Primal: PS2 Cult Classic Comes to PSN Tuesday

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Primal: PS2 Cult Classic Comes to PSN Tuesday

Primal for PSN

Primal grew from a warm, happy, and long-lost place where we were insanely fortunate enough to have an amazing team, an exciting new platform to build for (PlayStation 2!), and the freedom to make the game we wanted to make. Core influences were some of the awesome TV shows of the day: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Dark Angel to name the foremost. We wanted to build a game that captured the vibe of these shows while also showing off some of the cool technical and artistic things we thought we could achieve with the (then) new PS2.

The premise was a classic: pretty girl meets gargoyle, explores demon worlds, acquires demonic powers, and (spoiler!) has to kill her boyfriend to save the universe. We were lucky to hook up with our dream voice cast to bring these characters to life – Hudson Leick (best known from the Xena: Warrior Princess) and the fantastic and sadly missed Andreas Katsulas (whose work on Babylon 5 I so admired). Together they brought a truly unusual warmth to our main characters that stood out at the time, and remains quite special even to this day.

Musically our game world needed some ‘bite’, and a chance email to the lead singer of one of my favorite bands led to us working with industrial/electro artists 16-Volt whose tracks gave a great crunch to our combat.

In retrospect, it’s clear that in some regards our ambition exceeded our reach, and that the path we took with Primal was at odds with the larger directions the gaming world was headed — the open-world excesses of Grand Theft Auto or the social/casual gaming trends pioneered by Singstar and Eye-toy. But I think all of that makes Primal all the more notable as a one-of-a-kind, story-driven adventure with a quite unusual charm.

I always felt privileged to see — on gaming forums and the like — that Primal made quite an impact in some people’s lives. Originally released in 2003, the game’s soundtrack, ambitious, explorable environments, immersive artistry and non-throwaway storyline all help to explain its ongoing appeal. Above all, Primal’s warm-hearted, demonic soul was set loose when the world’s mass appetite for supernatural dramas was only just beginning to reveal itself.

Now for the good news: Primal is returning today as a PS2 Classic playable on PS3! I hope in this re-released form that a few more people will get the chance to meet the demon king Herne, swim in the tranquil waters of Aquis, fight the vampire-like Wraiths, and awaken the sleeping djinn of Volca.

With tomorrow’s PSN re-release, I also wanted to open the floor to some of my fellow Primal co-conspirators so they can share their favorite memories with you. Enjoy!


Jon Ashley — Scriptwriter and Voice Director, Primal:
Primal was my first opportunity to work with the Sony Cambridge studio and I met a fantastically creative team (headed by Jean-Baptiste Bolcato, Chris Sorrell, Katie Lea and Mark Gibbons) bringing great artistry to all elements of the game’s development. The environments for Primal were stunning, ambitious and completely immersive. Finding the right level of humor and genuine danger within Primal’s singular cast of characters was an enjoyable challenge and we were always looking to add as many layers of depth to script and performances to maximise the game’s impact. Crucially, the strange double-act of Jen and Scree worked extremely well, thanks to the performances of Hudson Leick and the late, great Andreas Katsulas whose warmth, dignity and good spirit overarches the world of Primal.


Mitch Philips — Lead Character Animator, Primal:
This was, at the time, an ambitious project. The lead character was able to change from one demon state to another, with her combat styles and attacks matching her demonic state and abilities. I recall two particular difficulties: the first being the creation of a distinctive combat style while the character was underwater, the other being the use of an electrified whip and trying to get the whip to behave in a believable manner with a very constraining joint and spline set-up. The biggest issue was being able to transition between one whip attack and another, mid attack, without being visually jarring. Modern titles such as Bayonetta have succeeded in doing this very well but, at the time, this was very difficult especially with Primal running at 30 fps. On the whole, though, this was an exciting project to work on with great art direction.


Mark Gibbons – Lead Artist, Primal:
Occasionally I get asked about the games I’ve worked on over the years. When I mention Primal, I get one of two reactions from the asker: a blank-faced shrug or wide-eyed excitement and a babbling response about how much they loved that game. I suppose those extremes (and the passing of nearly 10 years) are the ingredients that make for a cult classic.

It’s unquestionably the story and characters within Primal that fans really connected with, which is very gratifying since we invested a huge amount of time and effort into those aspects of the game. Originally the game’s background drew heavy influence from the classic tarot deck, but most of that fell by the wayside as development progressed because a truly tarot-centric world would’ve required a huge cast of characters that was simply not practical to deliver. However, there are still elements of tarot in the finished game, including the Kings, Queens and collectable tarot cards hidden throughout the game world.

Primal was Sony Cambridge’s first game for PS2 and I recall our team experimenting a great deal with what the console could handle graphically. We had grand ambitions for the world and really pushed against the PS2 boundaries at the time. Once the game was completed, preliminary work on a sequel was begun that featured Jen’s lover Lewis as the central character. Primal II would’ve told the story of his journey through Oblivion’s Hell, back to Mortalis, the real world.

I think perhaps the greatest indication of the affect Primal had on some of its players is the occasional Jen tattoo I stumble across, on both girls and guys. A game has to have moved you pretty deeply for you to commit an element of it to your flesh!

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6 Author Replies

  • Sounds great! Still hoping Psychonauts comes to psn soon too!

  • oh man , i loved this game and extermination too , if i could only play it on my vita i would get it , oh and how about primal ps3 or ps vita?

  • This game was awesome, featuring the voice of the late, great Andreas Katsulas. It really was an amazing world, and one I wanted to spend more time in. This needs to do well enough to allow a follow up :) I’d love to see Jen again, and see what naughtiness Arella and Abaddon have been up to

  • It’s neat to see retrospective posts like this for PS2 rereleases. Really shows that you sill care about the game rather than just publishing whatever happens to play nice with the emulator. Honestly though I’m glad that you canned the sequel if you were going to give Jen the boot.

    Hey, how about getting Ghosthunter on PSN? That was a better Ghostbusters game than the Ghostbusters game. Hopefully it being published by Namco in the states won’t be a problem.

  • Glad this will b eon PSN now. You guys should make a sequel, throw in some death and black metal!

  • This is one of the few PS2 games I held onto. Great adventure game, art design and I love the soundtrack score.

  • I thought it was Primal Rage for a second. Kudos to anyone who knows what I’m talking about. ;)

  • Excellent! I loved Primal! I still own the PS2 version, but I’ll gladly double dip and get this one! I never got to beat it.

    Any chance you guys will add “Ghosthunter” to PS2 Classics as well? That is another unsung hero of the PS2 era.

    These PS2 Classics and HD remasters are rendering my backwards compatible PS3 unnecessary! Now maybe Sony will get to work on a Dark Cloud 1&2 + Rogue Galaxy HD Collection (hint, hint)!

  • I remember this as being one of the earliest games I played on my PS2. Borrowed it from a friend, and I had a great time with the game! It was very awesome to see the PS2’s power at that time, and I was more than impressed with what the game had to offer. Looking back in retrospect, I wouldn’t say it’s one of the most underrated gems on the system, but this title definitely deserved a lot more love from gamers. Here’s hoping for more adventures with Jen and Scree!

  • nice, I missed out first time around on ps2. Any chances of getting max payne 1 and 2 on psn. Would be a nice move before max payne 3 comes out. Just saying…..

  • I loved playing this back when it first came out. The Wraith storyline was my favorite of all the worlds. I just loved the characters in the Wraith world, and also seeing Jen in a dress.

    Wonder if the cheat codes will still work or not. To this day I still have the God mode cheat memorized.

  • Any chance of getting more PS2 Classics on PSN quicker? ? ? ;)

  • Oh yeah, but if you make a sequel, make it about Jen.

  • i loved this game. i still own the ps2 version. this was such a great game that i wished more was done with this franchise. this and legend of dragoon are some of my favorite 1st party games for the ps2. when will backwards compatibility be added to the ps3 slim? I would like to play some of them again…

  • Sony will you EVER update our download list in the store. I’m sick of having to search through over 1,000 bought items to find something I bought a few years ago or last month. It’s not organized at all. Please do something I mean all it needs is a search engine in our downloads that separate’s our PS3, PSP, PSN games, game add on’s, avatars and the themes. Then put them in ABC order or by date bought. The way it is now its CROWDED and like trying to find a needle in a hay stack. Please fix this already its been this way since the ps3 launch and its like you guys never listen and searching for stuff we bought in our download list is a major HEADACHE!.


    I totally agree.

  • i do not want to have repurchase any ps2 game that i already have. i would rather pay for backward compatibility.

  • Glad to hear that Primal is being released on PSN! I really hope that Ghost Hunter will be released on PSN as well!

  • This PS2 classics are….. bah don’t know, as many people said, if this games runs on the PS3 why we can’t play with our PS2 discs?, is the same kind of software so no excuses that PS3 cannot run PS2 discs. in other hand what’s the point of this lazy re-releases ???? where is the HD visuals? i’m afraid that PS2 classics are a BIG NO THANKS for me, i have lot pf PS3 games to play anyway to play this

  • @19 – You gotta do some research before you spout nonsense like that.
    1- PS2 classics are not coded in the same fashion as PS2 discs, which the newer PS3s can’t play. (It’s kinda the same software so no excuses = I know nothing about programing, so here is an obnoxious superlative)
    2- Lazy re-releases? It takes a full team of people to do an HD release of a PS3 game. The God of War Collection, ICO Collection and Sly Collection all had full teams. I don’t know how many people work on a PS2 classic, but I assume it’s considerably fewer. What they are doing is allowing for people who either missed these games or want to replay them to do so. The PS2 library is enormous, and you can’t get full teams to do an HD release of every single one of those. The less known games are quite fun as well and they deserve to be played. Just because it isn’t shiny, doesn’t mean it’s bad.
    Just because you don’t want them doesn’t mean the whole world thinks the same way.

  • So Primal is up, but why not Medievil 2?

    Also, and I can’t stress this enough, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE make another Medievil!

    There is no other series I want to see more. Even if its just a quick PSN title based on the PSOne original. :(

  • My official reaction to this new was ..


    I absolutely love Primal. My left forearm:

    Kudos to Sony for bringing this amazing classic to the PS3 — it deserves a bigger audience.

    Also kudos to all those wearing Scree’s avatar too!

  • this is a great game but i want those games that you have in psn europe (like neo contra) i will buy that game anyways because i cant run that in my pc emulator.

  • I have to agree with #1 – I’d like to see Psychonauts.

  • Never played this before but remember seeing the cover on the shelf. I like a good story based adventure, and knowing Andreas Katsulas was a voice in this makes me a lot more interested in maybe picking this up. That guy was awesome. Graphics look decent in these shots for a PS2 game. I am definitely going to have to think about this one.

  • this was one of my PS2 games, one of my favorites, been wanting for this to happen! Unfortunely Mass Effect 3 comes first but definitely on my list now. Thanks

  • i want star wars battlefront games

  • Cool but I’m still waiting or Shadow Man 1 and 2.

  • this game looks cool, but im still hoping for dark cloud! :)

  • Primal was one of those reasons why I always try to strive off the beaten path in gaming, it’s because if I didn’t to that; I would never find gems like this. I remember playing it when it first came out, it was great then, I bet it’ll still be great now!!!

  • Primal is one of those reasons I still go off the beaten path when it comes to gaming, otherwise I wouldn’t find gems like this. I remember my PS2 days fondly due to games just like this.

  • Cool! This is the type of game I really want from the PS2 Classics line; stuff that maybe was passed over that could be really, really promising titles with cool idea. Also, the kinds of games they don’t make anymore (mainly because all they seem to make anymore are military FPS’)

    Though I gotta admit, I really hoped you guys would’ve put Jak X and Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier on the PS2 Classics lineup this month. You know, to “synergize” with the release of the Jak & Daxter HD Collection? It’s crazy that Lost Frontier was left off of that otherwise excellent disc…

    But I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Primal is awesome. Thank you.

  • we need more classics

  • It would be awesome if any of the Fatal Frame games got released. :)

  • “RIP Laura Croft 2003”

    lol.. So with Lara Croft getting a reboot, will we be seeing Primal return in a new skin as well?

  • I don’t know why people have issue with releases like this. It’s no different than iTunes releasing movies you already own for digital download. No one expects you to rebuy games you own. No one forces you to either. Even if the system had PS2 b/c it would still get PSN releases of PS2 games, because digital release is smart business. Having (in theory) permanent access to a library of *old* games/music/movies/etc, is great.

    It’s why PS3s still play PSone games and we get PSone classics regardless. (granted they’ve been slacking on them lately, speaking of… more PSone games please!!!)

  • Looks interesting. I don’t remember it on PS2 so it will be new to me :-) If Sony would wright a PS2 emulator and release it over PSN I would happily buy it and still buy re-releases like this one. These days I’m pretty happy being able to unload my physical PS3 games in favor of the digital versions as well.

  • I think that they should make Manhunt 1&2 a downloadable game. Also Killzone one with multiplayer or maybe take KZ3’s graphics and redoo Killzone 1 with them!

  • Primal 2… can we expect it?

  • Cult Classic is right, this game was great, now you guys should release the Suikoden games!

  • Look great, I remember renting it, I couldnt finish it cause of School, but it was fun, now if could add Chaos Legion, i would be happy ^_^

  • Too bad the camera is a bit crap.

  • I already have Primal on disc, so I’ll just stick it into my 60GB PS3. Cool, I just saved myself $9.99.

    Such a shame that Sony greedily eliminated PS2 backwards compatibility from PS3s. People who collect old game systems will have a tough time getting the good PS3s in the future. I just pray that my 60GB never dies!!!

  • Hi Guys,

    It’s really awesome to see that so many of you remember Primal so fondly! Working on a big project like this is a real mix of pleasure and pain. Obviously the creative parts are super fun – and like I say, we were really privileged to be granted a lot of freedom on this one. On the other hand the crazy long hours, deadline pressure and – sometimes – the disappointment of features not coming together as you’d like (and not having time to do anything more with them) aren’t so enjoyable. …But when the game finally ships and you have the chance to see people playing and enjoying it, that’s undoubtedly one of your best moments as a developer. Nine years later, getting the chance to do that once again is very cool indeed :)

  • [also]
    I notice a few questions coming up. Please bear in mind that I don’t work for Sony these days (I’m giving the ‘indie’ thing a go!) so this is just my personal opinion, but to address some of those things:

    – Will Ghosthunter come to PSN? I have no clue I’m afraid. However I do know that Sony people do look at these forums, and seeing people talking about and excited for a possible re-release is the kind of thing that can only help. Personally I too would love to see it come to PSN – there was some amazing stuff in that game and it totally deserves the chance for more people to enjoy it!

    – Will MediEvil 2 come to PSN? Same as the above really – I don’t know, sorry, but again, if enough people ask for it, who knows?

  • [and…]
    – Will there be a Primal 2? From my personal perspective, I’m afraid I think that’s very unlikely. Back in 2003 games like Primal cost a *lot* of money to make and yet that would only register as a small fraction of a modern day block-buster. This is why big developers have to focus on the mainstream – and sadly the numbers on a project like Primal just don’t add up. On a more positive note, 2012 offers us so many ways to enjoy awesome games by smaller teams, and it’s great to see PSN supporting that as well as offering a middle-ground for ‘moderate’ budgeted kinds of projects.

    • [and finally]
      – If there were to be a Primal 2 it should feature Jen. …Well I do agree with that one. Further to the comments by Mark, yes we did explore a Primal 2 with Lewis as a lead character. We also explored another take that had Jen as lead and centred on the notion that the demons of Oblivion had found a way through into our world. That one had some cool imagery that I recall – Jen in a flowing leather coat riding a spike-wheeled moto-X bike, Prince Jared driving to Jen’s rescue in an ice-cream truck (garbled music blaring) and sub-way tunnels teeming with spider-like Wraith mutants. Ah, if only…

      Anyhow, I hope you have fun (re)exploring the worlds of Oblivion. I’m off to buy a copy right now…

  • Wow, thanks Chris for the interesting post to sum it all up. The game looks interesting enough to give it a try and I did let it slide past me when it was originally released. I can’t wait to give it a try.

  • I didn’t have a PS2, but I met Primal when I was looking from which game one of the defaults avatars of the PSN is (it is located at the end of the north american boxart).

    I still haven’t played it, but I have listened to the OST and it’s very good. In fact, I first got contact with the OST, when one of my friends recommended it to me. Then I found the avatar.

    I hope to play it in the future.

  • I remember this as being one of my favorite games on the PS2. I just bought this PS3 reissue from the PSN Store, and I have to say I’m a bit disappointed. I was hoping they would update the graphics and add trophies like they did with the other HD remasters, but that is not the case here. On my 23″ 1080p HD monitor, the graphics look washed out and blurry. I think it actually looked better on the PS2 on a standard definition television. Sony needs to do a proper HD remaster of this game (and Soul Reaver 1 & 2 also), or at least improve the emulation so it renders at 2x or 3x the normal resolution instead of just stretching the image and making it blurry. PS2 emulators on the PC can do that, and I think the PS3 certainly has enough horsepower to handle it. Stop being so lazy, Sony! On the PS2, I would rate this game 5/5, but on the PS3 it’s only 3/5 due to the lack of HD graphics and trophies. So I’m out $10, but at least now I know not to buy any more PS1 or PS2 ‘Classics’.

  • You have my $10. I have Primal sitting on myself right now, but thanks to my BC PS3 dying, I am unable to play it (unless I go get a PS2 someday), so having it on my PS3 is PERFECT.

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