X strain is an obvious upgrade on the Mega Drive version, and the super colourful Super Nintendo offering. But it pales in all fronts in comparison to the Playstation and Saturn versions, and perhaps even the PC and Jaguar editions. Nor does it help that, even with its very limited library, itís not among the best fighters the 32X has to offer. Even though itís a thoroughly lazy port, Mortal Kombat II probably takes that title, followed up by a very game Cosmic Carnage. Really, all Primal Rage has to boast about is that itís not another Supreme Warrior. Thank God thereís not another Supreme Warrior.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (February 11, 2018)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Masters posted February 12, 2018:

Hey Gary, nice little history lesson. You are doing God's work here.

Second to last paragraph needs some help, though:

To this end, it used the base Mega Drive unit to process the backgrounds only, leaving the heftier 32X to manage just the character models, meaning that both looked great Backgrounds popped and sizzled with volcanic ash and rising smoke and little cavemen scampering about, just begging to get trampled.
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EmP posted February 12, 2018:

Thanks for that. If my only typo is a missing full stop, then perhaps there's hope for me yet. I've tidied that away.

You know, the whole history angle is really starting to grow on me. I think it's probably the best angle to take with most of the 32X games because it's the only interesting thing about them.

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