Altered Beast
Release year - USA:1989 JPN:1989
Company: Sega
System: genesis
Genre: Beat 'em up
Players: 1-2

Review by: PrimeOp

Back when pack-in games came with EVERY system, that game was usually the first impression that anyone ever had of a new system. For many 80's gamers, their first memory of the Sega Genesis was the home version of the arcade smash, Altered Beast.

Zeus's daughter, Athena, is captured by Neff, a lord of the underworld. Unable to interfere directly with the affairs of man (or some such jazz), Zeus resurrects a centurian to do battle with Neff's hoardes. That's you (and a friend, if there's two players). Being that this is a story with gods involved, you know that Zeus wouldn't just hook you up with powers. That'd be the easy and logical. He hides them in fat, Cerebus-like creatures that gallop through the stages. Bust open the fat-nasties like pinatas to gain the goodies inside: power spheres. Grab one and you get a bit stronger. Grab another and you become a mountain of muscle. But the third one is the charm as you transform into one of 5 beasts that make it easier to kill anything stupid enough to get in your way. Three of these creatures appear in the first half of the level while three more trot out in the final half. If you nab the first three spheres, you don't have to bother with the second half of the level. That's called incentive to succeed. When Neff finally confronts you, he metamorphs into a different freakish monster in each stage. If you haven't reached your altered form by then, well, bad day.
Thank the gods that undead centurian-werewolves no longer have the ability to vomit. Watching a giant horned zombie repeatedly pull off it's own regenerating head would eventually get rather sickening.

Get close up to those eyes and rapid-fry 'em with your electric shield. Be sure to jet back to the edge of the screen as the floating eyes begin to come out and use the electric shield to keep them away from you. Repeat until finished.
One of the first things you'll notice that the character designers went all-out on are the enemies, especially the gruesome forms that Neff changes to. When you look back and realize that most games at this time had more cartoonish, military or realistic themes, a game full of rotting zombies that explode in chunks when punched was WAY ahead of it's time. The game is fun and playable, but can get irritating at times. Why does the screen auto-scroll when you're walking? This play mechanic forces you to fall into pits and get rushed into enemies. There are also quite a few cheap hits throughout thte game.The graphics may look weak compared to later 16-bit offerings, but imagine upgrading from an NES or SMS to a Sega Genesis. Taking that into account, it's no wonder that memories of Altered Beast are so burned into the conciousness of the old-school gamer. It's probably one of the better launch pack-in titles to come with a system. And let's not forget those classic voice samples like 'Rise from your grave!','Power up!' and 'Welcome to your doom!!'. This game also has some excellent music. One of the more impressive launch titles of the day that did a nice job of displaying the capabilities of the Genesis.

It's not a bad game, but most of my love for this game is nostalgia. The idea and presentation are far stronger than the game itself, but the game is still worth playing. You should have no trouble at all in finding this cart used, since it was a pack-in title for the Genesis. It can also be found in quite a few Sega compilation discs.

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