Saturday 20 February 2016

Altered Beast (Mega Drive / Genesis review)

Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1989

Altered Beast is a side-scrolling beat-em-up that was first released in the Arcades in 1988.

Awakened from the dead, you've been summoned by Zeus to free his daughter and destroy the evil Neff. The five stages automatically scroll from left-to-right and your basic attacks are a punch, kick, and an upwards kick. However, by defeating blue wolves and collecting their Spirit Balls you'll transform into an animal with completely new abilities. These include a Wolf (fireball, flame), a Dragon (lightning bolt, lasers), Bear (bear breath, body spin), Tiger (bouncing flame, fire) and a Gold Wolf (fire and arrows). You'll battle in a graveyard, a cave, a cavern, a palace and at Zeus' lair but unfortunately the level design is poor with repetitive backgrounds and little variety; each stage is pathetically short with just a small section that loops until you've collected enough Spirit Balls to face the boss. The on-ground combat is basic and with only a few moves at your disposal and character movement is sluggish. There's also a slight delay when pressing a button and the collision detection isn't too hot either. Annoyingly, there's no grace period when you've been knocked down meaning enemies can cheaply pummel away until you die. Once you do become an animal the gameplay finally shows signs of life due to the awesome new abilities and long-range attacks that even the playing field; however, it's just a shame that they only account for a small portion of the entire game. The bosses are great, especially the swamp creature that squirts out multiple eyeballs as projectiles once you've attacked it! The game is graphically murky with a drab colour palette but it does have some nice speech samples.
Altered Beast might be a good conversion of the Arcade hit but that still doesn't mean it's a good game. In my opinion it's really starting to show its age due to uninteresting gameplay, shallow combat and sterile level design that's far from inspired.
Random trivia: This was a launch title for the console, but ports were also released for the Sega Master System (1989), TurboGrafx-CD (1989) and Famicom (1990).

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