When animals attack.
Animals have it easy - no school, no work, no dental visits. But there are predators to watch out for, and the lack of opposable thumbs means having to swear off video games. That's like asking a crack monkey to give up his precious, precious crack.
Now imagine if animals actually did have hands with opposable thumbs - we're talking the ultimate lazy gamer. And so, here's my proposal to all would-be scientists, geneticists and transmogrifieists: I want to be a dog with human hands.
Some might call me mad, but just think of the possibilities! I could take a whiz wherever and whenever I wanted. I could go punch the stupid cat next door. The ladies would find me even more adorable, and, most important of all, I wouldn't have to give up my crack, er, video games.
But since that kind of brilliant splicing probably won't happen any time soon, I'll have to settle for being a Zoanthrope, a human that can become a bipedal, fighting animal in Bloody Roar Extreme for the Xbox. Sure, life would be more exciting if I was a dog with hands, but that's an unfair comparison. It doesn't take much to be more exciting than Bloody Roar Extreme.
If the game sounds familiar, don't be alarmed. It's been cloned (aka "ported") from its predecessors, Bloody Roar: Primal Fury on the GC and Bloody Roar 3 on the PS2. Bloody Roar Extreme is essentially the same as the "smooth 60 fps, bonuses included" Gamecube port, which was just a spiffed up version of the bare minimum PS2 original.
The Xbox version features a new intro. Instead of the anime-style sequence in the Gamecube version, there's now a fully computer-animated opening. And it STILL doesn't do spit for the storyline. Can someone explain to me why almost every fighting game has to have such nonsensical, vague stories?
The Gamecube and Xbox versions share the same game modes, running the gamut of the old standbys: Arcade, Versus, Survival, Time Attack, Training, Team Battle, and Versus Team Battle. The Training mode fails to offer move lists for the characters, though they are printed up in the instruction manual.
The Team Battle modes of Bloody Roar Extreme aren't the same thing as a tag match. Tag matches allow characters to be swapped in and out during the match, while the Team Battles simply pit one team of fighters against another. After one round against a member of the rival team, the victor goes on to fight the next teammate in line.
Speaking of characters, Bloody Roar Extreme offers more than 14, each of whom can turn into a creature, such as a lion, two tigers, and no bears, but one elephant - your basic mainstays of the animal kingdom. There are also some decidedly non-traditional entries like a phoenix, a metal monster, and a skunk-bat hybrid.
My favorite character is Busuzima, who looks like the Reach toothbrush guy with the flip-top head. He transforms into one of those horned lizards from the old Budweiser commercials. Half the fun of using him is yelling "Drink Bud!" while dishing out leathery lashings of pain.
Why does Busuzima rock? Because there's an actual glimmer of personality in him. Everyone else just adheres to the same old character clichés. Boooring.
The fighting system at the heart of Bloody Roar Extreme is very basic. It's easy to get into, but remarkably bland and simple with its single punch, single kick and block. There's a fourth button to "beastorize" into the animal form, but it offers little depth. The L and R triggers used for sidestepping can't stop the game from becoming a mash-fest.
The Xbox version features a variety of extras earned every time you beat the game. Nothing terribly exciting, just a handful of extra characters, with one new character exclusive to this version, and some other cheat code standbys, such as gargantuan heads. Isn't it about time that we get some big butt codes?
Visually, Bloody Roar Extreme is fine if somewhat boring. It does have a very smooth framerate, but it's readily apparent that these graphics weren't designed with the Xbox originally in mind. The characters and environments are mediocre compared to what we've seen in natively brewed games. There are a few breakable walls and floors to try adding some creativity to the level design, but it's just not enough. At least there are some flashy lighting effects and interesting color palette swaps when the more "extreme" special moves are executed. I'd readily trade those in for some blood being spilled during the matches.
The audio also comes up short with less than impressive tunes and a mix of standard Japanese and English voices, neither lip-synched very well. These voices are completely absent during the final cut scenes.
Bloody Roar Extreme can be fun, but considering what else is out there, it just doesn't hold up. When Bloody Roar came out on the Gamecube, it was the only 3D fighter on the block. On the Xbox, it's a whole different phylum. Games like Dead or Alive 3 and Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance are far better titles, and in only a few more months, the epic Soul Calibur 2 arrives. Against this lineup, Bloody Roar Extreme should be put on the endangered species list.