A BIT of History Part 4 : Altered Beast (Sega Genesis)

My TALDIG had some issues working for a while but I had it fix. Now that we are  ready to travel back to the past that shows us the past again, I find myself asking, is this to weird?  Perhaps we should make these things a bit more straightforward? 

Change

Altered Beast is a well known classic for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. It started out as an arcade title in 1988 but was ported to Sega console the same year at least in Japan. The game then appeared as a launch title for the system for Europe and America and got numerous arcade releases bundle releases and was a part of the Sega Genesis Mini.
In this game you play a nameless fighter who gets resurrected by Zeus back in the days of ancient Greece (which roughly puts it at around 1200-900 BC) were you have to rescue his daughter Athena from the evil god of the Underworld Ha… I mean Neff. I distinctly remember that being somebody else though.

Altered Beast is all about changing, it’s a beat them up, the changes up the formula quite a bit. The length of the stage depends on how long it takes for you to gather three orbs that change you to more powerful forms and the final boss can only happen when you acquire beast mode. If you encounter Neff before this happens, the stage .. kind of loops on you.
You take the role of “Fighter” .. a guy in a pinkish Toga so clearly I was excited to play this one, but it left me wondering. Should I change as well?

I feel that the ‘A BIT of History’ concept might be a bit too weird to focus on. The history lessons taken from these games might be a bit too flimsy to focus on and best be relegated to a paragraph should I find such a game. So I am thinking of changing this series into “A BIT of Nostalgia’  in which  I revisit famous classic games or games that are very dear to me.
It offers me a bigger spectrum of games to play and allow me to play the games I would actually want to play, rather than have the time setting dictate which ones I should play. It took me a fair bit to get me to play this one because I wasn’t in a beat them up mood. Yet it was one of the most iconic ancient greece games. So expect some changes to this format soon. Now back to the review, because unlike the era of the ancient greeks, this game has not aged well.

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures

This game features Fighter in Pink.. our hero that we all know and love! Back from the dead he has to stop the evil god of the underworld Neff and not Hadas..who turned Athena into a blue bird, which anime taught me mean she is a lesbian now. Throughout five stages you have to fight classic greek enemies such as cyclops (plural) and …. well there are Satyrs…sort of they have goat heads as well but I guess they are there? Though they are called Gory Goats here… then there are zombies, demons ant wasps and evil chickens with poisonous stingers. So clearly the greek setting is used very well. I can only assume all these creatures died out because Fighter in Pink really disliked them and punched them all to death.


The most important enemy in this game is the three headed wolf though, which came in two colours. The useless brown variant and the all mighty blue variant. Both will make the sound of a paper crumpling when you kick them and die right away, but by killing blue three headed wolves the ancient greeks could call upon the power of an orb, that turned them from buff philosophers into half naked Jojo characters.

Killing another  one then turns them into the old Dragon Ball Broly, and after killing a third blue three headed wolf the ancient greeks could turn into beastmen. The buffing up and the whole Neff  standing menacing before you, checking out if you are worth his time has a pretty big Jojo feel, this could be a new take on that series and since it’s set in ancient history I decided to name this Fighter in Pink. Jorges Jorda is a farmer who died from being attacked by animals.. now zeus resurrects him and by gathering the power of death…he can channel what caused his death.

The game does feel like a bizarre string of adventures with stages strung together like the graveyard, the swamp, the cave, the Greek building and the underworld/city of the dead. Wait.. if the hero died wouldn’t he already be in the underworld? Would that not be better to start? Now he gets resurrected and has to travel back to the underworld again. One could argue that Jorges would have to find his power orbs but Neff steals them at the end of each stage, assumingly needed to make him reach his final form or something.  Hmm.. clearly not all the ancient Greeks were philosophers. Zeus clearly wasn’t the smartest god either, then again that seems to be a bit of a theme with Zeus in games or movies, he tends to get blindsided a lot. So you heard it here first guys! Zeus can be outsmarted by uncle Fester from the Addams family.. because I am pretty sure that is who Neff is.

Too much bits

The Mega Drive was the first sixteen bit console, with amazing stuff like blast processing and an iconic sound chip.  Unfortunately it clearly shows that this game was not designed for this console and people were still a bit unfamiliar with the power of this machine. The enemies don’t look very clean. The three headed wolves look more like misshapen bulls to me and for a few other enemies I also had to struggle to look what they are. Now of course this in part is due to the home consoles being less powerful than arcade cabinets, but if we look at Turtles in Time, which although appearing later did it much better. Stages were changed up , difficulty was slightly adapted and  visuals and vocals were changed.  This games suffers from this being NOT the case in this port. In fact I like the Master System port more because it feels more distinct.

With the speech of Neff  included he welcomes players to their doom before the start of each boss fight, and doom you will face , over and over and over and over again. This is a problem with a lot of Beat Them Up ports. Most of these games were designed to be unrelenting so they can guzzle up as much of your quarters as much as possible. Basically in the arcade you have infinite lives as long as you have quarters. Good Beat them up ports thusly either give you infinite lives… as the price of a full priced game should get you infinite quarters or at least a series of lives and a handful of continues. Altered Beast on Genesis asks you to beat the entire game on three lives which basically equals three quarters. If even that!

There are NO healing items in this game so all damage is permanent. You get three “hearts”/blocks of life that can all take 1 to 3 hits depending on the enemies strength. Given that a random chicken enemy (who crossed over from Golden Axe) can take a complete life block away due to you having virtually no invincibility frames after being it.. this game is relentlessly hard.

Luckily by holding A (or 1)  plus start in the main menu you can at least continue on the stage you died on. Yet still finishing a stage is a rather herculean feat. Yet like most arcade games this doesn’t really come down to your gaming skills,but more to pattern recognition. If you know where the blue wolves will show up and you can manage to hit them quick and fast and gather your orbs fast enough these stages are fairly doable. Mostly because the bosses once you get their pattern down are actually quite easy. Except for the second boss.. whose tell of damage is so deceptive it took me five times to figure out that I wasn’t exactly damaging it when it flashes red when I hit it.. I needed to hit different hitboxes, which do not flash at all!?It’s things like this that show this game came out so early in the console’s life span, that actually influence how enjoyable the gameplay is.

Sega Does

I really wish I could be more positive about this game, but unfortunately there was very little that I liked about this game. That doesn’t make it is a bad game, just that I review if negatively, if you enjoy this all the power to you! I hope and know people do like this game, which is great, everything deserves love. I did like the variety in bosses and how you have to actually use your beasts powers and some strategy to take them down. I especially like the fourth stage boss, which is like a baby dragon with a huge lava ball. It releases some firebird minions as well as big strings of fire balls and avoiding both felt like a good challenge.

The third boss and the final boss however are total pushovers I beat them first try both without taking a hit just by using cheap tactics.  The third boss is a sort of dragonhead stuck on a helix fossil with some gooey egg sack material attached to it.. and it shoots purple balls and blobs. By using the Bear’s  (that stages animal)  spin jump while on it’s body you can defeat it without any trouble.  The third stage itself though has some awkward platform jumps which can be very irritating to get trough.

In the fifth stage we see Neff finally taking his true form, that of a white Rhino. Yet in the Master System it is Cyan and in the Arcade it is pink. It always grinds my gears when pink things are such pushovers. It isn’t much harder than Rocksteady from the first TMNT game on NES. You can easily jump over it and spam damage until it dies. No skill required. However everything else on that stage deals soooo much damage, especially the dark unicorns, so getting there.. is a long arduous process of learning where things spawn and when to punch it to death.

If you miss a blue wolf on your first roulation I found it rather impossible to stay alive long enough to reach the boss. The music is the same in about every stage with fairly little sound effects other as coming from the player so I am glad the fifth stage was the final one.  We see Athena standing next to some beastmen.. in the final cutscene and then we are done.
In the fifth stage we turn into the wolf again, we turned into the first stage as well..but this time he is golden. So I guess it’s a super Wolf?!

Also why go for choices like the Dragon and the Tiger? I get the wolf and the bear as those might be found in ancient greece but why not make one where you turn into a Bull/Minotaur and one in a horseman/centaur. So much potential here goes away with bad flavoring. I barely learned anything about ancient greece because.. nothing is done with the setting at all. The cutest thing is that they have  the chicken enemy from Golden Axe as a homage.

There was so much more they could do with this formula, even for an arcade cabinet. It’s not like the greek mythos is lacking in mystical creatures or cool enemies to fight. Yet according to this game it does, which by the logic of A BIT of History .. now means that I learned that ancient greek had plenty bland video game type enemies.. which in truth I never knew!

While I have no doubt that this game was amazing in 1988 and even in 1990 this game has been surpassed left and right by just about every other beat them up out there. Turtles 2 the arcade game, Turtles in Time, Streets of Rage, Final Fight and Towers of Mystara just to name a few. Nintendo in particular has time and time again shown that this does not need to happen to games. Sega more or less in their original IP’s as well. Yet even when we consider this one in the arcade , the better version it has been surpassed by just about everything. Sure the classic mario has been improved upon but you can still enjoy the original game, this just made me want to play Turtles in Time instead. I guess Sega really does what Nintendon’t . Because Nintendon’t age this poorly.

This cocktail has been sitting here for a while.. and it has fermented which leaves a Pine-Meh-Pple taste in your mouth if you can not add enough nostalgia sugar

All other posts in this series

Part 0: What is Pinkie Doing now

Part 1: E.V.O. The Search for Eden

Part 2: Flintstones Treasure of Sierra Madrock

Part 3: Joe and Mac Caveman Ninja’s

To be REBRANDED

3 thoughts

  1. I remember playing this game on the Genesis when I was a kid. Yeah, this game hasn’t aged well and was certainly wacky in hindsight. Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, and Shinobi were better as far as Sega beat-em-ups are concerned.

    Like

    1. Two of them I have plannend on playing in the new format of this at least at some point. Not sure about Shinobi yet but that might come later. Mostly a NES kid myself. As far as beat em ups are concerned I really want to play Towers of Mystara!

      Liked by 1 person

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