Primal Rage conflicts me like no other game. On one hand, it’s an absolutely awful fighting game. On the other, it’s like every single dream of mine as a kid came true and manifested itself into one game. It’s a huge tease that only makes you wish the people that made it weren’t completely insane with how they expect you to play the game. It’s a damn shame. A damn shame.
Primal Rage was a fighting game released by Atari back in the 90s. Waaaaaay back when 70% of your local arcade and putt-putt was filled with fighting games of all types. Most were generic enough to barely warrant a look in their direction, while others that may have been good were buried by the non-stop deluge of shitty fighting games arriving on a weekly basis. To say it took a lot to stand out back then is an understatement. To its credit, Primal Rage had no problem in that regard: it was simply a stunning looking game. Oh, and the fact that you played as dinosaurs beating the shit out of each other also didn’t hurt. Just look at this shit and try not to want to play it if you were twelve:
Fuck being twelve, I STILL want to play it after seeing it. Everything about it was huge, eye-gougingly colorful, and in your face. Anyone that passed it was immediately pulled in and almost forced to put some tokens in just to play it for themselves. Unfortunately, after those first few tokens, it rarely got anyone returning to play it. Sure it looked better than anything else in the arcade, sure you could piss on dinosaurs with a giant gorilla, sure you could literally eat the other player with dinosaurs named “TALON” and “SAURON,” but who the fuck really wants to when it’s so impossibly hard to actually do any of that?
Yeah, Primal Rage didn’t fare so well in the gameplay department. Not so much because it wasn’t very responsive (the dinos were large, bulky sprites that were awkward at best), or because it lacked playable characters (I think it had maybe 7 total), but mostly because it saw fit to implement the WORST way to do special moves in the history of fighting games. Jumping around and kicking the other dude wasn’t so hard, but if you ever wanted to go deeper than that, then you were about to lay witness to just how bad you can make a fighting game. Essentially any special move you could pull off required you to hold buttons down while performing the move with the joystick, and then finally release the buttons at the right time to produce the move. Sound confusing? You bet your ass it was. That’s not even mentioning that a lot of moves required retardedly exact timing, along with awkward movements that would make your character do something else if you mistimed it. For instance, some moves required you to press up on the stick. Done correctly, the move would produce a fart or fireball or some shit. Do it wrong, and guess what you’d do? You’d fucking jump, leaving you open for all manner of dino-rape. It just didn’t work. At all.
So Primal Rage, despite having some of the best graphics and most awesome shit ever to build a fighting game around, is mostly just a button-mashing travesty that no one cared enough how to learn to play properly. It was still pretty popular though, and went on to produce a home console port for just about every console in existence. It still wasn’t any easier to play, but it did produce one of the absolute worst opening cgi cinemas in the history of gaming, which you can view in all its glory below:
I guess I should mention that those compression artifacts are not from the Youtube compression, but actually looked like that in the game. It’s still hard to not be impressed by how bad that is all these years later. Wow.
After a while, Primal Rage never saw the light of day again once its console port marathon ran out. It did recently appear on a sort of old game collections disc, which finally featured concessions with how hard it was to play. While you could turn on the default tard-controls, you could also play with a far more enjoyable control scheme that saw you producing special moves with simple button combinations. And hey, you know what? It’s pretty goddamn fun that way. Too bad no one gives a shit about Primal Rage now. If only someone would have figured that out a decade ago, maybe this article would be written in a far more positive light. As it stands though, Primal Rage is an awesome idea, just no fun to play.
Jeremy is a quiet, steadily mortified man hailing from Indianapolis.
Contact him this way: firstname.lastname@example.org (hint: it’s email)