I did get to play a few minutes of it, and basically it seemed like it would be fun, although the voice acting is brilliantly atrocious! Never mind, hopefully one day I shall get a replacement copy....
So I was stuck. I couldn't play my next game, and who came to my rescue but my lovely wife who had bought her own retro game this week - so I hand the rest of this blog over to her, for our first ever GUEST REVIEW!!
Released on: Arcade, Megadrive, PC, Playstation, SNES, Saturn, Amiga, 3DO, Game Gear, Jaguar
Played on: Sega Megadrive
Release date: 1994/1995
It's thousands of years into the future (but somehow also the past)! Giant dinosaur gods and the odd pallette swapped simian fight for domination of Earth, shifted into a Pangaea-like structure that resembles a t-rex skull and imaginately re-titled...URTH.
Meanwhile, back on Terra Firma, two little oiks with a love for dinosaurs and itchy button fingers discovered this Gorn-fest of an arcade game in an Exeter pub. My little brother and I watched the demo mode and the accompanying film with gruesome delight. Dinosaurs! Coming out of the sea! Eating people! And you fight until their hearts explode! And that monkey just PEED that dinosaur's FACE off!
My Mum did eventually come and see where all of her spare 50ps were giong, and she reasoned that as long as we weren't going to have nightmares, she didn't mind us playing a fighting game. Score one for eleven-year-old me!
Primal Rage was developed in 1994, at the height of digitised sprite video-nasty fighting game fever. To my delight, while on a business trip back to my home city I found the Mega Drive console version in a retro game shop, and for the princely sum of £6, it was mine.
So, does it stand talon to toe with the likes of Street Fighter, or should it belong in a museum?
The arcade version was a four-button/joystick affair, so translation to the Mega Drive should have been trickier than it is. Various combinations of buttons are required, and thankfully the A, B and C buttons are about the same width apart as the sections of my thumb (my phalanges, if you will – you at the back, stop laughing) and so I could pull off tricky combos with relative ease. You can also use the start button as a basic close-range attack, although it does mean you can't pause the game (you know, in case real dinosaurs start taking over, or you have to pee).
If you have any experience of fighting games, you probably have some kind of preference as to how quick or heavy you like your characters, what kind of attack they provide (close range, melee, projectile) and how hyped up their defence is – bear in mind that I was about eleven when I first discovered this game and therefore just smacked buttons until somebody's heart exploded, but I'm pretty sure now that it's where my predilection for lightning-fast bruisers comes from. There is a small roster of seven playable characters in Primal Rage:
Sauron (no, not that one), your common-or-garden Tyrannosaur (medium weight)
Diablo, a fiery red pallette swap of the former (medium weight)
Blizzard, a frost-wielding monkey (light)
Chaos, a farting, vomiting pallette swap of Blizzard (light)
Vertigo, a cobra/platiosaur hybrid (medium, long-range)
Armadon, a heavily armoured stegosaur/ankylosaurus hybrid (slow and heavy)
Talon, a raptor (very light), and my personal favourite.
Despite only 7 characters, there's a bloody good range of attack styles – Vertigo in particular has a good variation of long-range and projectile attacks, as does Chaos (and with the game being targeted at young to teen boys, these are all to do with farting, vomiting and flinging nose nuggets).
But enough of this! What of the game, mortal?
Well, this was definitely worth the £6 I paid. In fact, I would have quite happily paid thrice that amount for sheer replay value – I cleared the required hour that Brawny set me, and then got up this morning with itchy fingers, dying for another play. I favoured Talon, and while he was more than a match for most of the heavy characters, I noticed interesting attention to detail: Brawny played me for a bit as Sauron (until he got fed up of being sorely trounced), I noticed that his throws were dealing me a lot more damage. When we swapped again and played as Vertigo vs Sauron, I noticed whenever Sauron fell, he took more damage. Things like that can quickly turn around an unfair advantage in a fighting game. I remember the arcade version came with a hilarious “NO CHEESE!” message, flashing up a block of Swiss cheese with a line through it, if you kept using super moves. So it's not a game that can be won with button-mashing, which is a common criticism of fighting games right up to the present day.
Any downsides? Well, the game is spectacularly gory, which weirdly didn't bother me as a kid (and I had some weird childhood fears). Hearts explode; brains wither, there's acid vomit and piss flying about everywhere: it's like backstage at London Fashion Week. The game was cert 15 back in '95 and would probably get the same treatment nowadays, but further research uncovered an action figure range and a novelisation – how 90s can you get!? So it was presumably bound for greater things, and possibly it suffered from bad publicity, hence the reason its sequel is virtually unheard of and supposedly a pile of droppings.
But if you like fighting games, dinosaurs or chimps, you absolutely have to own this game.
(Interestingly, the arcade version will probably never be experienced ever again – despite being featured in Midway Arcade Treasures 2, the arcade version is locked with an unbreakable encryption, and none of the people involved in the games seem to want to help. Presumably they were sick of having to censor different parts of it. Word from Uncle Internet claims that the PC version is the closest you can get to the Arcade version, including all of the endings, so if you can find it, grab it with both claws!)
Time played: Way over an hour
Would I play it again?: Does dromiceiomimus enjoy a varied diet including berries and leaves and also the odd small lizard and bird? (Yes, yes it does – and don't get me started on the “raptors” in Jurassic Park)