Back in the 1990s glory days of Mortal Kombat and its many imitators (I'm looking at you, Tattoo Assassins), Atari Games took a run at the fighting game crown with Primal Rage, an arcade game in which players battled not as ninjas, damned souls, or gods, but as mighty dinosaurs. With Jurassic Park still wildly popular, this combination proved to be... eh, not a runaway hit per se, but surely one of the better remembered Kombat klones, and even then mostly just for the novelty of mixing dinosaurs with a fighting game. Primal Rage made the rounds on the home consoles and computers of the day and sparked a little marketing empire of its own with comics and toys. It's only natural that a sequel would follow, and while Primal Rage 2 was in development for a short while with a targeted release date of 1996, it was canceled before completion and quietly buried. Only one playable arcade cabinet has surfaced in recent years, but now thanks to a custom version of the popular arcade emulator MAME, it's possible to bring Primal Rage 2 home. Here's Hardcore Gaming 101 to explain how the sequel changed the formula and why that likely contributed to its demise.
The game was left unfinished, and was presumed lost. While the ROMs would eventually surface, no version of MAME put the game into a playable state. Some time later, an actual cabinet would eventually surface at Chicago's Galloping Ghost Arcade, letting people experience the game for the first time. For those of us who weren't local or lacked airfare, however, we had to make do with Youtube videos filmed by camcorder. Until recently, that is, when Gruntzilla94, someone who had been researching the game heavily, made a special version of MAME capable of fully running this mysterious game.
Since the game was never finished, any real faults of the game should be given with that in mind. While there's plenty of glitches, unfinished animations, and things that are straight up broken, it should be assumed that all of these would have been fixed for release. Even if the game had come out, it's likely there would have been further revisions, much like the original Rage. Still, considering its early state, it's fairly playable, if not particularly amazing. Given the vast strides fighting games had made since 1994, PR2 had a lot more to go up against, and it can't really compete.
For a game built around brawling dinosaurs, Primal Rage 2 commits the greatest sin it possibly can: it sidelines the brawling dinosaurs. The game's lore outlines that humans have begun to rise up and worship dinosaurs as gods, so in the sequel the dinosaurs choose humans to wage their wars for them. If I wanted to brawl as a human, there were plenty of other, better games I could choose. The whole point of Primal Rage is to see dinosaurs rip each other apart, and without the dinosaurs, the whole endeavor is revealed as the hollow experience it really is. Presumably Atari realized this too late in the development process to change course, and as the Kombat craze started to wane, the company likely just pulled the plug and walked away. A few toys and even a novel based on the expanded lore of Primal Rage 2 made it out to stores anyway, although today the whole franchise is, pardon the pun, extinct.