Every once in a while a fighting game comes along that really pushes everything we know about fighters to the next level. Mortal Kombat brought us realistic and very graphic brawling. Killer Instinct gave birth to genre of combo systems. Soul Caliber integrated weapons and so many different moves per character that your head would spin. Yes, now and again there comes a game that will completely blow your mind with its new and innovative features and characters. Bloody Roar Extreme is not one of these games. To be perfectly honest, this game looks like it has what it takes to be at least a decent fighting game. It has pretty graphics, different buttons you can press and its own gimmick: having your fighter change into an evil beast (or a penguin more on that later), but it just isnt enough in the end to make this game appealing to a hardcore fighting game fan. Then again, this game is perfect for those younger games (13 and under) that might struggle with the enormous fighting systems found within other fighting games currently available. Of course this game is also suitable for those of you that MUST own every fighting game for a system, or that really liked those goofy animorphs books.
The gameplay is the section of Bloody Roar Extreme that is probably the most lacking and under-developed. At first glance it looks like a decent fighting game. There is a decent sized lineup of 14 regular characters and two hidden ones all with their own custom beast form that you can transform into during a battle. Of course, this is about where the area of decent selection ends. Once you pick a character and enter the game you will find a ridiculous lack of buttons and combos for each character. Buttons are limited to a kick, punch, throw/block and a beast button. To add a little more variety they made a super-beast button and the triggers will sidestep. Combos take practically no practice to pull off and usually involve doing multiple punches and kicks right in a row, leading to senseless button mashing if you are ever doing bad.
There was one glimmer of hope in the gameplay department and that was the beast transformations. They do tend to add a bit more strategy to the game; as you fight your opponent your beast energy bar will charge up. The more aggressive you are the faster it will charge. This is where the bit of strategy comes in: if you dont use your energy in one round it will come back to the next. So lets say you are almost dead, but have the ability to change into a beast. Do you go to beast form and risk dying? Or should you go ahead and lose, then unleash the beast next round and maul your opponent. Another bit of strategy comes from the two different kinds of beasts you can become. As a regular beast, you have a certain amount of beast energy. You will remain a beast until either you lose all your beast energy from getting your butt kicked, or you attempt your super beast move. Of course if you miss with the super move then tough cookies for you and you will revert back to your original form. Of course, you also have the option of switching to an even more extreme beast form. In this form it doesnt matter how much you get hit, you will remain a beast for a certain amount of time. You can also pull off all the super moves you want until the timer runs out. Now, this is great if you have an enemy that is consistently kicking your butt, as you will have the chance to even the score by busting out a few super moves. But then again, if you are controlling your opponent well you might want to stick with the regular beast form as being a beast means you do more damage per hit and a lot of smaller hits for damage is way better in this game than a few super moves.
So while the beast change will add a little depth, it isnt a whole lot. What was incredibly disappointing was the fact that all of the beast moves were the same. For every character it is a quarter circle forward, quarter circle forward then the beast button, or the same thing but with quarter circle backwards. This means that once you have one character down you can pretty much play with just about any of them. The base combos for the players differ a bit, but with only 10 or so unique combos to a person it really doesnt take much time or brainpower to figure them out. The only other attribute that Bloody Roar Extreme possesses is multi-tiered levels, but you seem to break through at random times, so all it is really doing is giving you some eye candy.
The last area of the game is probably the various modes it offers. This is nothing outside of what you would expect to find in a fighter. It has arcade, versus, survival, team battle, time attack and a training mode. What is funny about some of these modes is the fact that while this game is for the most part overly simplified; it is impossibly difficult to beat. The last few battles of any of the options will leave you wondering how the hell the computer can predict the future so well, as it will be blocking moves you havent even though of performing yet. This was the final straw for this game. I couldnt even get the cheap thrill of clobbering the boss that I can from other crappy fighting games.
Unlike the gameplay I really dont have any major complaints from the graphics department. The colors are vibrant, the frame rate is ultra-smooth (looks to be a consistent 60 fps at all times) and the character models are all nicely done. Well, actually that is sort of a lie. I do have a problem with the character models. Its not so much the way they look, but the way they seem to be blatantly ripped off of other games. A lot of times while watching the CG movies or playing the game I thought to myself Hey, that looks like Paul from Tekken! or Hey, that looks like Cloud from Final Fantasy! This actually happened WAY more times than it should have which leads me to believe that tons of time was spent on all the beasts, and their human counterparts were an after though. This is even more apparent when closely examining the different character models in the game. The actual human models look 10 times worse than their awesomely textured and drawn beast sides. Of course this complaint aside the graphics do look good and cheesy. I understand that blood doesnt always make a fighting game good, but if a huge wolf monster gouges out the throat of some guy, why exactly is he bleeding what appears to be hot pink electrical sparks? Also, all of the super moves and big combos are showered with neon green, pink and various other colors of neon effects. It is pretty in its own Lisa Frank sort of way, but overall I kind of found it to be tacky and really distracting. Actually it wasnt that distracting as there was really nothing going on with this game to be distracted from.
Im not sure why, but every game I have touched for the first time in the last 3 weeks has had a mediocre selection of crappy rock songs. Bloody Roar Extreme really didnt let me down in this area either, as the songs got old incredibly quick. How crappy is the music? So crappy that Hudson Soft didnt even bother listing the bands on the official Bloody Roar Extreme webpage. So if they didnt feel like talking about them, then neither to I. Aside from the music I suppose you could say the sound effects are all right. They werent crappy enough to distract from the actual game and the voiceovers for some of the characters were borderline decent. This doesnt make a whole lot of impact though, as each character has at maximum about 2 lines to say. The bad point in Bloody Roar Extreme is definitely the music though. Im not saying that every fighting game has to track down the hottest bands to get their music on the official soundtrack, but at least give us the friggin option to turn your crappy music off and let us turn our selection of much better music on. Is this seriously asking too much?
Suggestions: This is a great game for the younger crowd. How about working on a serious fighting title now? You know, for those of us who enjoy more involved fighting games? (And for the love of god either get some good music or let us use our custom soundtracks!)