Final Round. – Bloody Roar: Hyper Beast Duel

In our Final Round series, we take an in-depth look at as many fighting games as we possibly can!
In part 28, Shaun Eddleston takes a look at 1997’s BLOODY ROAR: HYPER BEAST DUEL

Year of Release – 1997
Developer – Raizing, Hudson Soft
Publisher – Hudson Soft, SCEA, Virgin Interactive
Platforms – Arcade, PlayStation

In terms of gaming history, by the time 1997 had arrived, the advent of 3D-based titles was in full force. The incredible rise of consoles such as the first PlayStation, the Nintendo 64 and even the technology being produced for arcade machines was pushing the boundaries, breaking new ground and raising the bar for what was thought possible for graphics.

This was no different for fighting games, with Virtua Fighter ushering in an era of games that added a whole new visual depth to the genre just a few years earlier, and games such as Tekken 2 and Soul Blade leading the charge by effectively polishing the formula.

As with any burgeoning scene, things were getting really crowded at a rapidly increasing rate, so these games were having to get creative in order to stand out from their peers.

Like the previous year’s offering from Squaresoft (that game being Tobal No.1), another new franchise attempted to stake its claim as one of the hottest new properties in the fighting game space, and it had a particularly “wild” vibe to it.

Bits and pieces of Bloody Roar‘s origins are dotted around in the game’s bonus galleries.

Originally starting life as an arcade game known as “Beastorizer” (even being shown at E3 that year with the moniker), Bloody Roar: Hyper Beast Duel is a 3D fighter where players take control of characters that can transform into anthropomorphic animals.

Basic gameplay is similar to games such as Dead Or Alive and Virtua Fighter, in that players face off against each other in a square arena. Ring outs are possible, but only after breaking through the walls/fences that surround you. The Virtua Fighter comparison also slightly finds its way into the control scheme too, as there’s a single button for punches and a single button for kicks.

The remaining buttons are specific to Bloody Roar‘s main gameplay mechanic, “Beast Mode”, which allows players to transform into their respective animal alter-egos, and is represented by a small gauge that sits just underneath a player’s life bar. Beast Mode is triggered by a single button press, and is available whenever the letter “B” appears in the gauge. In addition to the ridiculous physical transformation, Beast Mode increases the amount of moves a player has, jumping abilities are improved and a small portion of health is also replenished.

The game’s playable roster

While Beast Mode is a great (and essential) tool to use in becoming victorious, if an opponent hits you enough times while you’re in this state, it’ll knock you back down to your weaker human form. Not a good place to be in the heat of a battle.

For players that are feeling especially confident, Beast Mode can be buffed by triggering “BEAST RAVE”, a powerful form that ups a player’s speed tremendously and reduces the time taken to recover from attacks. The drawback to this? When it’s active, it slowly drains the Beast Mode gauge and, when empty, a single hit from a foe reverts players back to their human form.


Promotional Material & Box Art

Bloody Roar’s promo artwork for the arcade release gives us a good look at the game’s protagonist and the animalistic cast of Beast Mode transformations. On the flipside, we get a brief look at each of the characters and a quick rundown of the game’s simple control scheme.

The console release artwork varies from country to country. In Japan, we get a very classy statue-esque carving of what appears to be the head of a zoanthrope in mid-transformation. In the US, the “Hyper Beast Duel” subtitle is dropped from the name, and we get a rather awesome mashup of Yugo transforming into is canine alter-ego. Finally, the PAL release is a more basic affair, as it simply reuses the promo artwork that we just saw on the arcade flyers.

Remember when everything in the 90s had to be edgy and weird for edginess and weirdness’ sake?

Sony was reknowned for having some of the most unusual and confusing commercials for its consoles (I mean, having David Lynch and Chris Cunningham direct some of them pretty much GUARANTEES it), but witnessing a pug transformed into a shrunken middle-aged man sat on a therapist’s lap is nightmare fuel to say the least.

With only a few seconds of actual gameplay footage, we’re left to linger on some slightly David Cronenberg-esque body horror.

The Japanese commercial for the game is not nearly as disturbing, but it’s still pretty silly for its 15 second runtime. With a a bunny girl prancing about and a furry costumed gamer having a blast playing through a match, this brief TV spot is over and done with so quickly, it barely registers.


Roster

Bloody Roar centers around a group of warriors known as “Zoanthropes”; fighters that have the ability to transform into powerful half-human, half-animal hybrid “beasts”, and the Tylon Corporation, an underground organisation that actively seeks to capture these zoanthropes in order to use them as mind-controlled weapons.

This arcade version of the character select screen is vastly superior to the ugly CG-based console version…

The game includes eight playable fighters to choose from, and one boss character to face off against…

Yugo Ogami

Bloody Roar‘s main protagonist is Yugo, a wolf Zoanthrope who has set out on a quest to uncover the truth about his father’s mysterious disappearance (it’s claimed that he died in a military operation in South America).

In order to uncover these circumstances, Yugo searches for the only surviving member of his father’s combat unit, Alan Gado.

Armed with razor sharp claws and a fierce bite, Yugo’s beast mode transformation is one of my favourite characters to play as in the game. As Bloody Roar‘s main fighter, he’s a good mix of speed and power, and is great for newcomers to use in order to get used to the game’s overall fighting system. His flips and slashes are pretty satisfying when they connect, and watching foes get launched up into the air after his neck rip is also pretty hilarious.

Alan Gado

A lion Zoanthrope from France. Alan is a professional mercenary who took part in a mission with his best friend (and Yugo’s father), Yuji, many years ago. During the operation, his team was ambushed by a force of much stronger zoanthropes and a hostile army that seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Gado was seriously injured in the conflict and lost his sight in one of his eyes.

He now searches for Yuji, and vows to find out the identity of the forces that attacked them.

Gado’s moves pack a bit more of a punch than Yugo’s, and has a bunch of rather nasty charged uppercuts and double kicks at his disposal. His neck rip special move is also especially vicious too!

Bakuryu

Bloody Roar‘s master ninja is a mole zoanthrope named Bakuryu. True to the nature of fighting game ninjas, much of his personal life is shrouded in secrecy, but we do know that due to his expertise in assassination, he was hired by a shady underground corporation and ordered to kidnap other zoanthropes for experimentation.

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Bakuryu’s status as a ninja directly affects his moveset. He can disappear and re-appear elsewhere on the stage (depending on the inputs) and can attack opponents with a stab/slash throw move when they are within range. Nothing too fancy outside of these techniques though.

Mitsuko Nonomura

A wild sow zoanthrope who identifies as an generous, friendly housewife. She’s also an absolute unit, making her one of the most physically imposing characters in the game.

After her daughter Uriko (who, funnily enough, is also a zoanthrope and SPOILER: the final boss of the game) is kidnapped, Mitsuko goes on a quest to bring her back home to safety.

Mitsuko’s sheer strength gives her a couple of interesting moves that place her outside of the sea of slashes, uppercuts and biting attacks that the majority of the other characters utilise. One of these techniques is the “earthquake stomp”, which sees her stamp her feet on the ground to knock opponents flying (she isn’t the only character who has this move, but she’s definitely the best character to use it with), and her “lift & smash” grab lets players pummel their foes into mush in a similar fashion to Street Fighter II‘s Zangief.

Jin Long

A Chinese tiger zoanthrope that despises his current condition. After his mother and young sister died when he was a child, he becomes neglected by his workaholic father, and decides to run away from home.

Years later, Long is now reknowned for his martial arts skills (and, ya know, his ability to transform into a tiger, duh!), and is hired by a nefarious underground corporation’s assassination unit.

Wondering where the stereotypical “Martial Arts Master” character was? Jin Long has got ya covered.

While he’s not as flip-orientated as characters like Tekken‘s Law, nor does he rely on stances like Tekken 3‘s Lei Wulong, Long has some rather impressive head stomps and double kicks in his special move collection. His charged high punch is also not to be trifled with either.

Alice Tsukagami

A rabbit zoanthrope who was kidnapped by a secret research institution when she was a child. After being made to endure a series of physical experimentations, her transformation powers unlocked and she managed to escape the corporation before they had the chance to brainwash her.

While hiding from her pursuers, Alice begins to worry about a girl that she befriended in the institute (who was integral in her escape, thanks to her distraction). Alice decides to come out of hiding and take down the corporation.

Alice (which, by the way, is a SUPER obvious reference) is one of the quickest fighters in the game. Much like her real-life animal counterpart, Alice uses a whole lot of jump-based moves, effectively making her great to use if you prefer a more air-attack approach to your fighting games.

Gregory Jones

A gorilla zoanthrope who ran away from home to join the circus when he was young. After the circus’ ringmaster retired, Greg takes over as the leader. Due to changing environment in the entertainment industry, the circus goes bankrupt, so Greg goes on a hunt for more exciting talent to reform the circus.

I honestly expected Greg to be the powerhouse character in Bloody Roar, but he definitely gives off more of an “oddball” vibe (maybe it’s his top hat?). Regardless, his slams and throws are true to his nature as a gorilla zoanthrope, as ragdolling opponents is exactly what you’d imagine an angry ape to do during a fight.

Hans “Fox” Taubemann

An English fox zoanthrope who is dangerously obsessed with beauty and absolutely despises things (and people) that he deems to be “ugly”. His reputation for being incredibly cruel and wary from a young age earns him the nickname “Fox” (how fitting…) and he is hired to the same assassination/kidnapping squad as Bakuryu.

From a character standpoint, Fox reminds me a whole lot of Vega from Street Fighter II; his obsession with his beauty, his borderline psychotic hatred for anything “ugly”, even his look to a certain point, they all call back to Capcom’s most famous masked cage fighter. Fox’s moves are just as nasty, with a long reach and some devastating slashes (that double-claw swipe though!), making him a particularly challenging foe to face off against.

Uriko

The game’s final boss is Uriko, a small girl who was kidnapped by the Tylon Corporation. While that alone doesn’t sound too threatening, Uriko instantly transforms into a much stonger, older form as the fight starts.

Her “Beast” form is also unusual too, as it looks to be a “Chimera” made up of several different animal types. This transformation also applies to the stage around her too, as the triggering of her Beast Mode sets off alarms and turns the stage into a cage that looks like it’s straight from hell.

Both of her forms are a massive pain in the ass to fight against, as their default strength and speed are both way higher than the rest of the characters in the game, so even the simplest of moves can keep a player’s time in Beast Mode to a minimum and wipe out their health bar in just a few hits.


Levels

In addition to the eight characters in the game, we also get an equal amount of stages to fight in. These range from industrial areas such as a nuclear power plant and some ironworks, to a colossseum and some South American ruins, to the seaside and a desert. While these sound like an interesting variety of locations, they actually leave a lot to be desired while playing a match in each of them. As the ring in each stage is walled/fenced off to a degree, there’s not much of an incentive to have a proper look at the backgrounds and surroundings at all.

These locations don’t make a lot of sense when it comes to linking up to even the most tenous character connections either, and it seems like a bit of a wasted opportunity as a whole.


Victory!

Upon completing arcade mode, each character in Bloody Roar gets their own respective victory movie. These largely follow the well-used formula of character endings, with some serious revelations (Long sealing himself away in a mountain, Fox realising that he’s killed his long-lost mother and Bakuryu straight up melting into a pile of snot-like goop) to the silly, often wholesome finales (Alice well and truly adhering to the “toast of tardiness” trope, Mitsuko yelling at Uriko to get up for school and Greg learning that he was the true star of the circus all along!).


Overall Verdict

AVERAGE

In theory, Bloody Roar sounds like it should be a surefire classic that sets itself apart from its peers, with an innovative fighting system, violent action and a range of weird, wacky characters for players to choose from.

In reality, Bloody Roar doesn’t quite hit the mark, especially when you take into consideration the competition that it had when it was released (Tekken 3, Rival Schools and Street Fighter III to name just a handful of 1997’s notable fighting game releases!). The “Beast Mode” transformations are pretty cool for the most part, but some of the characters that make up the game’s roster are a bit bland inand forgettable.

As for the fighting itself, pulling off moves while transformed into your respective beast feels great and makes for some brilliant combos and (slightly) blood-splattered visuals, but fighting in human form feels underwhelming by comparison, with many of the punches and kicks feeling incredibly weak and the grab moves (when they actually connect) just plain sucking.

By no means is this a bad game, it just isn’t a great one. It’s something of a nostalgia trip for fighting game fans who grew up with a PlayStation for sure, but there are far better titles available for the system.


Have you played Bloody Roar?
Let us know in the comments below, or send a tweet our way!

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