Altered Beast

David Yun David Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2008-03-24 16:34:37

Altered Beast - Rank D

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ROM Filename: altbeast
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Date: August 1988

Also available in Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection (Xbox 360 and PS3), Sega Genesis Collection (PlayStation 2 and PSP), and on Wii Virtual Console and Xbox Live Arcade

"Wise fwom yoah gwave!"

I'm not entirely sure why this game has endured. It should've faded into total obscurity, but it has somehow secured a hold in the collective gamer consciousness. (Edit: A buddy just reminded me that it was the pack-in game for the Genesis.) And here I am perpetuating Altered Beast's notoriety; however, I just want to tell you that it's terrible.

Altered Beast is a primitive hybrid of side-scrolling brawling and platforming, and it does both terribly. You can kick, punch, and jump, and all of the controls are vague and loose. It's easy to miss jumps and plummet to your death into shafts. The attacks are imprecise and sluggish, so it's usually best to simply spam kicks to enemies' shins repeatedly like a six-year-old girl.

The game's only saving grace (upon reflection, nothing saves this game) is the ability to power up and turn into one of several different beasts. Every time you kick a special Cerberus wolf in the shins, it releases a power up that'll make you beefier. Your clothes shred and you 'roid up like Ahnold in Hercules in New York, but your head comically remains the same size. You're still a clumsy oaf who kicks monsters in the shins, but now you can kick them in the shins really hard. Upon grabbing a third power up, you transform into a wolf, dragon, bear, or what have you, with special powers such as the ability to fly or hadooken fireballs. This is fun for about 13 seconds. And I still don't get why a bear has the ability to exhale petrifying gas.

Aside from the lethargic controls, the attacks themselves are poorly designed to take on the foes thrown at you. Sometimes they overwhelm you with numbers (your punch takes the first one out, but the next one dings you while your arm is still extended; that'll teach you to not shin kick) or simply annoy the fuck out of you with flying attacks that are a pain to counter with your feeble vertical arsenal. Mind you, I'm not saying that Altered Beast is hard; I'm saying that it's not fun. There's a distinct difference.

The game also mocks you. At the end of each round, the villain steals your power orbs, turning you back into a feeble shin kicker. And he laughs at you. You'll want to stop playing, but the game will exhort you to "NEVER GIVE UP!" This challenge to your manhood is a surprisingly effective motivation to "pop in another quarter", but don't fall for it. In fact, don't play this game unless you absolutely must expose yourself to something "classic" or "nostalgic". That was my reason for trying it. Idiot.

Sega has shovelwared Altered Beast onto everything from their own consoles to Commodores and PCs and back. It was last sold at retail as part of the Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for the Xbox 360 and PS3 and made available for download on the Wii's "Virtual Console", but keep in mind that these are emulations of the Genesis version, which was inconceivably even worse than the arcade original. A reworked spiffier version is available on Xbox Live Arcade.

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