Forgotten Fighters of the 90s: Primal Rage

Forgotten Fighters of the 90’s is a 5-piece retrospective on the lost titles from the “Golden Era” of fighting games, a time when everyone and their mother was trying to cash in on the Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat hysteria. With the recent release of Super Street Fighter IV/Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, and the upcoming release of Mortal Kombat (the reboot), are remakes of these hidden gems far behind? Only time will tell.

One of the easiest and most often used methods to describe a video game is, “It’s like X, but with Y.” Most of the time, this method is used to save the describer some time, and doesn’t necessarily mean that the game they’re describing is all that close to what they’re comparing it to. In the case of Primal Rage though, there is literally no method that more accurately describes the game. If you haven’t played Primal Rage, then allow me to describe it to you. It’s Mortal Kombat with F*CKING DINOSAURS, full stop.

Originally released upon unsuspecting arcade enthusiasts in 1994, Primal Rage depicts the bloody battles between the “virtuous” and “destructive” beasts of planet “Urth.” On the surface, Primal Rage was a typical Mortal Kombat clone with special moves, intricate combos, and copious amounts of gore. However, Primal Rage had a few tricks up its sleeve, including mini games, the ability to eat the human worshipers of your enemy for increased health, and a not-so-secret fatality that allowed you to take a hot steamy piss on your opponent…wait, what?

As it turns out, the masterminds behind “Primal Rage” weren’t content to just copy the mechanics, special moves, and fighting specializations of “Mortal Kombat,” they also adopted MK’s penchant for attracting controversy. See Exhibit A, wherein the diabolical Ape-beast “Chaos” showers his fallen foe in soggy shame the only way that Ape-beasts know how:

In hindsight, most gaming historians would point to the Mortal Kombat games as the sole target of motherly ire, but Primal Rage shouldn’t be overlooked in the parental outrage department. After the advent of the ESRB rating system in 1994, Primal Rage managed to sneak by with a rating of T for Teen (compared to MK’s M for Mature), despite being “all that and a bag of piss,” compared to its predecessor. Once parents caught wind of the urine-soaked madness, the console ports were pulled from the shelves and re-released sans-wee wee, and with a “No Gore” mode, which turned off all of the unsavory bits of the game, notably the human eating and blood splatter.

Porting arcade games to consoles was usually tricky business, and as such, Primal Rage was a slightly different animal on each of the 11 systems that it was ported to. Although a sequel to the game was developed in 1995, it was never released, leaving various iterations of “Primal Rage” to make the rounds all the way up to “Midway Arcade Treasures 2” for the PS2, which featured a neutered version of the purported “classic.” Despite its unprecedented console presence, the original arcade version remains the “purest” version of the game to date.

Among the myriad fighting game-rip offs of the 90’s, Primal Rage stands out as one of the few titles that went above and beyond the call of duty to shock and offend gamers, and backed it all up with solid enough gameplay. Owning a copy of Primal Rage that features the pee-tality ranks up in the recalled game lexicon with owning a copy of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out! before he went to jail and was replaced with “Mr. Dream.” It’s almost hilarious to think in 2011 that a few drops of virtual urine would warrant a massive recall, but that was our reality back then, and I look back upon it fondly with yellow-tinted glasses. Even though I highly doubt that we’ll ever see a remake or reboot of the Primal Rage franchise, my inner weirdo always has his fingers crossed for a truly accurate port on a modern system. Why I’m so obsessed with seeing prehistoric beasts relieve themselves on each other, I will never know.

Written by Mark Newell

Mark Newell is a co-owner, designer, developer, writer, and podcast personality at Bloody Good Horror, a website dedicated to the best and worst that the horror genre has to offer. In his spare time, he’s lighting things on fire in Skyrim, contemplating his next wacky lucha libre tattoo, and trying to bend the space-time continuum in a way that allows him to play Magic: the Gathering Online for days at a time without losing his day job.

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