Altered Beast (SMS)

Altered Beast (SMS) Box Art

Altered Beast

System: SMS

Release Date: May 1989

Developer: Sega

Publisher: Sega

Genre: Action

Rise from your grave! Altered Beast is here on the Sega Master System after making a splash on the arcade scene. Obviously, everyone remembers Altered Beast from the Genesis, and boy, does it make this version seem pretty bad. You are a Roman Centurion who has been dead for some time, but after the evil magician Neff kidnapped Athena, Zeus pulled out his necromancy skills to bring you back to save her. I just want to point out right now that they got their Pantheons mixed up. The gods of the Roman Centurion would have been Jupiter and Minerva… anyway…

The Centurion throws a kick by pressing Button 1. A punch by pressing Button 2. Jumping by pressing Buttons 1 & 2. While in the air it is possible to punch and kick. If you hold down while kicking, you throw your strike upward. Zeus bestowed upon the Centurion the ability to power up by collecting Spirit Balls. Throughout the levels, you will find three-headed white wolves. Defeating them will release the Spirit Balls. One Spirit Ball acts as super steroids, bulking you up into a powerful striking tank. A second Spirit Ball transforms you into a were-creature.

Each of the four levels transforms you into a different Altered Beast. The Werewolf shoots fireballs from his fist and dashes forward with the flame arrow. The Weredragon is a flying creature that shoots lighting forward and becomes an electric conductor, frying anything it touches. The Weretiger shoots a bouncing flame that moves in a wave pattern, and becomes a pillar of flame, which is like the flame arrow, but goes up and down instead of left or right. The final round turns you into the Gold Werewolf, which has the same attacks as the first transformation… just golden.

Levels move incredibly slowly and the frame rate seems to be in the single digits. You have to be precise with your punches and kicks, or you’ll get stuck in a scrum of enemies and watch your health tick down. Defeating your foes causes them to break apart into many pieces. Missing a Spirit Ball is more common than I would like and causes missing the first Neff on the level. Luckily, you can continue by holding the up+left diagonal and pressing Buttons 1 and 2, each subsequent continue requires you to press a different diagonal. I also noticed that if you hold Up and Left while starting the game, you get five health points instead of three.

You have to be transformed into the Altered Beast to fight the boss of the level. Either that, or reach Neff three times to fight the boss as the Centurion. This would be pretty difficult to do in this version of the game. Level one is capped by Aggar, the head throwing boss. He’s easy to kill by throwing fireballs and dashing to avoid/destroy falling heads. The Octeyes boss of level two can be killed by shooting electricity into the center eye and frying any floaters coming your way. Level three’s Crocodile Wyrm was my toughest challenge, as I didn’t know how to avoid his spitting fire. The final boss is Van Vader. He’ll run through you if you stay on the ground, but jumping and hitting the Golden Arrow will make short work of him.

Graphics: 1.0

The graphics look good, but the low framerate and poor animations suck the positivity I have out.

Sound: 1.5

The music is a pretty decent 8-bit rendition, but the sounds are less good.

Gameplay: 1.0

The horrid framerate kills the gameplay. You can do everything you expect to, but it’s imprecise and jumping may have been better by pressing up rather than Buttons 1 & 2.

Difficulty: 1.5

The difficulty mainly comes from that terrible framerate and sluggish response. You can continue several times, and with only four levels, you should be able to get through it quickly.

Fun Factor: 1.0

As a port, it’s much worse than its arcade counterpart and not particularly fun.

Overall Grade: 1.2

Altered Beast earns a D+. This wouldn’t have been very good at the time of release. Give it a play as a curio, nothing else.

Altered Beast (SMS) Video Review on YouTube