When Bloody Roar first appeared on the fighting-game map a little more than a year ago, it was a refreshing surprise by a development team not known for fighters. Eighting/Raizing, whose previous effort was the critically acclaimed shooter Soukyugurentai, practically came out of nowhere with this savvy blend of anthropomorphic/lycanthropic combatants. The fast, furious fighting found in the game made playing other fighters of the time (Dead or Alive, Street Fighter EX) seem tedious and sluggish by comparison. The American version went one step further by adding a sidestep, a feature sorely lacking in the Japanese version. Now that the sequel has emerged, will the fighting genre see another step in the evolution of fighters? Unfortunately not.
Upon starting up Bloody Roar 2, no one can deny the wealth of features available at the outset: arcade mode, story mode, training, survival, time attack, etc. It's all in here. There's also the extra customs menu, where you can select things like the big-head modes and other stuff also found in the first game. While there isn't anything as luxurious as a Tekken Force mode or an RPG mode, most gamers usually don't fret over such details, and won't miss them here either. Graphically, the game is as gorgeous as the first installment - in fact, it looks almost exactly the same, with beautiful light-sourcing, speedy 60fps action, and all sorts of special effects when switching into beast mode. The soundtrack, and all its thrashy hard-rock ways, suits the mood just fine and matches the aggressive dueling, beat for beat. Basically, the game is a subtle repeat of what the first one was, which is a good thing. So, what, you may ask, is the problem?
The problem is that it is a repeat of the first game. The difference is that they took out the characters Mitsuko (the female boar, yuck!), Greg (the monkey man), and Hans (the girly-looking fox guy), and replaced them with four new characters - Marvel (the leopard girl), Busuzima (the chameleon), Jenny (the bat chick), and Stun (the insect). Oddly enough, Bakuryu the mole and Uriko, the boss from BR1 are back, except that they both look like teenagers now. One would think that this is a prequel, except that the story mode indicates that BR2 does indeed follow in the footsteps of the first game. Gratuitous character swapping aside, little has changed from the first game, prompting the question, "why bother?" Why bother indeed when Bloody Roar 2 actually takes a step back and removes the ease of executing the sidestep! For reasons unfathomable, somebody actually went ahead and removed the perfectly functional sidestep, which was the main reason the American version of BR1 was a fairly balanced fighter. While there is an option in the custom mode that activates the sidestep (performed by pressing right after executing a block), it's hardly intuitive and only serves to give the computer an additional edge while you struggle with the controls. Without this function, Bloody Roar 2 reverts to the all-out frontal assault that the import version of the first game was. While the new characters are much better than the ones they replaced, and the number of available moves per character has increased, the incentive to keep on playing wanes severely after a few rounds. The mode most gamers will enjoy playing is the story mode, which gives you a good deal of background material on each fighter. While the storyline in most fighters is merely a superfluous excuse to let the gathered combatants beat the crap out of each other, it actually adds to the overall flavor of Bloody Roar 2.
In its defense, the voice-overs and sound effects are very well done, while the overall gameplay is responsive and fast paced, making fighters like Dead or Alive seem slow and ponderous. Nevertheless, you'd be foolish to call BR2 a Tekken-killer. It's really disappointing, because it really could have been. Unfortunately, while surprise developer Eighting/Raizing could have used Bloody Roar 1 as a blueprint for even greater things with the sequel, it appears as if the team dropped the ball.
The bottom line is, if you never picked up the first game, Bloody Roar 2 is still a good game, with a much better cast than the first one. However, in contrast to the original American version of BR1, Bloody Roar 2 is a marginal improvement that still suffers from second-best status due to the exclusion of integral gameplay elements that should never have been messed with. The game is a major disappointment for such a promising series.