Throwback Thursday: Primal Rage – The Dinosaur Arcade Fighter
In August 1994, Primal Rage was first released for arcades. The post-apocalyptic fighting game pitted the gargantuan monsters of prehistory in primitive combat and offered one of the most violent arcade experiences for its time. The unique-styled action on display made Primal Rage a popular title for fighting game fans, and was ported to pretty much every available platform in its original release.
The early 90s were a time when fighting games and endless edge were all the rage, paving the way for violent titles like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter to take over arcades. It was inevitable that dinosaurs would also get their chance to duke it out, an idea eventually struck by designer Dennis Harper and artist Jason Leong. The duo would team-up and rig together a demo of their beast-brawling plans, consisting of stop-motion animation emulating the look of old-school Harryhausen movies. The unique presentation impressed publisher Atari Games enough to eventually greenlight the game.
Development employed the creation of several posable monster figures, each costing in the ballpark of $50,000 USD to make. Atari also sought the expertise of Pete Kleinow, a master animator well-known for his quality contributions to the Star Wars and Terminator series’. Primal Rage‘s combat animations were supposedly based on that of Street Fighter II, the gold standard for fighting games at the time. To avoid seeming too derivative, developers incorporated the use of claws, tails, and teeth to the animalistic animations, introducing a large amount of blood and gore in the process.
Primal Rage has quite the colorful narrative. After mankind is thrown back into the Stone Age following a cataclysmic meteor strike, the earth is reformed to resemble a fire-erupting dinosaur skull. This new “Urth” is ruled over by colossal god-like giants, some on the side of virtue and others with plans to usher in a new era of destruction. The seven clashing titans resemble various creatures from the prehistoric era, all with unique fighting skills and supernatural abilities.
Gameplay sees beast go against beast in traditional 2D combat, with players going up against the myriad of Urth’s gods in battle. Arenas are scattered with monster-worshipping humans, which players can gladly devour to refill their waning health bar. When defeated, fighters’ hearts explode in bloody fashion, while the victor strikes a fitting pose. Players can supplant this gruesome end by initiating a fatality, where opponents can be executed with even more dramatic flair.
With the game’s many similarities to Mortal Kombat, it’s speculated that the Primal Rage roster could be an homage to the rival fighting series’ characters. The electrified Armadon, cold-powered Blizzard, and fire-infused Diablo each have respective kounterparts in Raiden, Sub-Zero, and Scorpion, even sharing in a few of their special abilities. This concept is taken further when considering both games also utilize a pallete swap technique, allowing for nearly identical fighters to exist from a single character model.
Primal Rage was primed for a follow-up in 1995, but for whatever reason, the sequel was cancelled before development completed. The update would’ve seen many improvements to the base game, including a greatly expanded roster. The story that would’ve accompanied Primal Rage II was compiled into a book titled Primal Rage: The Avatars, revealing the Earth-dooming meteor to be an egg containing a powerful alien being known as Necrosan. In a stroke of bittersweet luck, a playable version of the unfinished sequel began circulating the web in early 2017, giving us a look at what could’ve been.
What’s your opinion of Primal Rage? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to follow Don’t Feed the Gamers on Twitter to be informed of the latest gaming and entertainment news 24 hours a day! Also, be on the lookout for the next Throwback Thursday where we’ll highlight yet another title from gaming past. For entries from previous weeks, check out these next few links below:
Eric Hall1996 Posts
Phone-browsing Wikipedia in one hand and clutching his trusty controller in the other, the legendary Eric Hall spreads his wealth of knowledge as a writer for Don't Feed the Gamers. Be sure to catch his weekly "Throwback Thursday" segment for a nostalgic look at trivia from the past.