Continuing a trend for fighting games at the moment, one does have to wonder what the appeal is with a genre of games that glorifies the repeated and brutal attacking of one individual by another in a competitive sport-like capacity. We manage to enjoy it in UFC (apparently), Boxing (apparently again) and harkening back to older days where drunk "all-outers" were held in squalid locations where working class individuals and the more sturdy upper class ponces would beat the shit out of each other to the amusement and betting of others.
Even through history there's been the duel, where two individuals have agreed to fight to settle a disagreement (often permanently) chose a location and method in which to have such combat and then murdered one another in the name of "something" that nobody else really gave a toss about. "You sir! Have dishonoured my toast!" "Indeed, I refuse to spread more butter upon such heat-imbued bread." "Then you sir have a duel!" "I accept your duel, just after I have devoured this succulent bread-laden breakfast" "Indeed!" "Quite" and so on and so forth with about as much relevance today as it had back then.
So with the idea in mind that fighting brings about a sense of "I'm better than you" while most parents try to instil a thought along the lines of "Fighting is the last act of a sensible individual" it still doesn't bring about the satisfaction of defeating someone with nothing more than your own physical presence for those of us with more base needs and testosterone than we know with which to do.
This game is another of such mimicry as to try and encourage two individuals to batter the shit out of each other in a virtual ring of combat where might is right, weak is meek and someone is going to have their throat ripped out by a wolf... then get back up and keep fighting... Perhaps a realistic fighter would be boring by that reasoning. But still, here we go anyway.
Bloody Roar sets 8 individuals with their own reasons and oh my fucking god it's another beat em up game. You've 8 characters, which have various bullshit reasons for fighting each other in sequence before taking on the boss of the game. As expected for some it's pride, for some it's finding a cure (Science was usually a better approach) for some it's a DREAM before school, for others it's about protect their children (Which... you end up fighting 2 of them... great parenting there, Mitsuko) And for others, they are the experiment and die at the end... hopeful outlook there but the only one that conveys the message that fighting is pointless and we all are going to die anyway and achieve nothing, a sort of nihilistic approach to a fighting game. You win but so what? We all die anyway so what's the point?
Your characters range from a bouncer guy, large army guy, skinny school girl ninja super fighter (aren't they all?) circus guy, large mother woman...guy, cross gender guy/girl, ninja guy and Chinese modern philosopher guy. Will all beat seven shades of shit out of each other (and themselves in a mirror fight) to get to the final boss, another kid that becomes a floating flying super goddess and then something else later in a truly fair representation of final bosses, i.e. not very fair at all. Nobody really cares on the back stories, it's all about how it plays and how quickly can you launch someone across the room and into a wall, or through it.
The key difference here, is that the game is based upon the idea of anthropomorphism, in which every character is imbued with the magical ability to become a were-creature of sorts that allows for harder hitting moves, new moves, more combos and other such specials such as faster, quickly, agile, (yeah I know, the same thing) and more special effects when the round is over and showing replays.
Every character has a punch button, kick button and a special/transform button which can only be done when your transform bar is full enough and that's done by getting your head caved in repeatedly. Not quite sure when having your body broken up made someone stronger... but it seems to be an industry standard for games featuring super special moves. Likewise causing damage builds the power up bar a little less quickly than having your ribs shattered, legs broken and skull weaved into the ground.
Each character has a full salvo of combos and moves that can be pulled off fairly effortlessly in a way button mashers will gain a few moves but lose out on timing. Each character has 6 specials of the quarter circle forwards and button, and quarter circle backwards and button, variety. Some will be hard hitting moves, some will be unstoppable moves but easily blocked, some are dodge moves, some are holds/grabs and such. Blocking in this game is by simply (wait for it...) standing still. Or crouching for the low attacks.
In this game at least, each character looks unique, is voiced differently and no two characters fight or act the same with regards to combos (specials are ALL that little QCF or QCB combo) while actual button presses and combinations can lead to apparently a variation of 40-70 per character. Underneath the core of the game, is a very complex and very thorough combat system that sadly is ruined by the simple theory of "Find a good combo and repeat it ad nauseam" which can see you through the vast majority of fights and battles. Until you slap the game onto hard mode and then you'll need to start actually doing some fighting and thinking about it.
Combat is held within a standard 3D arena of a floor and 4 walls, the walls are of those magic variety where damaging them is impossible but breaking them happens either at the end of the round or during the fight, usually once someone is put through them though not always. Once the wall is down, the combat opens up to either beating their life bar down to nothing or knocking the opponent out of the arena. Each character has a series of moves that when they connect with an opponent, can launch them straight out of the area or at least slam them against the back walls (unless on the long hypotenuse/diagonal across the arena, then only the stronger chars can do that due to the extended distance).
The norm is to win 2 rounds then fight the next opponent in most combat games, this is no exception so I'll move right along.
The final boss is about as clichéd as a anime/manga boss could possibly be. Starting off as a little school girl much younger than any other character you could play as, she immediately starts off with a transformation into a floating vixen (not literally like a fox, that's already done by the character called fox) who can chain in combos and special moves like there's no tomorrow and has a few long range ones that can hit almost anywhere unless you're blocking. Once her special bar is damaged enough, the final transformation takes place that looks like something between a Minotaur and the H.R.Geiger Alien creature and everything gets pushed up to 11 on the damage scale. Though if you managed to break some walls in the prior fight, the battle can be over rather quickly and make for an incredibly anticlimactic boss fight.
Options with the game can be unlocked for every time the game is beaten and for every character with which the game is beaten. Added to replay and self challenge factor though it does leave one asking, what's the fucking point if I already beat it? Some of the changes include the oft done and now oft missed, big heads mode. A first person view of the fight, a tiny arena, a MASSIVE arena, regenerating health (not advisable on the final boss that can regenerate it back FULLY at all times), change whether walls break quickly, later, not at all, or are already missing (begin the launch fest!) But all of this adds to the game and doesn't represent the core of it.
As responsive as the game is, the game is fast with later editions of the game getting faster and more fluid as the machine architecture became more powerful. This game however is very quick, especially for the faster characters (most are lightning fast at the slowest of times) and will require some impressive reflexes (or in the case of blocking, doing nothing), before countering with various moves and mixers to throw the opponent off guard and then propel them from the arena.
The music tends to set a pace and tone while in the PSX version there are both sets of musical accompaniments, both at least can help set a tone for the fight, with both using rather much more intense compositions for the final boss, but otherwise the fights are the main focus of the game and a few of the tracks will be memorable from the stages that are made.
The game for the time, runs on the gimmick of the transformations, otherwise it's very similar to games like Tekken, Battle Arena Toshinden and such with a 3D arena, 2D movement and combat changing the plane of combat and the arena approach of knocking people through walls and out of the area, done as well in Virtua Fighter. But what Bloody Roar does bring, is an almost tactical fighter with the Furry gimmick that, with the right players and settings, can be a powerhouse exercise of reflexes and reactions.
Beyond that though, it's a 3D fighting game with walking animals, but given that, it's done well and better than a large number of similar games competing for the 3D fighter crown.