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March 23, 2011 Comments (0) Views: 5161 Videogames

The Ass Bin: Altered Beast

Children are stupid. They can be occupied for hours with a balloon and enjoy television shows about counting and shapes without the help of the bright orange mushrooms growing in my front yard.* Kids like a lot of stuff with pretty much no merit whatsoever on the basis of loud colors, explosions, fast guitar solos, and most of all, mythical animals. (Just think about the Power Rangers, which could barely go four seconds without a guitar solo and giant robot…although, that does sound pretty cool…) But give the kids a chance to play as a bunch of mythical nonsense, and their devotion will carry on well into their adult lives. This week, the Ass Bin resurrects an unusually beloved game from its grave to rescue my daughter cut away twenty-three years of nostalgia it does not deserve – Altered Beast. Rise from your toilet!
*Of course, does not advocate the use of any drugs under any circumstances. Not even medicine. We’re hardcore like that.

For anyone fortunate enough to dodge this abomination, Altered Beast tasks players with saving Zeus’ daughter, Athena, from the clutches of the demon god Neff. Why Sega chose to invent a Greek god instead of just using one of the premade gods that comes standard with Greek Mythology Video Game TropesTM is a mystery. After being risen from the grave, the centurion *cough* actually a Roman warrior, not Greek *cough* lumbers forward through waves of zombies and demons running across the screen like they have somewhere to be.

Altered Beast Werewolf Transformation

For some reason, becoming a werewolf causes you to burst into crudely drawn flames.

Altered Beast Level Failure

This unfortunate player made it to the boss (purple guy) without transforming, and is doomed to play the level over.

The game revolves around a little kid’s wet dream power up system where, after kicking three white wolves in the face and collecting their steroid injections power orbs, the hero transforms into a furry werebeast. The real challenge comes from struggling through vaguely responsive controls and enemy surges well enough to punt the white wolves, which often sprint past while the player is either knocked down or audacious enough to blink. The boss then refuses to fight the player until they transform and runs off, even though killing the hero as a human would be infinitely easier, causing the level to loop around and punch the player in the face a second time.
Altered Beast, simply put, would not have nearly the same fan base it currently enjoys if it hadn’t come with the Sega Genesis at launch, much like how Wii Sports would have been played exactly once…ever…at the convention it premiered at…if Nintendo sold the disc separately. But put a poorly made game into the hands of a child and tell them it is “really hard,” and they will devote their lives to seeing the end credits. Super Return of the Jedi played the exact same trick on SNES kids.
As a living being capable of sensing my environment, pretty much everything about Altered Beast offends me in some way. The sound effects, despite being revolutionary on a home console, pierce eardrums and haunt nightmares, especially the rapidly repeated five lines of dialogue (if you count evil laughter as a line). Most animations run unintuitively until several plays through the levels, when you realize things like how low kicks actually go directly over your head, and how the kick attack as the werebear forces you to jump forward, often into instant death pits.
More offensive than the awkward movements are the sprites themselves, which were obviously drawn before the game developer had a clear idea what would be going on. Nothing else could explain why everything is HUGE and getting around requires expert accuracy to guide your ‘roid raging cruise ship of a hero through the cramped environments. Though, nothing explains this man-wolf-dragon-bear-tiger-wolf-again hero insists on kicking monsters in their shins.
Altered Beast Shin Kicking

Everything in this is just so wrong, especially the hero's head size. Oh, and that pig man can hit him from there.

But if popping off zombie heads with blows to the kneecaps isn’t your style, the hero can also punch about six inches in front of him. Unfortunately, most monsters have a reach about eight feet long and a knack for three hit combos that drop you to the floor, so good luck. As such, the standard enemies provide 80% of the challenge in getting the hero through each level, with the other 20% coming from the rapidly rising urge to smash your face into the screen to end the torment.
Recommendation: If you read through this article and thought “Hey, Dryden is a jerkface. Altered Beast is fantastic,” then please, go play the game. Do it right now. And after you’ve wiped off all the nostalgia covering your eyes and seen how disgustingly bad this game really is, you can PM me your apology. *waits*
Have fond memories of Altered Beast from when you didn’t know any better? Wanna share them with others and help rid yourself of shame?Talk about it in the forums!

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