Altered Beast's faltered release

“Wise fwom your gwave!”

Altered Beast isn’t a very good game. This is not generally disputed. Despite this, it’s pretty much indelible. As the Sega Genesis pack-in at launch (30 years ago this week, you’ll recall), it’s more widely-recognised than a great deal of vastly superior software. In that respect nostalgia alone guarantees its place on most retrospective compilations – the PS3/360 Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection even included the arcade original as an unlockable alongside its home port, a good showcase for just how impressive of a conversion it actually is.

It’s quite fun to play for a couple of levels. There’s an intense homoeroticism to watching your beefcake character gradually shed his clothes as his rippling muscles throb and expand, collecting Power Orbs before eventually transforming (being “altered”) into a raging, feral animal (or “beast”) with powerful new attacks. The wolfman you become in the first stage can zip across the screen with a lightning fast shoulder-barge that tears enemies apart, and hang back throwing fireballs from his fists. These aren’t optional; you have to “beast out” to even face each stage’s boss, or the level will loop continuously until you get enough Orbs from defeated enemies. Unfortunately, repetition sets in quickly, and the impressive graphics aren’t enough of an incentive to persevere with the extremely limited gameplay.

Sega persevered with Altered Beast, trading on name recognition with the even more boring Altered Beast: Guardian of the Realms stinking up the Game Boy Advance in 2002, followed by 2005’s Altered Beast for PS2 – which was an absolutely honking, gratuitously violent misfire up there with the atrocious Xbox 360 Golden Axe: Beast Rider debacle.

Nonetheless, there’s probably still some money left in it – final boss Neff turning up in the original Wreck-It Ralph was a relatively recent surprise. I hope one day they’ll release an Altered Beast game that’s actually good. For now, though, it’ll just be the one everybody skips past on the Genesis Mini. I mean, Beyond Oasis is right there...