‘Rise from your grave’
In the early 90’s, on our way to school, we would pop into our local Sports Centre and play on the arcade machines. The machine which stands out for me is Sega’s Mega-Tech, which was essentially a Mega Drive in an arcade case with around 8 different games to choose from. The difference from other arcade games was that credits bought you time, rather than lives and so even if you were completely crap at games, you were still guaranteed x amount of mins of game time for 30p
The other good thing was that if you didn’t particularly like a game you could swap over to another game, providing you still had some minutes left. I can’t remember the entire list, but I believe there was Golden Axe, The Revenge of Shinobi, Space Harrier 2 and a game which, for some reason, stood out for me and became a fast firm favourite, Altered Beast.
Around 1991, I finally had enough pennies to buy a Sega Mega Drive and off course, I had to buy the bundle which included that game I loved, Altered Beast. Whilst I wasn’t disappointed with the game, (it looked and felt pretty much like the arcade version), it wasn’t long before the game made me launch my joypad! Why? I’ll come onto that.
The protagonist of Altered Beast is a Greek centurion who was happily resting by being dead, but is brought back to life by Zeus to rescue his daughter Athena, (who used to sell posters) from an evil demon called Neff. Zeus mutters the immortal lines, ‘Rise from your grave’, and the game begins…..
Your character essentially has to fight the undead and creatures over 5 levels in an attempt to get back Athena. These include skeletons, large snakes, creatures who look suspiciously like the cockatrice in Golden Axe, purple jellies and mutated running wasps with their sting between their legs which looks rather rude.
You also have to kill a bluish grey wolf, which due to the 16-bit graphics looks more like a dog, which then makes the game a bit disturbing; but you do get rewarded with a bluish orb which ‘powers up’ your character, so that’s good.
There are 3 orbs per level in total. The first one makes your character a bit muscular and rips your shirt, the second turns you into John Cena and the 3rd turns you into a beast. The type of beast, depends on which level, but there is a wolf, a cuddly bear and another wolf because by level 5 it appears the game writers ran out of ideas.
It’s getting these blooming orbs which makes me launch my joypad. No matter how hard you mash the kick or punch button, these wolves have an annoying habit of ignoring the fact they’ve been punched hard in the face by a bloke who clearly does not miss arms day at the gym and they just bump into you and knock you over. It’s so annoying!
Sometimes they jump of a platform onto you, no problem, you can crouch and aim a kick upwards. Well, no, that doesn’t work because they just drop through the kick and knock you over onto your arse. C’mon game, play fair!
Altered Beast is not a difficult game, in fact it can be completed comfortably in under an hour, but if you don’t get all 3 orbs before the end boss turns up, you have to replay the level again. If you don’t get them by the time you reach the boss again, you have to replay the level again and so on. Arrrgghh!
‘Welcome to your doom!’
The bosses are so easy in the game, that, do you know what, let me take my chance on him as a 6 stone weakling. Honestly in level 2 the beast you become is a dragon who can emit electricity and the demon boss is a plant which fires eyeballs at you, (they smoked the good stuff in the 90’s), you just fly into the plant, emit electricity for 5 seconds and the boss is defeated.
The hard part should not be kicking an orb out of a dog!
Apart from that, the game remains a firm favourite of mine today. It was one of the first games I can remember which had an actual human voice, (admittedly a bit grainy, but better than Populous’s, ‘Welcome to Populous’ which sounded like it was recorded on a wax cylinder chewed up by a dog who refused to give you his blue orb), it was easy and so one of the few games I actually completed and visually it was arcade quality or at least it was as good as that Mega-Tech machine in the Sports Centre.
I recently discovered Sega Forever, a collection of old Sega games relaunched by Sega that can be played for free on your smart phone / tablet. Altered Beast is one of those games and that is good news as it keeps this classic game going for new generations to enjoy, (and for me to reminisce).
Not that perfect game I’m searching for, but damn fun still after all these years and with a price tag of ‘free’, well there’s no excuse to not ‘rise from your grave’ and to try it out.