Zeus's daughter has been kidnapped by a demon from hades named Neff. To see to it that she's rescued, Zeus resurrects two fallen warriors to venture into Neff's realm. They leave on a mission fighting off the undead and various monsters. -summary
Altered Beast is one of those games that really made me question on what exactly determined a classic. I mean, even after all these years, I'm still unsure on how it was able to gain such recognition. My only guess can be that sense of nostalgia for long time gamers who were around to pick up the Sega Genesis during its original launch on North America shores in 1989, and since games were sixty bucks (sometimes more) even back then, this game was more than likely in constant rotation since it was the original pack in game, such was the case with me. Unfortunately, Altered Beast became outdated rather quickly when other games such as Revenge of Shinobi and even Mystic Defender began to surface. I forgot about it immediately once my Genesis collection began to grow, and this was before Sonic came out and forced everything to bow down.
Originally released in arcades back in 1988, and released for Sega Genesis in 1989. Altered Beast is a two player co-op, side scrolling fantasy beat'em up set in Ancient Greece. The mission is to battle through 5 stages destroying several monsters on your way towards confronting Neff. Altered Beast is vastly different from beat'em ups the likes of Double Dragon and Crime Fighters, instead it heavily resembles Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja and that's really not a good thing at all. The stages slowly scroll from right to left using the format of a platformer, yet it lacks what makes a platformer.
The problem with brawlers like these is how limited they feel. Now back then, brawlers of this type were new and anything was pretty much playable. Unfortunately, time has murdered this game in cold blood, and the limited game play grows quickly repetitive and eventually boring by the third stage.
The player begins with only three blocks of health, 2 lives, and there is no way to increase either during play, yes the game can be quite unforgiving. The two main characters battle by kicking and punching, and when they crouch, they can toss a kick into the air for flying enemies. To spice things up, the characters can become bigger and stronger by picking up blue orbs that are left behind by a specific enemy. This increases their strength and even range. The final power up will transform the character into a different man-beast in each stage with different abilities; a werewolf, dragon, bear, tiger, and a golden werewolf. These abilities do enhance the game play and it's possible from here to dominate regular enemies. The problem is that the player can't really enjoy these powers for long, because if you obtain them quickly then the boss fight is only short seconds away. And after completing the stage you're back at square one. Thankfully, most of the bosses aren't pushovers though; they will force you to work for that win and beginners will not make it very far in this game at first. It's possible to see that game over screen by the second stage.
The stages are a mixed bag. I criticize them for being too linear and completely lacking the platformer element. However, they attempt to make up for this by bombarding the players with different enemies. For example, the second stage features giant worms with dragon heads and rattlers for tails, rapidly moving from the bottom of the screen to the top, with enemies on the ground that can only be killed by low attacks. Altered Beast is no doubt a very flawed game, but it's a heavy exaggeration that it has absolutely nothing to offer. The game is quite ambitious; each stage has different enemies to face for the most part from exploding zombies to karate kicking unicorns.
The two player co-op can either be fun, or it can be your worst enemy. If you have a partner who refuses to cooperate, then it becomes even more frustrating. The main problem all falls in the game play though. There just really isn't much to do, and even at five stages with only about 20 minutes of game play, Altered Beast feels longer than that. And let's be honest here, the whole golden werewolf thing is a jip because it's the original wolf only with a different color. Plus the final boss, the easiest in the game for that matter, is a karate kicking, brawling rhino. It's so laughably lame and it's just another black eye to an already pretty bad game.
The game uses all three buttons for the Genesis controller; there's a punch, kick, and a jump. Performing the actions as man or beast isn't the problem. It's actually the sluggish feel of the game. The characters are slow in human mode, plus hit detection is a little sloppy.
The animations for the main characters are pretty bad since they're so limited and stiff like. For the enemies, it's actually worse since some of them barely have any animation at all. The bosses barely even move and just attack over and over. And the animation for the man-beast bear is hilarious beyond belief. In the case of the character designs though, the game is indeed creative; with two-legged ants running with their stingers pointed forward, and zombies holding their heads in one arm and throwing punches. I will also say that some of stage backgrounds are pretty nice; the final stage looks the best with dead bodies in the foreground. The stages really do give off the man vs. monster, supernatural feel.
The music score fits very well with the personality of the game and helps with the atmosphere. It's nothing to bob your head to, yet it's very effective. The sound effects are barely noticeable, but the synthesized voice overs have been the butt of many gamers jokes. They really are terrible to say the least.
There really isn't much or any replay value with this game. The two player mode can barely pass the time since the pacing of the game is slow, and there just really isn't much to do. These ailments multiply in single player. The easily frustrated will put this down quick due to the unforgiving difficulty. Altered Beast is valuable only to nostalgic fans who believe that the game is no doubt among the best. If you enjoy side scrolling brawlers the likes of Streets of Rage 2, Final Fight, or Super Double Dragon, then you're going to hate this. So avoid it completely.
The game can be found on various Sega Genesis Collection sets for many platforms. Most notably Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for the PS3 and X-Box 360.
Some type of effort into production values
Still visually lacking in areas, bad game play
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