Insert Disk collects Primal Rage for the Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis.
Today’s retro game review is Primal Rage for the Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis. This retro gaming classic was a dinosaur based response to graphically violent games of the day such as Mortal Kombat. Primal Rage sees you control prehistoric beasts in a mission to battle each other to gain worshipers and world domination. Whilst still a popular retro game even today, it’s clear that the game engine is reasonably limited. However, this doesn’t detract from the stylised graphics and fun game play.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. It’s time to go prehistoric today as we take a look back at Primal Rage for the Sega Mega Drive. Primal Rage originated in arcades back in 1994. By 1995 just about every console received a conversion of the game. The Snes, Genesis, 32x, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, 3D0 Atari Jaguar CD, PC, Commodore Amiga, Game Boy, Game Gear. Just about every piece of hardware of the day had a version. Some good, some not so good. I’ve chosen the Sega 16-bit edition here as it’s the version I first played.
There is a back story to Primal Rage. After a meteor strike on a planet known as Urth, spelt with a “U”. The planet has gone back to a stone age like state. From within the planets crust a set of 7 super monsters appear and must fight it out to become champion. The more enemies they defeat the more followers they gain and ultimately take over dominance of the planet. In short, whaaa?
The plot may make so sense but that’s not usually the reason to play a fighting game. It’s all about the monsters and beatings. The cast is a rather eclectic group. You’ll have a range of monsters from T-Rex type dinosaurs, raptors and even oversized apes to choose from. Each character has a decent move set, high, low, quick and strong attacks as with the arcade original. Now it’s at this point its worth saying that there are also fatality moves. However, I’m so inept at pulling them off in recordings you’ll just have to take my word for it. So what we have here is a bit of a monster based Mortal Kombat clone. This is most notable in the excessive amounts of blood. Pulling off a multiple hit combo will often spill large amounts of your opponent’s blood in to the air. It’s a nice touch.
Sadly at least in the 16-bit editions of the game the fighting mechanics seem quite limited. It’s less about strategy and more about just exploiting the age old jump in, quick attack, heavy attack combo. Even novice players should be able to breeze through most difficulty settings of the game. It’s a case of defeating you opponent, take their followers and then on to the next round. There are few mechanics to set Primal Rage apart from its rivals. The brain meter is perhaps one of very few. If you can land successive damage on your opponent you can drain their brain gauge to the point that they become dazed, allowing you some cheap free shots to take down their main health meter. The sound of the game is reasonable yet noting to shout about. The screams from the monsters are fairly decent but I just feel that the game never really gets going in the way that it should.
Graphically Primal Rage also looks a bit odd. The scale of people vs. the monsters vs. the surroundings is really inconsistent between levels. The graphics certainly don’t look bad, it’s just that they are reasonably forgettable. For a game that features a raptor fighting a giant snow ape I expect the game to be incredibly memorable, yet for some reason it isn’t. Or at least not as much as it could have been. The experience is very much get you in, show you the gore and get you out again. There’s not even an end boss. Just fight the seven opponents and see the words “World Domination” and then back to the title screen. Games like Street Fighter build to a show down with Bison and Mortal Kombat has its climax with the Goro and Shang Sung fights. Primal Rage just sort of fizzles out without and real climax or difficulty curve.
It is worth noting that the arcade version is much better. It delivers better graphics, sounds and overall the better experience as you would expect. In turn the Super Nintendo version is also based on a later revision of the game but lacks some of the finishing moves. Of the home console versions I’ve played the Sega Saturn edition is perhaps the most representative of the arcade edition.
If you collect physical media the Sega Mega Drive edition of the game is decent looking. Great artwork on the front of box and solid presentation throughout. In terms of collectability I’ve seen these sell for a few pounds but never in great volume. Other editions such as the 32X edition can fetch near the £200 mark in good condition.
I have to say that the 16-bit editions of Primal Rage are not great for anything other than a quick button mashing experience. However, upgrade to the Sega Saturn edition and you really see what you’re missing. The sprites are rendered in far more detail, the background more consistent with the arcade and even includes FMV sequences exclusive to the Saturn to tell the story. With all that said Primal Rage on the Sega Mega Drive isn’t a bad game. It’s certainly a fun experience if you’re just looking for a quick bout of gory dinosaur combat with a friend. What Primal Rage lacks in the precision of a Street Fighter game or the stylistic flair of the Mortal Kombat series, it makes up for with the promise of dinosaur on dinosaur action. There’s gore, some rather competent animation, elements of humour and overall a game engine just about good enough for you to want to revisit this one more than once.
If you are looking to collect this one it’s definitely worth skipping the 16-bit editions to get the game that you were really looking for. If it’s an affordable afternoon of beat ’em up dinosaur based retro action you’re after though Primal Rage is certainly still a decent title for a nostalgic play through.