Beast & Co. alter gaming
As a young lad growing up in the era of arcades (AKA the golden age of gaming) one of the former kings of gaming, Sega was the name that had instant recognition with me. From titles like After Burner, Outrun, Shinobi, and Virtual Fighter, Sega has mastered the art of separating one from their gaming tokens without fail. During my arcade travels, I saw a Sega title that turned out to be not only a classic arcade hit, but also was the inspiration for the Bloody Roar series: the revered but maligned Altered Beast for the Genesis.
In Altered Beast, you take on the role of an ancient Roman Centurion warrior resurrected by Zeus to rescue his daughter Athena who was kidnapped by the underworld ruler Neff. As this unnamed warrior, you do have a small-but-powerful advantage over Neff and his armies: the ability to power up into various beasts that change the tide of the battle. With this ability, the Centurion warrior sets off on his divine mandate to rescue Athena and defeat Neff.
Gameplay of Altered Beast is really simple: As someone who played side-scrolling games, I instantly took to the basic punch, kick and jump mechanics. As you go through each enemy, you’ll get a power-up orb that literally says “Power-up!”; this made me think that Zeus came down and gave commands. On the third power-up, you’ll go into your actual beast mode, which consists of forms such as a dragon, werewolf, werebear, weretiger, and a golden werewolf, each with their own unique powers. At this point, I’m thinking that this game is the origin for the popular phase “Beast Mode.” At the end of each level, you battle Neff in various forms. The graphics are pretty good for a transition from arcade to 16-bit console with little noticeable difference in quality for the time period.
Altered Beast does have a few flaws: When you defeat Neff at the end of each stage, he somehow takes away your power-up forms as a last parting shot, which is obnoxious. Also, the brief intermission scenes are grainy, making it hard to understand what’s going on. On the bright side, the replay value is awesome for those who want to relieve the golden days of the Genesis and those who want side scrolling action with a mix of horror.
Altered Beast is one of Sega’s classic gems that is worthy of another look. There was a modern-day remake released in 2005 for PS2, but it was critically panned. Fortunately, Sega decided to give Altered Beast another look, this time placing it among its other well-known properties in various TV and film projects. Sega altered the side-scrolling landscape with this epic tale of good versus evil.