Genre : Fighting
Release Date: November 11, 2003
Pre-order 'BLOODY ROAR 4': PlayStation 2
There are many words you can use to describe the Bloody Roar series. “Fast-paced” is one; “fun” is another. It takes a sort of sneaky approach to the 3D fighting genre, in that it’s a blood-drenched, masher-friendly fighter when you first pick it up, but it has a lot of character variety and sneaky tricks waiting when you get below the surface.
Bloody Roar 4 is another dose of the same from Hudson, who came out of nowhere, back in the day. An entire generation that had never asked itself, “Selves, would we enjoy a 3D fighter, playable in our own homes, that would involve two large animal-people beating the holy bejesus out of each other, complete with such family-friendly activities as tearing out throats and reverse frankensteiners?” The answer, happily, was yes!
Sequels followed, adding and removing characters and messing with the engine. The press seems to largely dislike the games, but they also appear to have always been more popular with the fans than with the pros; they draw occasional fire from the hardcore fighter community, who aren’t happy unless ninety percent of the world do not know what the hell they are talking about, but are good clean fun for a night in the dorms, with illicit alcohol and friendly trash talk.
Bloody Roar 4 is an odd beast, however. It appears to have largely jettisoned many features of its predecessor, such as Hyper Beast Mode, in favor of a frenetic, fast-paced match with a bit less technical depth.
We rejoin the Zooanthropes as they go about their daily lives, but unfortunately, earthquakes and general unrest are plaguing the land. A mysterious man, and his equally mysterious companion, appear to hold the solution to the problem, but for whatever reason, whoever gets to the bottom of this is going to do so after breaking roughly seven other Zooanthropes in half. These rivals/targets include newcomer Reiji, the Crow, whose bird form deals out far more damage than one would think it would; Ryoho, a seemingly ordinary human, who is assisted by his sidekick, the kitsune Mana; and Nagi, the “Spurious,” a scantily clad and angry young woman who is not so much a Zooanthrope as a cybernetic organism with four feet of sword blade housed in her right arm. In addition, Yugo, Alice, Gado, Bakuryu, Shen Long, Jenny, Stun, Busuzima, Uriko, and Xion make their return from past Bloody Roar games, along with five unlockable characters.
The first thing that comes to mind, looking at this new Bloody Roar, is that it’s prettier. The polygon models aren’t exactly Dead or Alive 3, obviously, but they go a bit beyond what I thought the PS2 was capable of. They’re clear, unblurred, and sharp without being jagged.
There’s no slowdown, even while the action onscreen has reached a pitch best described as utterly ridiculous; no matter how much blood is flying or what you just did to somebody—tear out their throats, set them on fire, juggle them about half a mile straight up, tear into them with such ferocity that members of their immediate family start bleeding, whatever--you will not get anything other than the occasional bout with dramatic and intended slow motion.
But enough of all that. Bloody Roar 4 jettisons the somewhat overwrought Hyper Beast Drive system from its predecessor—in which you needed to fill your Beast Meter three times, then swing a cat around your head on the night of the full moon, spit twice, offer up a prayer to gods of both sun and moon, then enter button combinations in order to unleash either horribly overpowered combinations or a very shiny and occasionally devastating super attack, known locally as a Beast Drive—in favor of a slightly confusing but streamlined process.
You see, each character has both a lifebar and a Beast Meter bar. If you have life left, then you can regenerate the Beast Meter; if you’re out of life, then your character automatically transforms into their Beast form, and that meter will no longer regenerate. In order to KO an opponent, both their meters must be empty.
You can spend Beast Meter both as a “lifebar” for your Beast form—which is, needless to say, stronger and faster than your character’s human form, with extra moves and decidedly more vicious abilities; as an added bonus, the transformation to Beast form serves as a short-ranged, high priority combination breaker—and to execute one of two Beast Drive super moves. These supers are actually a pretty varied lot, moving from air juggles to vicious combinations, and often form the centerpiece of a character’s offensive arsenal. They each come with a risk, of course, as being hit out of the beginning of a Beast Drive usually does enough damage to decide the outcome of a match. Getting hit out of a Beast Drive with a Beast Drive is a horrible circumstance. I’m not sure. It was bad. I don’t want to talk about it.
Beyond the simple mechanics as listed above, Bloody Roar 4 delivers up a varied and interesting blast of the series’s trademark gameplay, as unique and characteristic as fingerprints. Rounds go fast, as high-damage combos can be put together on the fly, and characters’ arsenals of techniques and counters were seemingly designed as much for style as functionality. There are very few quiet rounds in Bloody Roar 4; without meaning to, you can easily deliver knockout blows in the form of vicious kick combinations, bonebreaking throws, acrobatic takedowns, or lycanthropic spins on existing martial-arts techniques. A dramatic finish is this game’s status quo. While the series’s equally traditional balance issues predominate, they aren’t as fierce here as they have been in previous incarnations; while Ryuji and Nagi seem to rule the roost, and Ryuho appears to largely be there as an unwilling blood donor, my crack team of fighters and I have found nothing in the way of win buttons or braindead high-damage combinations. While I would suggest that Stun and Ryuho be given a bit more speed, and Ryuji be tested for steroids, these are mere suggestions, and can be discarded.
In short, just as the new feel is wearing off of Soul Calibur II, Bloody Roar 4 is poised to deliver cinematically violent lycanthropic bloodletting to your apartment or small home. Its arcade mode is a testament to the power of lameass AI—and why the hell do the enemies take less damage in the sixth and seventh stages? I wish to know this, and by “know this,” I mean “hit somebody because it frustrates me”—but with friends, you’ll be entertained for hours. With its November 11th release date, you’ll even have lots of free candy to go along with it.