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Primal Rage – Atari Jaguar CD

Primal Rage – Atari Jaguar CD

Primal RagePlatform: Atari Jaguar CD

Developer: Probe Software

Publisher: Time Warner

Release Date: December 1995

Genre: Fighting

Nerd Rating: 5 out of 10

Reviewed by The Cubist

Note: The version of Primal Rage that this is based on is a burned copy. Since burning Jaguar CD games doesn’t always go as smoothly as with other consoles, defects such as freezes, strange audio output, and difficulty booting the disc are not taken into account.

During my quest to find a winning combination of settings, CD-Rs, and burning software (among other things) I’ve been using Primal Rage as my sort of test game. I chose this title because, first of all, I’m fairly familiar with it from playing the Genesis port when I was younger, and, secondly, because testing out various features of a fighting game is much easier than going through long stretches of other types of games. Somewhere along the way I began playing for as long as I could to see if it would ever freeze, and while I was at it I thought I might look at it a little more critically and review it.

Primal RageWhen it comes to fighting games, there are only 2 types: Mortal Kombat, and everything else. I didn’t go into Primal Rage expecting the fluidity and versatility of the Mortal Kombat franchise, but I was looking forward to superior graphics if nothing else. For those unfamiliar with the game, there’s not much to tell. The intro tells a story about a meteor or something that hits the earth, wiping out life as we know it and somehow replacing it with these dinosaur-esque creatures. About half resemble actual dinosaurs while a few others have the same general look but aren’t based on any dinosaurs I’ve ever heard of. There are also two big, angry, ape-like animals with the whole King Kong meets caveman thing going on. Each monster / dinosaur rules over a region of the reformed “Urth,” 4 of them fighting for civilization and peace and the other 3 for darkness, destruction, and chaos.

Like almost all other fighting games, the objective is to drain your opponents health using basic punches and kicks (in this case bites and tail whips, too) as well as an assortment of special moves unique to each combatant. Also like all fighting games from the 90’s that were not Mortal Kombat, moving the characters around is slow, jumping is clunky, and the specials are almost impossible to pull off. Fatalities are also included in the game, but they’re even harder to input correctly than in MK.  Rather than the standard D-pad presses followed by buttons, Primal Rage requires the player to hold action buttons and then press the D-pad. It’s not easy timing this process correctly, but the fatalities are some pretty brutal stuff if you can ever pull ’em off.

Jaguar Pro ControllerPrimal Rage was one of the few titles to make use of the Jaguar’s “Pro Controller,” which included 3 extra buttons and looks a lot like the 6-button controller for the Genesis with an added keypad. These controllers aren’t exactly available en masse on the secondary market, and what I have found is upwards of $100. If you’ve ever played a game that recommended using a more advaned controller but you had to use the regular one instead, you know how frustrating this can be, especially when it comes to fighting games. The A, B, and C buttons take care of most of the moves, but the tiny “Options” button in the middle of the controller is used for the 4th attack. Rather than make the fighting more cumbersome, it only really makes it less interesting since the button is quickly forgotten altogether.

Primal RageThe Atari Jaguar by itself has some of the crappiest sound of any console, but the CD unit on top improves upon it greatly. One of the most obvious attributes early on is the sound clarity and crisp effects. While the background stages look more like paintings than environments, the “dinosaurs” are detailed well, however it can become indistinct when the fighters are moving their entire bodies around quickly. There’s also a bit of jumpiness noticeable, as if the game suffers from a low frame rate. The graphics by themselves are superior than the cartridge ports, but at the cost of fluid motion and other minor issues.

The first few times I played it, something seemed “off” but I suspected it was related to how long it had been since I’d played. Then, I finally figured it out; the sprites are smaller! This was confirmed when I read all the complicated differences surrounding each home console version of Primal Rage. While all the CD-based versions were pretty similar except for the PlayStation version which included additional content and longer loading times, the increase in visual capacity lead to compromises in the size of the characters.

Ignoring the apparent difference in size of the images below, look at the height of the background columns compared to the monsters to get some idea of how great the size difference really is.

Primal Rage

Small Jaguar CD Sprites


Primal Rage

Huge PlayStation Sprites









One unique thing about the game is each character’s strengths and weaknesses in areas of speed, reach, and jumping ability. If the creatures didn’t move so abysmally slow, this would probably be a pretty cool aspect to play around with. The level of gore is cool enough, but I suppose all that stuff stopped being less interesting after I was about 17. Or maybe it’s just because I started watching horror movies with such memorable moments. I guess cartoon-ish gore and violence just doesn’t do it for me anymore.

Anyway, I’m not sure if the somewhat sluggish gameplay has anything to do with the Jaguar CD or not. Luckily I’ve spotted my corresponding Genesis cart around here recently, so I ought to be able to a draw a reasonable comparison soon. Load times are acceptable, somewhere in the 10 – 20 second range. Most any still-shot taken from the game would look great, but perhaps the Jaguar CD just doesn’t have the FPS to back up the motion.  It’s still nicely playable, although you’ll lose some of that “giant dinosaurs fighting” feel due to the reduced sprites.

Primal Rage

Crazily enough, this was one of the most ported titles of it’s day, seeing releases for the Genesis, 32X, SNES, Saturn, PlayStation, 3DO, PC, Game Boy, Game Gear, and of course the Atari Jaguar CD.

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist

Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

Email me anytime, about anything:

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