Bloody Roar 3

a game by Activision
Platform: Playstation 2
Rating: 7/10

Overview

The dawn of the new millennium saw the rise of a new race. Shrouded in secrecy for generations, the growing numbers of this new species forced them into revealing themselves to the world at large. Known as Zoanthropes, they also have another moniker: Beastmen. Capable to transforming into a savage, feral animal form, these Zoanthropes have always moved in secret, hidden in shadow. They've had great struggles and have nearly gone to war before. Just within the last few years, two conflicts would have threatened to engulf the world in war, had it not been for the brave actions of a few Zoanthrope fighters.

Now, a new threat has emerged. Strange symbols, known only as the Sign of the Beast, have appeared on the bodies of certain select beastmen. This symbol grants them amazing power, making them an unstoppable force compared to normal fighters, but always sentences them to a quick and mysterious death. Gado, Long, and Yugo have all returned, along with others, to search for the cause of the 'Sign.' Each follows a different path, but they all seek to discover the cause of this curse spreading throughout their kind. Afflicted with the sign themselves, how long will it be before they too are destroyed?

The fighters feature such characters as Yugo the Wolf, a street brawler who always fights on the side of good. There's Gado the Lion, a freedom fighter who went on to lead the Zoanthropes on the UN Council, and his daughter Shina the Leopard, a mercenary fighter. With more esoteric fighters like Buzusima the Chameleon and Stun the Insect, there's plenty of fighters to suit anyone's tastes.

Bloody Roar 3 is the newest release from a series of excellent games, all created under the Bloody Roar name. A 3D fighting game, Bloody Roar 3 sets itself apart from the competition by letting you play Zoanthropes, mighty fighters who shapeshift into various animalistic forms. Engaged in an all-out brawl, you'll take on other competitors, one-on-one, until only one is left standing. A traditional fighting game with a slight twist, Bloody Roar 3 has a lot to offer.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

Bloody Roar 3, like most fighting games, gives you a simple control set with which you will be able to pull off some of the most flashy and impressive moves ever seen in the genre. You've got buttons for punching, kicking, throwing, and most importantly beastorizing. Beastorizing is what they call shapeshifting in this game, and you've got one whole button dedicated to it. Press that shiny little button and suddenly your character has become a hulking beast capable to breaking bone and rending flesh. The top four buttons on the controller aren't used specifically, and can be programmed to handle multiple button presses (such as Punch+Kick+Beast to perform a beast dive move). Those four buttons come preset to allow you to sidestep, beast dive, or throw, but can easily be changed. One gripe of mine is that Bloody Roar 3 doesn't take advantage of the analog controller, only using the directional pad for movement.

There are a large variety of stages to play on, all of which have destructible sides allowing you to perform finishing moves that hurl your enemy out of the ring. As you progress through the single player, or survival game, you'll fight tougher and tougher enemies, until you've gotten to the end, where you'll fight a boss that's as hard as they come. This is one of the bigger drawbacks of BR3 as, like its predecessors, it can become unreasoningly difficult in a short amount of time. If you're high strung and don't like have to continue from save a lot, you might want to take it really easy when try to beat the single player game.

When you actually get to the fight, you'll find that Bloody Roar 3 flows very well for a fighting game, allowing you to fight intuitively and string combos easily, while still leaving enough to learn that you'll be entertained for quite some time. There are even two characters that can only be called 'Combo Monkeys' -- flowing from move to move very well, at the expense of doing fairly low damage. Still, even the big fighters like Gado the Lion have a good amount of combos and special maneuvers, letting you get into the thick of it without having to worry about being too slow.

Lastly, there's the beast mode, allowing you to experience the strangest part of the game. As you fight, you'll build up your beast meter. When it gets to a certain point, you'll be able to transform into your beast mode, which turns your beastorize button into a new attack button (for slashing and biting style beast attacks), grants you regenerative ability, and increases your speed and damage. If you let your beast meter build up to its maximum, a glyph will flash across the screen, and your beast meter will start flashing. With the right button press, you can enter Hyper Beast Mode -- this transforms you into your beast mode, highlighted with an ethereal glow. In this mode, your speed and damage dealing ability increase massively and you can perform an unlimited amount of beast dive modes. However, it only lasts 12 seconds, and after it ends you won't be able to transform for the rest of the fight.

Since I've been talking about it so much, I'll mention Beast Dive modes. A very special finishing attack, these moves can only be performed while you're in Beast Mode and, if they go off, perform a devastating preprogrammed combo complete with flashy special effects. These attacks are usually very cool to look at and inflict huge amounts of damage. Once you've performed a Beast Dive move, you'll revert to your human form, whether or not it went off.

Multiplayer

As always in fighting games, two human players can compete in a bare-fisted knockdown drag-out brawl of epic proportions. A simple interface lets you control character, maps, and option selection, allowing you to stage small tournaments from the safety of your own home. Allowing only for one-on-one fights, you won't find much in the way of optional extras, save for a few extra game modes that can be unlocked by finishing the single player portions of the game. You can use one of the extra game modes to play Sudden Death Survival (where one hit is all it takes to knock you out) or Hyper Beast Battle (where you're locked in Hyper Beast Mode). Aside from those extra modes though, there isn't much more of interest in the multiplayer, as all it boils down to is a one-on-one fight.

But then again, that's why everyone plays fighting games, right?

Graphics

As one of the first fighting games out for the PS2, I can honestly say that the graphics in this title are impressive in the extreme. High quality character models and motion capture make this game very appealing to the eye. Each character has a multitude of effects, from absurd amounts of detail (like the close-up on Yugo's pupil in the intro) to light, airy clothing that blows and ripples in the wind.

Some of the graphics don't appear to have had as much attention as others, as some of the distant background shots can appear slightly pixelated at times, but this is usually made up for by the details in the nearby scenery. On one of the stages, you'll fight atop an aircraft carrier, complete with wind that blows your clothing in a certain direction, and fighter jets that launch off of the deck in the background.

Audio

Surprisingly good is the term I keep thinking of, especially given the lukewarm treatment that many console games receive for their soundtrack. Sound effects are simple and blended well enough to stay in the background, where they belong. Whether soft or hard, you'll hear and, if you've got the force feedback feature turned on, feel the impact of hits, as well as the traditionally cinematic treatment of punches, kick, and the occasional yell. The soundtrack is where Bloody Roar 3 shines. A rock treatment in the extreme, BR3 gives you a fierce, energetic score to listen to while you're pounding the crap out of an enemy.

Relation to Prior Installments

My greatest disappointments when compared to the first two Bloody Roar games are twofold. First, even with all of the secrets and hidden characters unlocked, it didn't seem like BR3 had enough hidden elements to satisfy me. I'd like to see at least two more hidden characters, as well as background stories and finishing info for all of the secret characters. Along with the lack of secrets comes a general downplay of the storyline for the game. The first two games had a lot of background story that you discovered as the game went along. Bloody Roar 2 even had short interludes between every fight that explained why each fighter was fighting the other fighter! With only intro and ending sequences for each character, I felt a little cheated.

Bottom Line

Bloody Roar 3 is a great update of the original Bloody Roar games, especially given its showcase on the PS2 system. It takes a platform like the PS2 to bring out the qualities present in these games, with great graphics and powerful sound. Although there isn't much new in BR3, I was satisfied enough simply to have a PS2 version of my favorite old games. Many people who have played out traditional fighting games can easily find new life in Bloody Roar 3, with its eccentric cast of characters and new take on old gameplay styles. Lacking in some story elements, Bloody Roar 3 is nonetheless a good addition to any collection, one that I can easily recommend.

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