Retro Game of the Day! Altered Beast
Wiiiise fwom your gwave!! Sorry, I had to do it. Today's retrogame is Altered Beast, a 1988 Sega release (arcade) and launch title a year later for their 16-Bit Genesis console. Let's see how the old girl holds up to the ravages of time, eh?
This is another in a long, long line of side-scrolling beat-'em-ups, as they are called, with a mythological theme - sort of. You are a dead soldier, resurrected by Zeus and imbued with the ability to collect Spirit Balls from White Wolves; grab one and you get a little beefier, grab a 2nd and you're approaching Hulk status, then grab a third and you'll mutate into one of several different creatures - Bear, Tiger, Dragon, Wolf, each with different special attack abilities.
In hindsight, the game is a little worn, and not very fun - but for its time, it was quite fun, very pretty, and engaging for 2 players at the same time (something that was still quite unusual in a home port, for a game of this pedigree!) I am surprised to say there's never been a proper follow-up, especially considering that the game was a launch title on the system. I think most people were over it pretty quickly, though (it lacked the depth of a true platformer, as the game was mostly "walk to the right, kill foes."
I do have many fond memories of this game. I remember feeding quarters into the arcade and being entranced by its graphics. I remember the 1st time I had ever seen a Sega Genesis, right when it was released in Autumn 1989, at my friend Scott's neighbor's Izzy's place. Grabbing that giant crescent Genesis controller for the first time, so perfectly formed to support long hours of play (after years of achy hands with the boxy NES flat pad!). The system looked so cool and futuristic, like no other consumer electronics device I'd seen before. Altered Beast piping through, in stereo sound. This was gaming nirvana - this was the future.
It's easy to see why they ultimately removed Altered Beast as the pack-in game when Snic the Hedgehog came about (a game this thin still couldn't compete with the likes of Super Mario World!) and Sega sort of let it slip into oblivion following that (a standalone cartridge release never surfaced). They poop it out every now and again on collections or Virtual Console releases, but it is merely for nostalgia; I don't think many people genuinely are excited to get back into Altered Beast anymore, "you had to be there when it was new!"
But for what it was worth - and despite the naysayers, it was a great pack-in and the perfect to show off the system at the time (well, I guess they could also have gone with Ghouls 'n Ghosts, eh!) My claim to fame? I was bored, and played the whole way through with my feet, one day.