A craze for fighting games gripped America in the 90s. This was largely because of two legendary games which both released in 1992: Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat. For grade schoolers at the time, anybody who was anybody owned a copy of Street Fighter II. And as for Mortal Kombat, well, this was a game spoken of in hushed whispers. What was this horrendously violent game which had all the grownups going crazy? No one knew, but playground legends told of one reaaaaaally cool kid whose mom let him have a copy.
The amazing sales for these games incited a rush to produce more games of the sort, some good, some sort of meh. But among those games, Primal Rage stood out. Using the same stop-motion technology used to create Goro, the creators of Primal Rage crafted beautifully detailed stop-motion dinosaurs to tear each other apart on the screen. Characters were largely seen as homages to the Mortal Kombat characters (especially Blizzard’s freezing attacks), the game had finishing moves and fatalities, just as Mortal Kombat had, and Primal Rage even ignited its own outrage campaign from angry parents who tried to get the game banned.
Some critics took issue with Primal Rage’s clunky controls and unbalanced gameplay, but the look and feel of the game still made it the highest earning arcade game of 1994.
So what on Urth happened to the sequel we were supposed to get?
Primal Rage II
Following the release of the original Primal Rage in 1994, Atari quickly begun production on a sequel with a planned release date of September 1996 for the arcade versions. The vision for this game was… a little different than its predecessor.
As explained in the game’s backstory, none of the playable characters in Primal Rage won the original war. All of the gods, both from The Virtuous Beasts and The Destructive Beasts, found themselves completely overwhelmed by the space god Necrosan, who hatched from the egg (previously mistaken for a meteor) which had previously ravaged the world of Urth. Defeated and imprisoned, the gods use their divine powers to choose human beings to act as their avatars in the war against Necrosan and his minions.
In the game, players would start out playing as the human avatars with the ability to shape change into the avatar’s dinosaur counterpart during each match. After a couple of victories, players would then have the option to start off playing as the dinosaur version of the character, with the option of shape changing into the human avatar during the battle. All human avatars were animated with stop-motion puppets, the same as the dinosaurs, and appeared to exist on the same scale as the dinosaurs (which appear to reach several stories in height within the game.)
Gaming ‘zines promised it but we never got it. They even released toys of some of the new characters as part of the Playmates action figure line, and yet they never released the effin’ game!
Financial Woes and Company Chaos
Primal Rage might have been pure, unfiltered awesomeness, but it came at a veeeeeeeery bad time for Atari Games. This was about the time Nintendo finally had its revenge for Atari’s Tengen venture. In 1989, Atari Games decided it was time to release its arcade games for play on home cartridges. Unfortunately, they decided to release those games on Nintendo cartridges. They even tricked the U.S. Patent Office into giving them the specs for Nintendo’s 10NES lockout chip, and they developed a security workaround to create cartridges for games such as Alien Syndrome, Shinobi, Pac-Man, Gauntlet and Tetris: The Soviet Mind Game which all worked on the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Releasing unlicensed ports for other consoles was not unheard of, but Nintendo was having none of it and they happily sued Atari Games, forcing the company to pay damages in 1994 and snatching back the copyrights for Tetris. Atari Games kept the rights for the arcade version of Tetris, but Nintendo won the rights to the home console version, forcing Atari Games to recall and destroy all of their copies of the game after only four weeks on the market.
Hurting from the lawsuits and reeling from internal chaos, Atari Games pulled the plug on Primal Rage 2, feeling the game would not make enough money to stop the bleeding. In addition, the game still suffered from bugs, crashes and hardware limitations. All of the additional animations would have made the game next to impossible to port to home consoles, and the development team didn’t have enough time to address the game’s many issues. In 1996, TimeWarner sold Atari Games to Midway, the company which published Mortal Kombat. Midway then did to Atari Games what Cole Young did to Goro, spilling the entrails of its hated enemy and leaving it to rot.
The Playable Version
In the universe of Primal Rage, a giant meteor destroyed Earth and all of its technology, rendering the entire planet to a wasteland of ruins and hunter-gatherer societies. Yet even the world of Urth could not compare with the desolation of a world bereft of a sequel to Primal Rage. The game eventually did leak, but no one could tweak the coding enough for a playable version. Atari Games originally tested the game on a custom-made arcade hard drive and developers, worrying someone might do to them what Tengen attempted to do to Nintendo, encoded the games with an extremely sophisticated anti-piracy code which made the game display incorrectly in any unauthorized device. So for over a decade, fans could do nothing but dream of a world in which they could experience the fabled Primal Rage 2 for themselves.
Until one unbelievable genius by the name of Gruntzilla94 finally cracked the code. Starting in 2013, Gruntzilla94 spent three years on the project, finally showcasing the finished product in 2017. Lo and behold, Primal Rage 2 was no longer extinct!
Gruntzilla94’s finished product is available for download. There are still some bugs and crashes (the game was never technically even finished), but the game is playable, not just in single-player mode but in multi-player also. Dozens of streamers have uploaded content from the game and Primal Rage 2 even has its own category on YouTube, full of moves, fatalities and full playthroughs.
Thank you, Gruntzilla94! You glorious god amongst nerds!