Altered Beast is an Arcade and Genesis title from the late '80s. Its set up is typical of so many games from the era, a scrolling beat 'em up simply using a jump button, an attack button, and the d-pad to move. What's unusual here, though, is the plot and setting.
In the ancient world, Zeus's daughter Athena has been kidnapped and taken to the Underworld by the demon Neff. What with being Zeus and all, you may expect him to rain holy vengeance and painful punishments upon Neff at this point. Lightning bolts to the groin, flashfloods, earthquakes, you know the sort of thing. Instead he takes a different, and utterly baffling, problem solving approach. He awakens a lone Centurion from the dead, and commands him to rescue his daughter.
It's a tall order, and a tough break for the soldier, who was innocently being dead and not bothering anyone. Not to mention a copout for the almighty deity, who presumably didn't fancy the task himself. Perhaps he wandered off at this point to carefully comb that magnificent beard of his. Shameful laziness, I say.
Whatever the deal was, the unfortunate Centurion finds himself plunged headfirst into the macabre and twisted world of Altered Beast. The presentation is suitably gothic throughout. Visits to graveyards and misty caverns are on the cards, along with other unsuitable vacation destinations. On this journey, you'll be beset by waves of zombies, giant bees, what appear to be demonic bulls, and more. An honourable mention goes to a hateful little winged Imp thing, which seemed programmed to attack at the most awkward angle possible. To dispatch it, you'd have to crouch on the ground and thrust your leg awkwardly in the air. This amusing-yet-ungainly move belittled the dashing figure you were trying to cut somewhat.
Is Altered Beast worth playing today? There's certainly some value here for retro heads. It's a unique game, one that fans of these old beat 'em ups won't want to miss. There's some top unintended comedy to be enjoyed too. Some of the worst sound quality in gaming is on display here. You'll never forget the laughably bad rise from your grave intro, nor the power up! message. Once you transform into a dragon, and gain the ability to fire tiny little lines of undoubtedly fearsome lightning, you know you're experiencing retro goodness at its best.
Article by Chris Littlechild