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It’s quite common for a game to come bundled with a new console, whether it’s to display graphical prowess or to simply introduce you to an exclusive title or mascot. Nintendo had Super Mario, but in the late 80s and early 90s, before the release of Sonic the Hedgehog, SEGA’s flagship title for the Genesis and Mega Drive was no other than Altered Beast…
Rise From Your Grave
The game begins with you being resurrected by Zeus to save your Daughter (Athena) from the evil lord Neff. You must battle hordes of monsters as you make your way through the underworld to defeat him, which you can do either in single player or co-op with a friend.
Altered Beast has been criticised by many for being too short, as it only features 5 levels to play through. During each stage, there are a number of blue demon wolf-like creatures you can kill which release an orb. Each one you consume increases your strength and muscle mass to an almost ridiculous amount, until your third which results in you taking on the form of an Altered Beast.
It’s important you pick up these orbs and change form, as this is the best way you can approach the boss at the end of each level. Failure to do so results in Neff mocking you from behind his lightning shield, before running away and leaving you to fight even more monsters.
You can attempt a boss eventually in human form, but with only 3 lives and limited continues (unless you cheat or press A+start to resume from the level you died on), missing the first opportunity can seriously affect your chances of completing the game!
There are 4 beasts in total, each with their own unique abilities. My personal favourite when I was younger was the dragon, thanks to the ability of being able to fly and carry out lightning based attacks which beheaded huge snake-like creatures.
It has to be said that the SEGA Genesis (Mega Drive) arcade port of this game is very impressive for it’s time. All of the playable beasts, enemies, bosses and levels all remain in tact. Sure, a few effects such as the exploding enemies and overall graphics aren’t quite as good, but they are damn close! There’s even a few enhancements such as parallax scrolling which give a much added sense of depth to each area.
If you think of what else existed on the home consoles at the time, Altered Beast did wonders showcasing what SEGA’s new 16-bit console could do, and really did live up to their “arcade at home” marketing promise.
Welcome to Your Doom
It has to be said that this game can be pretty hard at times. The controls are responsive enough, but there can be a few occasions where your beefed-up character can just get overwhelmed by enemies, especially if you are playing in single player.
To say if Altered Beast has aged well or not is a tough question to answer, because even back in the early 90s it was only really an average game. It’s a great example of technical achievement back then for emulating the arcade at home, but beyond that there is little substance to keep you playing for numerous hours.
The presentation is good, and the gameplay can be fun with a friend, but unfortunately the experience is short lived. There just isn’t enough variety and longevity to keep you going for anything more than a few short bursts when nostalgia strikes.
That said, I feel it is still a very important title for the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive and is likely to be a welcome addition to anyone’s collection. If not for a little piece of history, you’ll have a good time in the 2 player mode.
Have you played this game before? Please let me know your thoughts on Altered Beast in the comments below.