Dark and edgy lost RPG gem
Back in 2003, strong female characters didn’t enjoy the same level of representation they do today. While Samus Aran continued to kick ass for team Nintendo with Metroid Fusion, some of the strongest leading ladies of Sony’s previous generation didn’t make the leap to its new generation.
Ladies like Regina from the excellent Resident Evil meets Jurassic Park survival horror series, Dino Crisis. Others spectacularly fell from grace, à la Lara Croft in the ill-fated Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness. So along came Primal, an action adventure game for PS2 developed by Sony’s Cambridge Studio starring no-nonsense rock chick Jennifer Tate.
After a demon attack on her and her boyfriend left Jennifer hospitalised in the game’s opening sequence, players took control of an astral projection of Jen tasked with travelling to various other worlds in order to save her beloved. She inevitably found herself caught up in the struggle between good and evil and had to restore balance to each of the four other-worldly realms by defeating the demons that dwelled within. Each world Jen visited was huge and highly detailed with its own distinct look and feel.
The harsh, bleak and ruined realm of Solum, home to the brutal and powerful Ferai race was far removed from the luxurious gothic castle of the vampiric Wraith autocrats who inhabited Aetha. Jen’s other destinations included under the sea, sadly with no signing red crustaceans, and a subterranean city situated inside a volcano. The difference in the worlds was not only aesthetic but offered great diversity to gameplay.
Jen inherited powers from the various worlds eventually allowing her to change into four different demon forms. Each form not only made her stronger and more powerful than her human self, but also gave her different combat abilities. Players could transform on the fly granting access to different weapons, fighting styles and finishing moves. Different forms also allowed Jen access to specific skills, such as the Ferai’s time-bending capabilities and the Wraith’s stealth ability granting considerable variation to both exploration and combat.
Adding further diversity was Jen’s Gargoyle companion Scree. Players could switch between both characters at will, with Scree’s individual abilities, like scaling walls often needed to progress. It became a fantastic single player co-op game; with many, often mind-boggling, puzzles requiring participation from both parties.
Not only did Primal have great gameplay, stunning and intricate worlds, solid combat and a host of memorable characters, it also had a fantastic blend of old and new with its high-fantasy setting, contemporary rock soundtrack and modern protagonist. It mixed genres and added a much darker edgier tone to the action adventure genre, much like Prince of Persia: Warrior Within attempted shortly after, but to much greater effect.
Unfortunately, Primal didn’t manage to set the world alight nor did Jen become the new poster girl for PlayStation. A sequel was in the works but abandoned in favour of less financially risky titles. Sadly the only realm that Jen now inhabits is that of obscurity.
Currently available on Amazon for around £7: Primal (PS2)