Primal Rage garnered a moderate level of success when it hit arcades in the early 1990s, and in subsequent years Atari's prehistoric brawler was ported to pretty much every contemporary home console (and a coupe of handheld ones, too). The ports came with varying degrees of arcade accuracy, but for the most part were deemed to be worthy alternatives to other fighters of the era featuring digitised visuals. Primal Rage's main draws were the level of gore that each fight was soaked in; and the source material of dinosaurs and other beasts of prehistory tearing massive chunks out of each others faces. What's not to like?
It appears that a sequel, Primal Rage II was underway and intended for release in arcades in late 1996. However, due to Atari's arcade division being consumed by Midway, Primal Rage II was quietly cancelled and the game was largely forgotten. According to one of Primal Rage's lead developers Chris Tang, this was due to Midway seeing Primal Rage II as a direct competitor to its own Mortal Kombat games, and the plug was pulled - so to speak. Primal Rage II, and the whole franchise in general was one of Atari's most profitable IPs, so the decision to cancel it wasn't taken lightly, says Tang. He spoke exclusively to RetroCollect and told us: "the [Primal Rage] franchise up to that point was doing amazingly - we had comics, toys, clothing...and were developing a Saturday morning cartoon even. It was Atari Games' most high profile franchise perhaps for their entire history, and other companies had things at stake - so it wasn't something that was easy for them to just cancel."
The quality of the models used in Primal Rage II appears to have improved substatially since the original game and Chris offered the following insight in the technical side of the game:
"The characters in the game were all stop motion puppets, they were amazingly detailed foam models that were formed around metal articulating armatures. They were animated by Hollywood stop motion veterans Pete Kleinow and Jon Berg. Both great guys. Pete passed away not long after the project, unfortunately. I loved seeing what they did in the lab every day; making the moves come to life, frame by frame."
Of the hardware used to power Primal Rage II and the reasons for the lack of emulation up until now, Chris explains:
"The game started on Co-Jag (Jaguar coin op) hardware - which was absolutely terrible, and honestly wasn't capable of making something competitive with other arcade fighters. We managed to find a great hardware to migrate to in the form of PSX-arcade hardware. It could do scaling and transparency, larger sprites, better effects, and many of the things that when you see the game now...still look kind of cool. In fact, Primal Rage II does things that no other arcade game did then or even now. There were so many frames of animation that we kept the first few frames in RAM, played those when a move was performed, then loaded the rest of the frames off the hard drive in realtime as it played. All the while, the hard drive was also streaming music and the backgrounds. It was a real technological marvel. There was custom hardware built for it to make that all work, which is why it took so long for emulation to happen."
Indeed, Primal Rage II did remain little more than a footnote in the history of cancelled arcade games until some time after 2010, when a ROM of the unfinished game was dumped online. Unfortunatley, as described above the game could not be played as the software apparently required a bespoke piece of arcade hardware to run. All of this has recently changed though, with the development of a specialised build of MAME called MAME4RAGE2 being released. MAME4RAGE2 has been specifically created to run Primal Rage II and as you can see from the video below (from YouTuber Owlnonymous, complete with insightful commentary), the game does indeed look like an interesting prospect.
Rather than fight as the huge beasts from the original, this time the players fight as 'avatars' - humanoid characters that have the ability to momentarily morph into animalistic alter egos with increased power and approximatley 100% more claws with which to rip and tear. The creation of MAME4RAGE2 will undoubtedly come as a pleasant surprise for fans of the original Primal Rage, and it warms the cockles of our hearts that the sequel that never was is now available in fully playable, blood-soaked form.
Primal Rage II Gameplay
Link: MAME4RAGE2 Reddit Thread
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