Roar Mix. Roar Mix. Please Deliver.
Fighting games are becoming more and more stagnant, as everyone tries to jump on the bandwagon with a "me too" 3-D fighter. Take Bloody Roar II, for instance. Borrowing heavily from other recent games, this title just doesn't stand out. While it does shine above the recent Fighter Maker, Bloody Roar II offers nothing that hasn't been done before.
Ehrgeiz upped the variety of play options and the free range fighting style; the upcoming Evil Zone drips with rampant creativity. Bloody Roar II is, well, simply an update of the first Bloody Roar: you fight and you can change into an animal.
The control in the game falls somewhere between 2D and 3D. The sidestep command, which has become a standard in the 3-D fighter nowadays, can only be selected in the options menu. This makes the initial control style more similar to the Street Fighter series, with rotations and taps to pull off specials. Bloody Roar II takes control aspects from other principle fighting games and meshes them together, but the meshing tends to get tangled.
There is a fair amount of strategy in the fighting techniques, but it still feels more unpredictable then a 'skills' fighting game like the Tekken series. Combos occasionally fail to connect, regardless of how close you are to your opponent. There's also a slight delay in the responses. The control style just isn't as clean, making this game feel more like the button mashing variety. Changing to an animal does take a degree of skill, though; while you can dish out more damage, you will also be more vulnerable.
Graphically, the game is sharp, though it employs minimal animation outside of the characters. The framerate is as smooth as a baby's bottom (take my word for it). There are traces of source lighting from explosions and attacks, leading to good looking effects. But during normal gameplay, there isn't anything special. In each stage, you're set in an enclosed arena, somewhat like Fighting Vipers. Unfortunately, the backgrounds feel lifeless and empty.
The animal designs do look pretty good, although the human counterparts could use some work. The insect fighter looks like a bulked up Unit 01 robot from the anime, Neon Genesis Evagelion (Johnny, that's so geeky, you deserve a wedgie. - Ed). Most importantly, the fighters just lack charisma.
How do you give a fighting character charisma? How about through the opening FMV, stills before the fight, taunts, and the animation after the fight is over. Bloody Roar II's opening is just an incredibly blurry replay of fights. It doesn't establish much of anything. When Guile from Street Fighter 2 poses his tough guy winning stance, a bit of his character is imparted. Here, you get a woman rubbing her chest saying, "I love it when you fight so sexy" in a Transylvanian accent, while her character bio says she's British. How does this fit into the story? I'm so glad you asked.
The Story mode falls seriously short. To even care about what happens to these human/animal freaks, you have to at least care about the characters themselves. Let's see... there are good human/animals and bad human/animals. The bad ones run a terrorist group that the good ones are trying to stop. The 'plot' is a spaghetti mess of loose ends, pseudo characterizations, and empty stories of revenge and retribution. Plus, they all have silly titles. Finally, I don't want to read pages of text and look at bad stills. Perhaps that would have been fine in the old Super Nintendo days, but if you have the power to animate and make it come alive, I want to see it!
As a bonus, Bloody Roar II includes second rate voice actors and a third rate announcer. Based on life experience, you can usually figure out what kind of voice would sound right coming out of a person (other than Mike Tyson). Well, most of these guys sound just sound wrong. The announcer is completely devoid of excitement; instead of getting pumped up for an exciting match, I felt more pumped up to go do something else... anything else. The sound effects - punches, kicks, and explosions - are good, but aren't anything new. The music isn't very impressive -- typical fighter fare, with a few choice selections, funneling down to some bothersome noise.
There's the hardcore fighter who takes it upon himself to learn every combo, every reaction, and every possible skill to beat anyone and everyone. These players spend the hours of training to make sure they can whoop some ass when the time comes. Bloody Roar II is a game that you just don't want to spend that much time with. It's fine for a try or two and nothing more. While good enough, Bloody Roar II isn't anywhere near the best.