It’s hard to imagine now, but when the SEGA Megadrive was released in Europe, Sonic the Hedgehog was still but a spiky blue glint in Yuji Naka’s eye. Packaged with the shiny new console was Altered Beast, a conversion of a SEGA arcade platformer/beat ‘em up. In a confusing plot typical for its time, players controlled a musclebound fellow raised from the dead by Zeus to rescue his daughter, who has been kidnapped by Neff, God of the Underworld, and his evil army, who are also undead. The game’s USP was that, after collecting three special tokens, the humble hardman would transform into a Were-animal; which one depended on the level.
The game has a fond place in the heart of many a gamer, but the truth is it doesn’t really deserve it. The controls were sluggish and unrewarding, it only had four or five levels, and once you got to the end of them, it rather primitively simply sent you round again on a slightly harder difficulty setting. Its reputation exists really only because it came packaged with the Megadrive, and in turn it was only packaged with the Megadrive because it would fetch the same price as other titles on the shelves. But its reputation also exists because werewolves are inherently cool, and the idea of a game where you can turn into large and terrifying monsters is a good one.
So it is with interest that we should receive a reprise from SEGA, as a remake comes to PS2. This time around, it's the US Army, and not Zeus, who raise you from the dead, and infest you with the DNA of various nasty beasties. Sent on a flimsy pretext to a town some way away, it soon becomes clear that you are being tested for your ability to survive. To escape, you must battle the horrendous genetic abortions that people the town.
The game has a hint of RPG about it and you must discover your true origin by interacting with various NPCs. Roaming a 3D landscape, the player now has the ability to turn into eight mutated animals, including wolf, dragon and minotaur. In addition, the genetic makeup of each can be altered for strategic purposes. Promised to be bloody and frenzied, with huge bosses to defeat too, perhaps Altered Beast will finally now be a game worthy of its legend.