Retro Renegade: Bloody Roar 2
It’s time to go back to the wild for the next frenzied beast battle. And this time, the field is a little hairier.
Taking strength from its fairly well received predecessor, Hudson Soft and developing team Raizing (later known as Eighting/8ing) confidently released Bloody Roar 2: Bringer of the New Age (or The New Breed in North America) in 1999 on the PlayStation 1 – and just like the first game, its reception was a particularly positive one.
The story picks up 5 years after the first game, establishing the downfall of Tyron (translated as ‘Tylon’ in the English edition of the game) and bringing forth turbulent times for the Zoanthropes when their existence is revealed, and persecution is brought against them by humankind. Zoanthropes searching to protect themselves from these cruel times are drawn as followers to a newly formed underground group the ZLF (Zoanthrope Liberation Front), who claim to fight for the good of their kind. Though as it transpires, the world comes to learn – maybe a little too late – that the ZLF is a terrorist organisation seeking domination for the Zoanthropes by crushing their human foes. Many innocents are caught up in the fray; even their fellow Zoanthropes are not protected from their wrath, as anyone seen sympathising or colluding with humans is punished with violence or abduction. Once again, a group of Zoanthropes – some heroes of old, and some new – become entangled in the unstable events, daring to challenge the ZLF to discover what lays beneath the shadowy organisation; all in an attempt to restore some form of peace, understanding and stability to the world.
Bloody Roar 2 is not a far cry mechanics-wise from its predecessor. The controls remain the same from the first – one button for punch and one for kick, plus a ‘beast’ button used for transforming into an anthropomorphic alter-ego, which also becomes another attack button while in this form. They now also give you a button to perform the throw moves, though this can still be achieved by pressing punch and kick together as well. It’s very straightforward and easy to learn.
Gone, however, is the ‘Rave’ power-up move, though in its place – and making its debut into the series – is the fantastic super move: The Beast Drive. All characters receive a devastatingly strong, flashy attack that takes a hefty chunk of health off your opponent when delivered. This can turn the tide of battle quickly into your favour. Though, after it is performed, the character reverts back to human form. It’s a particularly good replacement over the ‘Rave’ move, and adds a more flamboyant nature to the game.
Battles take place once more in contained arenas in many varying locations, including an eerie lab and a lustrous aquarium. Like every one-on-one beat ‘em up out there, your task is to dish out a brutal beating to your opponent, using your strikes to build up your beast gauge to be able to transform your character into their beast form – a much stronger form, that can easily wipe out an unprepared opponent. In beast form, if there is a slightly bluish, opaque area on the health bar, your character can recover health as long as they are not hit, giving a little extension to the length of the battle.
The cast went through a big shake up in the second game, with only half of the characters returning from the original game. These include: –
Yugo the Wolf – After discovering his father had been murdered and participating in Tyron’s downfall, he moved onto take up a career in boxing to make ends meet for himself and his adopted brother, Kenji (Kakeru in the original Japanese version) whom he rescued from Tyron. He ends up sucked into events when a strange man kidnaps his brother after assaulting him.
Alice the Rabbit – Helping save Uriko from Tyron, she was adopted by the little girl’s mother, Mitsuko, and eventually went on to finish her education and trained to become a nurse. She follows after Yugo, whom was brought into her hospital following an attack, when he leaves refusing proper treatment.
Long the Tiger – After Tyron’s destruction, he was so filled with self loathing for the monster he saw himself as, he became a recluse and secluded himself within a cave in the mountains of China, hoping to live out his days there away from civilisation. Though, he soon finds himself lured out by the news of a man resembling him who is involved in unscrupulous activities.
Gado the Lion – When uncertain times arose when Zoanthropes became public knowledge, Gado dedicated his time and efforts to bring strength and direction to his kind, though he needed to search for the perfect figurehead to lead them into the future. He has become caught in the middle of all the dubious activities and some are not entirely sure of his full intentions…
Uriko the Half Beast – She’s technically a new character, though returns from unplayable status in the first game to join the roster properly. Rescued from Tyron by Alice and Mitsuko, she returned home to carry on leading a normal life, though when an evil man resembling Long appeared at their family shop and knocked out her powerful mother, Uriko tries to intervene by transforming into the deadly Chimera, but the genetic experimentation that was done to alter her to take that form has now impaired her transformation, and she can only transform into a ‘half beast’, a humanoid cat. Wanting to return the favour of rescuing her treasured mother from the clutches of the ZLF, she is guided to seek out Long so she can be trained in the martial arts.
As for the other half… Poor Greg and Fox are dropped completely, never to be mentioned again. Old man Bakuryu, whom in his ending melted into green snot, hands his name and occupation to a new, younger character and Mitsuko is relegated to a cameo role and foil for her daughter in the back story. It was sad that some of these characters weren’t brought back, especially the likes of Mitsuko, who completely broke the mould of the standard video game women as a macho, hulking female, not designed purely with physical beauty in mind.
Though, the cast of new characters are an exceptional bunch of distinguishable personalities, all of whom make quite the impact with their debut. There is no sense of being short-changed with the loss of a few past characters when you meet these solid newbies.
Shina the Leopard – The adopted daughter of Gado; she is a war orphan, though a skilled fighter who entered the battlefield at a young age, following in her father’s footsteps. When her father becomes embroiled in the ZLF incident, she pursues him to uncover his true intentions, wondering which side he is actually on… (In the Japanese version, she goes by the name ‘Marvel’)
Bakuryu the Mole – He is the young teen protégé of the original Bakuryu, who died at the end of the first game. Kenji was initially taken by Tyron to use in their experimentations and underwent brainwashing. Yugo rescued him amid this period, and managed to reacclimatise him back into society. He was recently taken by the ZLF to complete the brainwashing process and use his skills as a ninja for the benefit of the group.
Busuzima the Chameleon – A former Tyron scientist, now involved with the ZLF, and continues to perform his horrific experiments. He is a creepy, eccentric figure, though his appearance belies his incredible intelligence. There is more to him and his position within the ZLF then people know.
Stun the Insect – Originally named Steven Goldberg, he was a scientist working for Tyron alongside Busuzima. When he discovered the true evils behind the company, he was turned into an experiment himself by Busuzima, and became a deformed insect creature. His body has now become unstable in this form, requiring a stabilising substance to maintain it. In pain from the slow degeneration, he vows revenge against Busuzima for taking his humanity away from him.
Jenny the Bat – A beautiful European woman shrouded in a deep mystery; model by day, spy by night. Some say she is a real vampire, and others believe she is the subject of experimentation which has stopped her aging. An associate of Gado’s, she is asked by him to investigate the organisation behind the terrorist events.
Shenlong the Tiger – He is the mysterious leader of the ZLF. He has an uncanny resemblance to Long – could they be relatives, even twins? He is a powerful figure and deadly foe, who doesn’t bat an eyelid at causing pain and misery.
A few of the new characters actually pick up the old move sets of the characters that didn’t return and adapt them into their own move set, which contain many of their own, new distinctive attacks. Jenny recycles some of Fox’s move set, while Stun reuses some of both Greg and Mitsuko’s move sets. So in a way, a piece of those characters aren’t fully lost.
The beast designs, particularly the new ones, are eye-catching, with different kinds of appeal. There is the cat-girl ‘half beast’, cute but dangerous – for those who have a soft spot for kitty-cat girls. Then there is the insect beast form, a beetle-like design in blue, almost a mixture of something alien and familiar in its insectoid inspiration. Pretty artistic I’d say! And then we have the bat, which is a lot more humanoid in distinction than animal – a strange albeit distinguishing choice in line with the character. It’s over-sensualised with appropriately placed fur pieces atop the more intimate areas of a humanoid female body, though with the added bat features of ears, wings and feet. It really makes her a true vamp – a smidgeon of irony is thoroughly included in their somewhere.
Though, I must add, the oversaturation of feline based beast forms was a little lacklustre. I wished they’d been a little more creative on that front. Where was my bear? We had lions and tigers after all!
The general human designs are basic for the most part, though they’re given some presence by bright colour palettes; a couple do particularly stand out, like Alice in her cutesy, short pink nurse outfit and Jenny in her inappropriately super short red jacket-dress-thing, which ramps up the fan service to the max. (Its panty shot mania! Whatever floats your boat, I guess!)
Graphically, Bloody Roar 2 was a step up from its predecessor, as the character models and arena settings are aesthetically smoother and slightly more refined in detail; though the arenas themselves still have a rather bland nature to them, they are inoffensive and passable in their appearance. There is a brief use of CGI in the opening of story mode, which has animation and rendering light-years ahead of the first game. Though the graphics are a little behind the times compared to other fighting games of its era, it was still impressive in its use of colour and design ideas.
The game’s music is once again electric guitar heavy themes of a rock basis. Most of the themes are pretty forgettable, though fit suitably into the game without detracting too much. On the voice front, the battle cries are a mixed bunch – some nicely done, some grating (namely Stun’s defeat sound, which is such a bizarre noise that it quickly got on my nerves!) though I do like some of the victory quotes, like Bakuryu’s ‘You’re too weak to defeat me!’ which is spoken with perfect conviction. Other general sounds from animal cries to the thuds of connecting attacks are all done well and perfectly integrated, giving depth and energy to every fight.
Bloody Roar 2 has all the expected modes from versus to survival modes, though the most enjoyable mode in the game is story mode. Consisting of beautifully drawn still artworks accompanied by text storytelling, each character gets their own time to shine with clear motivations amid nicely portrayed story conflicts and victories. There are well over 70 artworks that appear across story mode, and you can unlock them all to appreciate intently in the options menu. Credit should be given to the developers for putting such effort into making story mode so fun to play through.
To wrap up my Bloody Roar 2 review, I can attest that it certainly can be described as a cult classic, trouncing its predecessor in replay value and fun factor. They introduced a fantastic cast of characters as well as taking the background story in the right direction with a great amount of twists and turns along the way. It wasn’t quite on the graphical level of the likes of Tekken and Soul Calibur at the time of its release, but there was an endearing quality to its design that made it so likeable. The depth of the mechanics could have done with further progression, but there is that saying of, ‘If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it!’ – And it was simple enough for the casual fan to pick up and enjoy some one-on-one fighting action.
And who couldn’t help get caught up in the gimmickry that surrounded it with the animal transformations? Who didn’t want to see a wolf fight a rabbit dressed in a nurse’s outfit? It so bizarre it’s wonderful!
Step this way to experience a very refined fighting game experience! Do you dare take on the beasts?
Images © Konami/Hudson Soft & CARAMEL MAMA (Naochika Morishita)