Altered Beast is a 1988 beat ’em up arcade video game developed and manufactured by Sega. The game is set in Ancient Greece and follows a player character chosen by Zeus to rescue his daughter Athena from the demonic ruler of the underworld, Neff. Through the use of power-ups, the player character can assume the form of different magical beasts (wolf, dragon, bear, tiger, and golden wolf). It was ported to several home video game consoles and home computers. It was the pack-in game for the Mega Drive when that system launched in 1988.
The game was developed by Makoto Uchida, who developed the game as his first project as a lead developer. Uchida and his team used the System 16 arcade system board for its graphical capabilities with sprites. Altered Beast was ported numerous times in addition to its Genesis conversion, including for the Master System by Sega and to several computer systems and video game consoles by various third parties.
Altered Beast‘s arcade release and its various ports have all received mixed reviews, mainly targeting the game’s gameplay and graphics. The game has been re-released several times for various consoles and as part of video game compilations, and two sequels to the game have been developed.
Altered Beast is a side scrolling beat ’em up game with light platform elements. It has five levels and can be played by up to two players simultaneously. Combat takes place across five levels set in Ancient Greece and populated by aggressive undead creatures and monsters resembling those from Greek mythology. The demonic god Neff waits at the end of each level. Between each level are small animations giving the player glimpses of Athena’s peril. Players can punch, kick and jump.
The game’s premise is that Neff, ruler of the underworld, captures the goddess Athena. Angry, her father, the Olympian god Zeus, decides to choose a champion to save her. Respecting the bravery of Roman Centurions, Zeus resurrects one of them and empowers him as a champion. The game’s player character is the resurrected Roman Centurion, given extra power by Zeus so they can battle Neff and his supernatural minions. In the original arcade game, the end credits include the revelation that the whole game actually depicted a staged film production.
Whenever a player defeats a white two-headed wolf, a Spirit Ball power-up appears. Each obtained Spirit Ball increases the player character’s strength and size. Collecting three Spirit Balls allows the player character to transform into a powerful beast form, increasing their combat abilities before having to face Neff at the end of the level. The player character’s beast forms include a weredragon, a werebear, a weretiger, a werewolf, or a golden werewolf. Each beast form grants its own abilities. The dragon can unleash lightning bolts and an electric barrier, the bear has a petrifying breath that turns enemies into stone, the tiger can throw fireballs in a zig-zag pattern, the wolf can throw direct, but weak fireballs and has a powerful thrust attack, while the golden werewolf has the same abilities as the wolf form but stronger. In the Famicom version of the game, available beast forms also include a shark, lion, and phoenix form.