Welcome back to another Bring it Back Sunday, where we look at dormant game franchises that are deserving of getting that time back in the spotlight. Last week, we looked at Nintendo’s high speed F-Zero franchise, but this week, we change things up a bit. In 2012, Hudson Soft, developers of games like Bomberman and Bonk, went defunct. Despite this, their assets were granted to Konami for use, which Konami has occasionally utilized. In recent years, Konami has slowed down on game production, though they insist that it’s still important to them. One way they can really prove this is by bringing back one of their acquisitions: Bloody Roar. A collaboration between Hudson Soft and Eighting, this was one of those fantastic fighters that faded into obscurity.
Bloody Roar is a 3D fighting game series with one simple gimmick; the combatants can transform into powerful anthropomorphic beasts. Starting in the arcades as Beastorizer in 1997, the game found its way on PlayStation consoles under the Bloody Roar title shortly after. Each character is known as a Zoanthrope, with half human and half beast powers. After collecting enough energy in battle, fighters could transform into wolves, moles, tigers and more. Not only would this increase their strength tenfold, but it would also grant them brand new attacks. Taking attacks in beast mode would deplete their energy gauge and transform them back into their human form. Controls would revolve around four buttons: punch, kick, block, and beast transformations. It’s basically like Dead or Alive but with the ability to transform.
The story revolves around the Tylon Corporation, a company that abducts and experiments on various people. After discovering the “trigger code” in the human genome, they figure out how they can morph humans into Zoanthropes. They turn their kidnapped victims into Zoanthropes with the intent on controlling their minds to use them as weapons. Their experiments go so far that they even work on natural born Zoanthropes. Using an army of Zoanthropes, they aim for world domination. As you can imagine, things don’t go as planned, and Tylon Corporation ends up shutting down their operation. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a separate facility to continue their experiments. That would eventually lead into the various sequels.
Bloody Roar was pretty well received, and it had a pretty deep fighting system, though it had a fairly small roster. Yugo the Wolf, Alice the Rabbit, Bakuryu the Mole, Greg the Gorilla, Long the Tiger, Mitsuko the Boar, Gado the Lion, and Hans the Fox. Eight fighters, while distinct, was a small roster compared to games like Tekken and Virtua Fighter at the time. The roster issue was rectified a bit with Bloody Roar 2 the very next year. Four of the characters were replaced with seven more characters, bringing the roster to just under a dozen. This included Jenny the Bat, Stun the Insect, Shina the Leopard, and Busuzima the Chameleon. Bakuryu was replaced by his apprentice, also going by the same name, Long’s clone Shenlong join’s the fight, and finally Uriko, who was part of the first game’s story, joins the roster.
With more characters to select from, Bloody Roar 2 was starting to shape into a worthy fighting franchise. Despite this, it needed something else, and that would come in the form of Beast Drives. Essentially, these would be your super attacks, delivering devastating damage and providing more flair. The story also moves forward, focusing more on the Zoanthrope Liberation Front, which created tension in the world with humans and non-members. Overall, it was everything you could really ask for in a sequel.
When we get to Bloody Roar 3, releasing on the PlayStation 2 in 2000, we start to see where the series started to play things safe. While the graphics were a huge improvement and we got even more characters, there weren’t really any gameplay changes. It was mostly a boost in presentation, getting the updated graphics and audio from the new hardware. The Bloody Roar 3 era was an interesting time for the franchise. Not only was it on new hardware, but it also became subject to enhanced ports. First it was Bloody Roar: Primal Fury on the Nintendo GameCube, which felt like a true sequel. Not only does the game add even more characters, but it also adds a new gameplay feature with the Hyper Beast Mode. This transformation is stronger and faster, but it also drains your own life force.
Primal Fury was also ported to the Xbox a year later under the name Bloody Roar Extreme. With the addition of the Hyper Beast Mode, players would have a lot more options. The ability to change into a beast at any time adds a lot of potential, but also a lot of risks. This is also where we started to see some more experimental characters like Uranus the Chimera and Xion the Unborn. The story in these games also brought to light a Zoanthrope tournament. Of course, it’s operated by a big corporation with a hidden agenda. More experiments, including the robotic clone of the original Bakuryu, and it became clear that the story wasn’t really moving forward.
This would all change when we get to Bloody Roar 4, the releasing in 2003 for the PlayStation 2. It was clear the developers were trying to move away from the evil corporations, now directing the plot to build the lore of the Zoanthropes. This put a lot of focus on the new character, Nagi, who obtains the both the power of Xion and the Earth’s will, known as Gaia. With an ancient dragon breaking free, the fighters discover the source in a temple in an attempt to seal it. Many character endings have conflicting stories, but overall, this was where the series ended. Yugo does appear as a fighter in the Japan only game, DreamMix TV World Fighters, but that’s the last “new” content we really got. In 2011, Hudson Soft attempted to produce a fifth game in the franchise, but it was ultimately shut down by their closure.
It’s been nearly 18 years since the last Bloody Roar title. While the first two games did get a small resurgence on the PlayStation 3 as PS One classics, the studio closure played a big part. Last year, Konami filed a trademark for Bloody Roar, showing that they may have plans. Whether this is a remastered collection or a new game, it’s unclear. They may have no plans at all. Even though games like Tekken, SoulCalibur, Dead or Alive and more fill the 3D fighter shoes these days, Bloody Roar would be a welcome a comeback. The ability to transform during matches really spices things up and makes things interesting. With fighting games more popular than ever, especially now with online gameplay and eSports, it’s really about time to Bring it Back!
As mentioned before, it’s very possible that Konami has plans with this franchise due to their trademark. If we could see a remaster of one or even all the games, that would help bring them to the current generation with minimal effort. Improve the resolution, add an online mode, and you’d have a remaster that would likely make fans happy. Of course, what fans would really want is a new game, which could also be in the works. As for how they could go about it, of course they would have to involve Eighting in some way. They’ve worked on the entire series, so it’s pretty necessary to bring them back. Though now without Hudson Soft, it might be a good idea to recruit another studio as well.
A new Bloody Roar game should not only feel familiar, but it should be an evolution. The best approach here would likely be a reboot. Keep many of the characters but give the story a complete overhaul. Hyper Beast Mode should also remain, though maybe adjust how to activate it. Finally, since it’s been a few generations since the last game, make the game look immaculate. With next-gen hardware, Bloody Roar can look simply stunning. Imagine Yugo in his wolf transformation with detailed fur and a 4K resolution. Make it run at 60fps and add some new Beast Drives and you can have a stunning game. While Bloody Roar would have to fight hard to gain traction in a competitive market, surely old fans would give it a fighting chance.
It’s hard to say if Bloody Roar can make it in today’s market. The series was starting to decline in reception as it went on, but there were definitely ways to fix that. With many 3D fighters improving and changing things up over the years, surely Konami and Eighting can figure something out. Either way, this is definitely a series we would love to see return. It would honestly just be nice to see Konami utilize this property. What about you? Do you want to see a return for the beastly fighter? Let us know in the comments below! Also stay tuned for our feature next week, focusing on a single entry in a bigger franchise.
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