#15 – Altered Beast

Entering Beast Mode…

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Guilty Party – everyone bar Retro Redress

Crime – not appreciating the greatness that is Altered Beast

Redress – Retro Redress will defend Altered Beast the best he can

I’m fairly new to blogging on the internet and have only really been reading up on gaming opinions and analysis for the past few years. Generally, I’ve really enjoyed myself – there are some great people to discuss games with and some brilliant writers and bloggers out there. However, there is one thing that bothers me…It’s the general consensus on Altered Beast.

I’m surprised at the hate and indifference this game gets. Sure, Altered Beast isn’t the best game ever or anything, I’m not placing it in the same category as Super Mario 64 or Chrono Trigger. However, Altered Beast is certainly a decent game and there are much more popular games that in my opinion are much worse (*coughWatchdogs2cough*) So, I’ve decided that I am going to defend Altered Beast. I’m going to give ten reasons why Altered Beast is a good game and hope that I can convert a few people, maybe change some perceptions. If one person reads this and decides to try Altered Beast (or, ‘The Beast’, as I like to call it) then my work here is done.

Title screen

Now, if I’m going to defend Altered Beast, I have to be honest….I am biased towards Altered Beast. In my Shadow Dancer redres , I noted that Altered Beast was the game that began my interest in retro games. I was a PS2 owner who only played Pro Evolution Soccer. I was so disillusioned with gaming I bought a Mega Drive, Shadow Dancer and Altered Beast. The Altered Beast cartridge cost me 50p (about 32 cents in 2002, I think). Initially, I laughed at Altered Beast. It was the dumbest thing I’d ever played…and I started to love it. In an era when games were starting to get longer and more serious, this dumb cart was entertaining me no end. I ended up seeking out more games like Altered Beast; cheap carts that might contain forgetten classics and more silly gems. My interest in gaming grew ouside of football games and I began to really become obsessed with gaming again, like I had as a kid. I bought an N64, then a Gamecube and an Xbox as I learned more about gaming. I rediscovered my childhood Master System and began collecting for that. By 2008, I had every home console bar the NES and SNES, with a big library of games (126 boxed Master System games!!!) and a passion that made me happy. I had fallen in love with video games again.

Then I got married, bought a house and traded the lot in….I don’t regret it, but I do miss some of those games sometime…such as the Japanese Mega Drive games….you haven’t lived until you’ve held the Japanese version of Evander Holyfield’s ‘Real Deal’ Boxing….

Evander Holyfield Japanese

Any way, now I’ve rambled, let’s begin my defence.

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1 – Altered Beast is very, very silly.

Let’s face it; Altered Beast is a silly game. The over the top plot (why would Zeus send one specific dead Roman Centurion to rescue his daughter?), the infamous speech samples, the random images of Neff inbetween levels…Altered Beast is as daft as a brush and that’s one of the reasons I love it. It’s nice to laugh at games and not take them too seriously. For every The Darkness (great game but really downbeat in places), it’s great to have a game that makes me giggle every time I play it. Seriously, who recorded the ‘Wise from your gwave!’ voice sample, checked it and though it sounded ok for release? I guess it was done last thing before the weekend…

Makoto Uchida

2 – Altered Beast’s programmers went on to make better games

Speaking of developers, Altered Beast was actually an early game designed by Makoto Uchida and Hirokazu Yasuhara. These two men had storied careers in gaming. Uchida, as part of Sega’s AM1 team, would go on to work on Golden Axe (but is only thanked for Golden Axe II..which means he probably had little to do with it), Alien Storm and Dynamite Cop amongst others, while Yasuhara would go on to work on various Sonic games. Altered Beast is credited as both men’s debut games, so if Altered Beast gave both men a start in the industry, then it can’t be considered a completely worthless game.

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3 – Altered Beast has great music

Again, to go back to the samples…if the speech for Altered Beast wasn’t given much care, then the music was lovingly scored. No one mentions Altered Beast’s music, but I would put it up there with some of the Mega Drive’s musical greats like Streets of Rage 2 and Sonic The Hedgehog. Altered Beast’s music is really moody, epic and bleak and the Mega Drive’s grungy sound chip is the perfect way of playing it.

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4 – Altered Beast has one of the best graphical effects on the Mega Drive

Yes, I’m talking about the transformation screen. I was surprised how good it looked in 2002 and it still impresses today. While the rest of the game’s graphics have aged, the transformation screen is timeless. I’m a firm believer that truly good graphics are always good graphics regardless of age – it’s simply a case of how well the hardware is programmed and how skilled the programmers are.

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5 – Altered Beast is a good port of an average game

Altered Beast on the Mega Drive is often called dull and shallow…but a port can only be as good as it’s source material. It’s like spending ten years practicing guitar every day, learning musical theory, buying an amazing guitar…then only playing Celine Dion songs. Ultimately, you can only do your best with the source material. In terms of giving Mega Drive owners a good version of Altered Beast, the Mega Drive port does that in spades. Just remember that arcade Altered Beast was a slow, limited game that was outdated even in 1988, up against the likes of Shinobi and Double Dragon…

Just never ever play the Master System version of Altered Beast…no one deserves that.

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6 – As a palette cleanser/warm up game, Altered Beast is a great part of any retro gaming session.

As I stated in the intro, Altered Beast isn’t a great game. However, if you want to play a great game, (i.e. Streets of Rage 2) and want to warm up your hands a bit with something not too taxing? Altered Beast is perfect. It’s amusing enough, but doesn’t require much thought and is only twenty minutes long. Had a long session on a game that you need a break from/completed and still have thirty minutes of gaming time left? Altered Beast could fill that gap nicely. I’ve likened Altered Beast as the gaming equivalent to a sausage roll in the past and I stand by that; some nights I want steak, I want quality…some nights I want some thing quick, something convenient, like a takeaway. Altered Beast is a ‘takeaway’ game.

Box

7 – Altered Beast was the perfect ‘pack in’ game

Altered Beast doesn’t get enough credit for it’s role as the initial Mega Drive pack in game. In my opinion, it is the perfect choice for the first game you will play on your shiny new Mega Drive. In 1988, Altered Beast was a decent ‘tech demo’ game – fancy graphics, easy to grasp gameplay, multi player and a arcade game that had some name value. Yet, due to it’s lack of depth and length, it shouldn’t have been sold individually for £30/£40. I know when I was a kid, lusting after the Mega Drive in the Argos catalogue, the Altered Beast images and blurb had me sold on a Mega Drive.

8 – Altered Beast has great box art

Most Sega Mega Drive games have awesome Japanese artwork and Altered Beast is no exception. Take a look below.

Japanese artwork

However, even the European/American artwork is pretty good, which not many games can say. Altered Beast always looks cool in a retro game collection. Even if you hate the game, it’s worth having the box at least just for the aesthetics….

Arcade machine

9 – Altered Beast is a very ‘Sega’ game

As a self confessed ‘Sega kid’, I love the feel of Altered Beast. No other gaming company made games like Altered Beast and there isn’t anything like it today either. For that authentic ‘classic Sega arcade feel’, Altered Beast is as important as Outrun, Golden Axe or Shinobi. All three of those games are much better than Altered Beast, I won’t deny that, but Altered Beast deserves a spot alongside them.

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10 – Altered Beast is an affordable and easy to acquire game

If my arguments have won you over, then it’s easy to play Altered Beast. You can get the classic Mega Drive edition on Steam for £1.99, it’s on sale at least once a year for £0.99 and comes as part of the Sega Mega Drive Classics Pack 1 for around £4.99.You can also get a 3D version on the Nintendo 3DS, developed by the excellent M2 for less than a fiver too. I wouldn’t purchase Altered Beast for full whack – but as a deal in a sale? I reckon it’s worth a few quid…

Verdict – Well, it’s not really my place to say is it? If you’ve read this and agree/disagree, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Do you agree with me? Have I converted you to an Altered Beast fan? Do you think I’m completely wrong? Are you a confused Matthew Sweet fan? Please let me know in the comments!

1 thought on “#15 – Altered Beast”

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