Altered Beast (Genesis) review
"Altered Beast is the old and rusty classic that most gamers see as poor nowadays. It was the first game on the Segaís Mega Drive, the classic 16-bit system known better as the Genesis. It was the first of Segaís arcade games to get a port that looked similar to its arcade counterpart. Back then it was quite big but nowadays itís something you can get some cheap thrills out of and play again at a later date. "
Altered Beast is the old and rusty classic that most gamers see as poor nowadays. It was the first game on the Segaís Mega Drive, the classic 16-bit system known better as the Genesis. It was the first of Segaís arcade games to get a port that looked similar to its arcade counterpart. Back then it was quite big but nowadays itís something you can get some cheap thrills out of and play again at a later date.
Anyway, the game is set in Ancient Greece and the evil wizard Neff has kidnapped Zeusís daughter. Zeus then decides to raise one his heroes to help rescue his Athena. You have to journey to the underworld and fight the hordes of Neff with a special power. You can transform into the (wait for it) Altered Beast. (I still havenít worked out why Zeus doesnít just blast Neff away. He is the God of all Gods.)
Altered Beast is a mix between a platform game and a beat-em up. One of Segas first in its long history of arcade games. Basically what you have to do in each level is fight monsters of the underworld and survive five stages of mayhem without any continues or extra lives whatsoever. The game is extremely short and can be completed in about twenty minutes, which is a shame because despite this it is very, very addictive. If you complete it, you will probably try to finish it again in a few days time.
The controls of the game are very simple and are very easy to master. A is to punch, B is to kick and C is to jump. You will have no problem with the controls of this game and it will probably get hooked on it very quickly. The controls change when you transform into a beast but they are also extremely simple. The two player mode is the same game and the 2nd player character is identical to player one but with colour changes.
Altered Beastís best aspect is the ability to transform into beasts and kick some monster ass. To do this, you need to obtain three spirit balls. To collect these you need to kill three blue two-headed dogs that will run across the screen every so often. When you hit the dog it will drop a spirit ball. Collect the ball and you will go stronger, do it again and you will get even stronger. Now you look like Hercules gone wrong, check the six-pack on that guy, sorry, I did it again. If you collect another, you will get a nice transformation scene and you will turn into a beast.
There are five levels and every level has a different beast. The beasts are a werewolf, a dragon, a bear and the golden werewolf. All of the beasts have their own special abilities and powers, except for the werewolves who both shoot out fire balls out of their fists and also form a shield that makes you invincible for a brief second and also hurls you across the screen destroying everything in your way. The Golden werewolf has a stronger moves but is identical.
The three other beasts are the dragon, the bear and the tiger. These all have special moves, the dragon, who can fly can also shoot out lightning bolts from his eyes and form a force field around himself for a brief amount of time. The were-bear can change any enemy into stone and also perform a Sonic-like jump, which kill most enemies almost instantly. The tiger is similar to the wolf but his charge goes vertically instead of horizontally and his fireball is slower and bobs up and down as it moves across the screen.
Levels have a structure that is repeated throughout the game. Fighting through the level trashing monsters and trying to turn into a beast is the gist of it. When you reach the end of the stage you will meet Neff, if you aren't a beast then Neff will run away but if you are Neff will transform into a huge monster and you will have to fight him.
Altered Beast throws out various beasts like zombies and other mythical creatures. Unicorns, fish, snakes and giant ants are some of the monsters that appear and most of them are repeated in further levels. The chicken leg dragon from Golden Axe makes an appearance on this game, which is odd because this game was released before Golden Axe. There is not that many enemies in the game because of its size but that doesn't really matter that much. Most of them are simple to defeat but they may corner you and keep on hitting you, which can be very annoying and will lose a lot of your health and maybe a few lives.
The bosses are very bizarre. One is a giant that rips off his face and throws it at you and one looks like a giant watermelon with heaps of eyes. I guess the bosses are pretty original considering the weirdness of some, the third boss is a giant snail and if that isnít original then I donít know what is. The final boss is a giant rhino which is Neff in his final form, the last fight is ridiculously simple if you find out the trick.
Altered Beast had impressive graphics back then but in retrospective they are really average. A major improvement over the 8-bit consoles like the NES and the Master System due to the bigger sprites and more colours. However. it is really just a downgrade from the Arcade version but they look a lot better than the Turbografx-16 version, the only other 16-bit version of the game on a home system.
There is a large amount of detail given to the player sprites. The characters are detailed well down to the last muscle and the stronger they get the more detail they are given due to the extent of the size of muscles that the guy has, the sprites look pretty decent but the best sprites are the bosses and the beasts.
Enemies are given a smaller amount of detail and some are given more than others. The enemies such as the graveyard keepers are one of the best in the game. Their decaying carcasses rampage around smashing tombstones and dealing out a load of damage. Others such as zombies and the double-headed dogs look terrible and more work should have been done on them.
Like I said, Beasts, look the coolest and are probably the best in the game, next to bosses. The beasts look like what there meant to be which is a good start. The human-beast transformation sequence is fantastic. You get a brief cinematic of the human transforming into your beast, the pictures of the man turning into the wolf are the best and is a great example of the 16-bit graphic processors power even in its very early days.
Unfortunately, the tunes in Altered Beast are limited due to the games size and even more so due to the fact that music is repeated on levels. For example, levels 2 and 4 have the same music and the title theme is the same as levels 3 and 5. The two best tunes are the title theme and the music for level one. The beast music is very catchy and it will stick in your head for ages after you play this game. Understandably, the quality of the music is below average but the actual tunes are really good so I can forgive, plus the system itself had a bad sound processor in the first place so fantastic music wasnít expected anyway.
Altered Beast is a classic game that is very memorable. Despite a few flaws, itís fun to play once in a while and itís something you might want to finish again when youíve got a spare half hour with nothing to do. Retro fans will enjoy this game a lot but most modern gamers will shove it aside.
Shame on them.
Community review by goldenvortex (February 01, 2005)
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