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Remembering "Altered Beast"
by: -RoG-

I was one of those kids who was lucky to have saved up enough allowances from mowing lawns so that I could purchase the Sega Genesis the day it came out back in 1989. Seeing the demo of the Genesis playing at the local Toys 'R' Us was more than enough to have me sold on the system. I remember thinking how it looked exactly like arcade graphics (and sure enough, it was pretty damned close to the arcade games at the time) and it was a huge step up in graphics from the Nintendo Entertainment System. This was one of the few times in my childhood where I simply didn't care about spending 200 dollars of my hard-earned money. I was gonna be one of the first people to own a Sega Genesis; and something like that was worth far more street cred at school than one could gain from stabbing his teacher in the neck with a broken ruler.

Altered Beast. The legend, the myth, the... game.

The Sega Genesis was packaged with the game "Altered Beast" - hah, remember how they used to include games with a system when it first came out? Yeah, those were the good ol' days. Anyway, Altered Beast was easily the most graphically impressive game I had seen on a home system at the time, but to be completely honest; it was far too short. After playing the game for a few days straight, I was ready to buy a new game that would give me a better challenge, but I still think Altered Beast deserves recognition if for no other reason than its part in getting many people to buy the Sega Genesis when Nintendo already had such a strong hold on the market. So let's take a look at the game, shall we?


So Zeus has just called upon you to rise from your grave and rescue his daughter, Athena. Why the ruler of Mount Olympus couldn't do this himself is beyond me. All I know is this: when the king of gods tells you to rise tells you to rise from your grave and go save his daughter, you had damn well better hop to it. This was also one of those moments where I remember thinking, "this is gonna be great!" simply because of the cheesy digitized "rise from your grave!" voice that it played. And yes, like many other people at the time, I would always pronounce it as "wise fwom your gwabe!"

For those of you who've never played it before; each level has a boss that you have to defeat, and each boss is actually the evil demon god "Neff" (or "Neffy, the evil floating head" as I prefer to call him) in some twisted form. Before Neffy will allow you to fight him, however, you must collect three power-up spirit balls. You collect the spirit balls by killing blue three-headed wolves whenever they appear on screen. Makes sense.

Schwarzenneger eat your heart out!

Each power up makes you a little bit stronger, but what's truly funny about it is while your character grows in size and strength like the Hulk, the size of his head remains the same and his loins (thankfully) remain covered. But it's not until you achieve the third power-up that the game abandons its bold homoerotic undertones and enters a world of beast-filled rage.

The Werewolf!

The first level is easy enough as it is, what with the zombies in the acropolis graveyard who walk towards you slower than the elderly cross the street while you punch their heads off. But when you become the Werewolf, none of the enemies even stand a chance of doing any damage. As the Werewolf you can shoot flames out of your fist and you can speed right through your enemies. Each "altered beast" seemed to have one decent move and one move that you would simply mash the buttons so you could do it over and over again. For the Werewolf, it was definitely that triangular dash which blasted right through your enemies. (on a side note, if you were in a 2-player game, the player 2 werewof was green! That's like combining a werewolf with the creature from the Black Lagoon, and it doesn't get much better than that, now does it? So yeah, if you play the game with somebody, be sure that you get to be player 2.)

Welcome to your doom! (well maybe)

Now that you've become a beast, Neffy allows you to fight him. But like you, he's gonna change forms as well. After saying another fan favorite Altered Beast line, "Welcome to your doom!", he becomes Aggar - an ugly monster who likes to throw his limitless supply of faces at you. He may look tough, but he's no match for the Werewolf.

no power for joo!

The werewolf, however, is apparently no match for Neffy's fat-assed floating bald head. Neffy removes the 3 spirit balls from your werewolf, turning you back into the pimpled weakling you were at the start of the game. And now it's onto level 2 we go - The Underworld!

a boy and his blob

The underworld has some of my favorite enemies in the game, none moreso than the little purple blobs who get all excited and jump onto your head in an attempt to suffocate you. They're pretty easy to kill, but damned if it isn't fun letting the lil' buggers jump on your head a few times before you do so.

Didn't I see you in Golden Axe?

There's also Chinese-style dragons with rattlesnake tails that appear from the top and bottom of the screen, but thanks to their rattling warnings, they're very easy to dodge. There's also the chirpy chicken lizard creatures that try to smack you with their tails. Again, very easy to avoid and kill. If this creature seems familiar to you, it's probably because it also appeared in another one of my favorite arcade/Genesis games - Golden Axe:

Hey lady! Get your ass off my little brother!
Separated at birth?

You continue through the underworld killing enemies left & right until you get that final spirit ball so you can once again become an altered beast. And this time, it's a really, really good one.

Puff the magic dragon?
The Dragon!

As the Dragon, you can fly anywhere you like on the screen and your two powers are you can shoot a bolt of lightning or you can electrify your entire body and kill anything that comes into contact with you. Gee, I wonder which power I'm gonna use more here...

Poisonous Eyeballs vs. an Angry Electric Dragon. You make the call!

Neffy welcomes you to your doom once again and transforms into Octeyes - a plant-like creature that shoots poisonous eyeballs at you. While this is easily my favorite boss of the game, the sad fact is that it's by far the easiest one. While Neffy is transforming, you can position your dragon just above where Octeyes will appear and then just hit your electrify power over and over, you'll kill poor ol' Octeyes in less than 3 seconds. No joke. But that's what you get for having eyeballs fight an electrified dragon. That's like throwing Jell-O jigglers at Godzilla and hoping it'll do some damage.

So onto level 3 we go - The Cavern of Souls!

Nice uh, package.

You encounter your first enemy, the walking wasps, pretty quickly as they come charging at you. And there's simply no denying the fact that these things look like they're trying to attack you with the power of a huge swollen prostate. Fortunately, kicking them in the prostate does what it would do to anybody; it takes 'em out of commission.

Turtle power?

The other enemies is a big goat-horned zombie guy who takes two punches instead of one and a turtle. The turtle really appears to just be minding his own business, but you still gotta kill the poor lil' guy cuz he'll get in your way if you don't. The goat-horned zombie guy does this great celebratory move though if he hits you:

Awwwwwwwwwwwww yeah!
Right on!

So after fighting your way through dancing goat men, prostate bugs, and ferocious turtles, what is your reward? Why, you get to become...

The Bear!

The bear is surprisingly more agile than you would think. Fact is, he can jump with ease and spin into a deadly ball of grizzly ferocity like you've never seen. Even stranger, he can stick his paw out to turn his enemies into stone.


Yeah, I don't understand it either, but there ya have it: a bear that turns people into stone. The medusa bear.

Monsters are far less scary in snail form.

This time around, Neffy turns himself into Moldy Snail - part dragon and part snail. Why you wouldn't want to be "part snail" when you're already a dragon is beyond me... I can't really think of a snail power that would be useful against an acrobatic bear. And sure enough, this boss is quite easy to defeat simply by using the same spinning bear-ball of death move over and over again. Onward to level 4 we go - Neff's Palace.


The palace, while a nicer joint, is mostly a rehashing of characters from the levels you've already played on. There is one new character, the flying hammer demon, who can really get in the way at first, but once you've gotten a power-up, he's pretty easy to get rid of. So what's the next beast you transform into?

Now he's got the eye of the tiger!
The Tiger!

While it may sound exciting, the Tiger plays almost exactly like the Werewolf except that his fireballs are slower and more wobbly and instead of having a horizontal power-dash, his is a vertical one. Think the creative department was running out of steam by this point in the game? Yeppers, I think it's a safe bet.

Some Pepcid-AC will clear that right up.

Well at least the boss wasn't some mutated blob that was stuck to the ground, this one could actually move. Neffy has become the Crocodile Worm - a monster with a belly full of fire who can also spit out mini-dragons that will seek you out and cause some extra damage. While still not a big challenge, he's at least a little more difficult than the previous boss, so that's an improvement.

And now we travel to the final level - The City of Dis.

Nice architecture!

As far as the level goes, they pulled out all the stops on this one. The foreground consists of the bodies of tortured souls. The background is appears to be made of pink ooze, bones and faces with their tongues sticking out. And of course the sky is green with evil. On top of all that, they've added four new enemies, and some of them can be a real pain in the ass. First we have the Gory Goats who are no mere billy goats. They bounce back 'n forth with the agility of a kangaroo and can easily take some energy off of your character.

Shop at the Home Depot, do you?

A tougher enemy that you'll encounter is the Rad Boar. I guess he's "rad" because he has metal saw hands? I dunno, the word "rad" just doesn't seem appropriate for a game involving greek mythology. Back in those times, they would have called these creatures "Prodigious Boars" or something along those lines instead.

Something's fishy about this fish...

Next up are the Saw Fishes. I really like these guys, because they'll approach you as harmless little fishes (that just happen to swim in mid-air) but when you get near them, they turn into angry spinning buzz saws that will hunt you down. Still, they're pretty easy to just hop over and kill.


And last but not least, we have the Dark Unicorns. Not only are they dark, but these unicorns can actually do flying jump kicks! That's right, it's a goddamned Unicorn Ninja or as we used to call it: Ninjacorn! You know, a lot of people have said this game is extremely homoerotic and it's at times like these when you can see why. When your game has a muscle man wearing nothing but a speedo while fighting a unicorn, calling it gay might be an understatement.

Alright, we're on the final level against some tough competition. Clearly we're gonna need a beast like we've never seen before to take them on! So what's it gonna be?

What the hell is this crap?
The... Werewolf again?

Apparently it required too much mental effort for the creative team to come up with another beast that you could turn into, so they have you turn into the Werewolf again. Oh but it's still different!

Look! It's the golden child! er... wolf.

This time it's a GOLDEN Werewolf! And since it's a different color, that clearly makes it a completely different beast. Ok, so it is a little more powerful, but come on. You play through the whole game, only to be rewarded with turning into a different colored version of the same beast you were on Level 1? Weak.

Alright, well let's bring on the big bad boss of the game Neffy himself!

Angry rhino will huff and puff and blow that wolf down

Er, yeah... we don't get to fight his floating head. Instead, we fight him as an angry Rhino guy. Speaking of which, why wouldn't we have turned into an angry rhino instead of a golden werewolf on the last level, huh? Well anyway, Neffy does his angry rhino charge at you and you just keep blasting away at him with your golden werewolf dash until he's dead.

Polly want a wolf?

Once he's dead, a bluebird flies up from the underground. Say, that's no ordinary bluebird! That's Athena, the daughter of Zeus! Mission accomplished!

Beauty and the Bestiality.

So what are we left with in the end? Well, your character is apparently now going to be a golden wolf forever and he and Athena are going to get it on. I guess this means that everybody was wrong about the game being gay. It's clearly about bestiality........ altered bestiality.

Questions or Comments about this piece?
email -RoG-

Want a look at another classic video game?
Then check out my review of:

White Water!

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