In 1994 Atari released an arcade fighting game called Primal Rage. The title instantly attracted players by featuring a huge roster of dinosaurs in lieu of the standard martial artists that are a dime a dozen in its genre. Given that it was released to capitalize on the success of Midway’s ultra-bloody Mortal Kombat series (as were most fighting games released during the mid 90’s), Primal Rage relied heavily on gore and creative, over-the-top fatalities to appeal to prospective players. Unfortunately the experience of playing Primal Rage against another person proved intensely shallow when compared to games like Super Street Fighter II.
However, in 1994 a bit of blood and gore was really all one needed to create an arcade hit and Atari was quick to capitalize on the success of Primal Rage. Not only did the game appear on almost every gaming console and handheld available at the time, the company also rushed a sequel into production, the appropriately named Primal Rage II. Sadly, after months of development and getting as far as testing the arcade cabinet at California’s Golf Land arcade, Atari realized that it could not earn a profit from Primal Rage II and the game was canceled. It’s at this point where Primal Rage II almost completely vanishes from existence. The game’s plot was used as the basis for a Primal Rage novelization, and a developer would occasionally share a story relating to the game’s creation, but beyond that it was exceedingly rare to find any information on the game.
A few days ago however, a YouTube user calling himself “Raydude” uploaded footage of gameplay from Primal Rage II. According to the video’s backstory, Raydude discovered a copy of the Primal Rage II game data that had been left in storage for the past 14 years. This being 2013 his first inclination was to obviously fire up the cabinet and take footage for the YouTube masses, and as a result we have the first really good look at what might have been had Atari actually brought Primal Rage II to market.
You can find all four-and-a-half minutes of Primal Rage II footage below this text, but we want to warn you that what you’ll witness after hitting “play” on the embedded clip isn’t likely to please fans of the original Primal Rage. The first issue with this video is that after discovering the Primal Rage II data, Raydude opted to test it in an arcade cabinet that only features two buttons. As a result, though the game runs, Raydude’s attempts to play the title are greatly hampered by those extra two buttons his cabinet lacks. That’s an understandable issue and it shouldn’t be too difficult to move the Primal Rage II ROM data to a different, more functional cabinet, but even beyond that this video just makes us sad.
You’ll notice when watching the clip that the characters are all humans. Granted, most can transform into a monstrous beast based largely on the cast of the original Primal Rage, but if you’re stuck in human form for the rest of the match, then what’s to differentiate this game from any of the other hundreds of fighters clogging the market in that era? Primal Rage’s biggest draw has always been its claymation dinosaur fighters, and if you take that away you’re left with something anemic that straddles the apparently thin line between being a clone of Mortal Kombat and blatantly aping Rare’s Killer Instinct. For all we know Primal Rage II plays amazingly well and has an incredibly deep combat system, but if we’re to judge the game purely on what little gameplay footage we have here, we’re happy it was canceled before hitting retail.