Altered Beast (Video Game Review)

Altered Beast

Video Game Review
Altered Beast
Sega Genesis
1989
Developed by: Sega
Published by: Sega

If you want a good reason for why it took two years for the Genesis to become successful, it was because prior to the release of Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991, the pack-in title for the system was Altered Beast. Although, I was never a huge fan of the arcade game, I never expected the console version to be quite as bad as it is. It looks ugly for a 16-bit game and sounds even worse. Thankfully the game is very short. So at least there’s one positive thing about this title.

The player controls a resurrected centurion who needs to rescue the goddess Athena from the evil clutches of Neff. Each stage has the player battle through hordes of evil minions prior to fighting the stage boss. The stage boss will only reveal themselves in their true form once the player has found three spirit balls. Once the player acquires enough spirit balls, their character will morph into a mythological being ready for the level-end fight. Each stage has the player morph into different types of creatures with different type of abilities (for example, one stage the player turns into a werewolf, another a dragon, etc.).

The controls are kind of funky. The d-pad is used to move while the C button is used to jump while the A and B buttons are used to punch and kick. However, planning attacks is quite weird. To punch downwards you press down and A but when you want to kick upwards you have to press down and B. Yeah, that makes sense. Because of this confusing setup, expect plenty of cheap deaths. If there had only been a button assigned to instating an auto-destruct sequence for the console, I would have been happy.

The graphics are laughable.  While the giant sprites are a step above what the NES could do, the colours used in the game look washed out and chosen by someone who’s colour-blind. At first, you might think it’s a technical limitation of the system but Sega does have a history of poor colour palette choices (Fantasy Zone is the first one that immediately comes to mind). Still, when NES games look better than the flagship title of the Genesis launch, you’ve got problems. The animations aren’t all that great either. The player’s kicks look very lame unless you consider love-taps to the shin a devastating blow. However, the worst offense of all is that the game feels slow. Remember, this is the system that gave us blast processing so this game shouldn’t feel as slow as it is.

However, as bad as the graphics are, the sound is much worse. The game attempts to use some actual voice clips but they sound more muffled than some of the Konami sports games on the NES. Plus the theme music is god-awful. The Genesis later on was able to reproduce the sounds of their arcade games with a certain amount of success. Why couldn’t Altered Beast have sounded at least halfway decent?

But the biggest problem with this game is that it is no fun. It doesn’t serve well even as a mild diversion. It’s boring to play and it looks and sounds awful. Even the transformation business seems kind of weak. It feels like a cheap gimmick more than anything else. It also makes the game have a convoluted feeling. This is because the stage boss will not reveal themselves with their true form until the player has changed into a mythical creature. This makes no sense at all. Wouldn’t the evil guy want to crush the hero before they have a chance to gain a powerful advantage?

Sega’s Altered Beast is a dud. Even if you’re into old-school beat-‘em-ups, there are better games on the Genesis and other legacy systems. Even if you pick this up on one of the various Sega compilations out there, do yourself a favour and skip this game.

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