Remakes of classic games continue apace, this time in the form of an altered, Altered Beast from Sega. How does it compare to the original?
The original Altered Beast arcade, or its home conversion, was never the most meaningful of games. Even as a simple side-scrolling fighter it left much to be desired, though it did have its fans. On top of that, the 16-BIT home version wasn't exactly expanding of the original concept - or a good port for that matter. But since the Megadrive/Genesis version was initially bundled with the machine at launch, there will be many gamers with memories of the average original.
In many ways we have exactly the same experience with this modern-day update. The core is still to battle through hordes of enemies and, when things start to overwhelm you, to 'alter' your character into one of a number of 'beasts', to ease the kicking of mutant booty. This rocket science stuff is simple really. There are a total of eight transformations based on mythological creatures - some as unlockable bonuses. We won't reveal them all, but it isn't much of a spoiler to say those from the original version - Werewolf, Dragon, Bear, et al. - have made their way into this update.
Each of these will make the killing of enemy hordes faster and easier, and each has a unique ability which is generally used to solve simple puzzles and overcome obstacles. As with a lot of games of this ilk, these newfound abilities allow you to visit previous levels to discover new areas, except here there seems little point, other than to find yet more enemies to kill. Did I say that there are a lot of enemies? At times the screen is rammed with them; this is truly in the same vein as games such as Dynasty Warriors and Chaos Legion - right down to the inherently repetitive nature.
However, the game this seems most enamoured with is Castlevania, in particular the recent PS2 version. For starters, the combat model is very similar. Unfortunately, here it is much less precise, but seeing as enemy attacks are easy to dodge, things balance out. There is a similar level of diversity in available combo attacks. Indeed, experience gained from enemy kills allows the learning of new techniques - but they aren't really needed.
Hammering the 'X' button usually suffices, even when facing off against the end of level bosses. Rarely is a change of tactic needed. Even smaller points such as the map system, the unlockable extras and viewable bestiary ring very similar. The biggest enemy is the camera, always swinging round to face your character rather than those trying to kill you.
To continue with the Castlevania comparison, the monsters are where we should next place our attention. Except here pretty much every humanoid enemy is a nondescript blob; not a single one stands out from the crowd as interesting or even really different. The better designs are with mutant animals - Giant Rats, Bats, Bees, Birds and Roosters (of all things) - yet even then the models are fairly simple, with unexciting textures and jumpy animations. At least the environments are less generic than the norm of element-based surroundings - encompassing lakes, a shopping mall, graveyards and sewers, albeit also very basically textured and, well, dull.
Yet another aspect that triggered thoughts of Castlevania (yes that comparison again) was the music. Music has always been a strong point with the Castlevania series, atmospheric orchestral/rock scores with gothic undertones. Not everyone's cup of tea sure, but very fitting. The musical score in Altered Beast triggers an incredible sense of déjà vu, but just isn't anywhere near to being in the same league. Basic and dull (can you see the pattern yet?).
Audio is often considered to be a main component to create atmosphere, particularly in the horror genre. To be fair this game isn't meant to give anyone the willies, but it doesn't do much of anything with its audio at all. The strangest aspect of which is that I cannot for the life of me remember one single enemy sound effect, even when playing they're the quietest bunch of murderous mutants I've ever had the pleasure of spending company with.
It may not come through in the rest of the review, but there is some fun to be had here. It's just that the fun is hard to find amongst the blandness of it all. I am sure those with fond memories of the original will manage to get more out this game, and you can check our videos below to see if they get your juices flowing. Just don't expect too much, and you may get something out of the experience. It is particularly telling that this game will not be getting a release in the US.
Click here for our recent interview with Tsukamoto-san, the man in charge of the new Altered Beast.
(See Latest Videos & Video FAQ Here)
|PLEASE DO NOT DIRECT LINK TO ANY MEDIA FILE ON KIKIZO|
Direct feed TGS 2004 trailer (480x360, 1.3Mbps)
Direct feed gameplay (640x480, 1Mbps)
Direct feed trailer (640x480, 1Mbps)