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CONSOLE: iOS/Android DEVELOPER: Sega PUBLISHER: Sega
RELEASE DATE (NA): June 20, 2017 GENRE: Action
// review by Jeff

Faltered Beast.

So here's what happened, according to one person, who shall remain me:

A bunch of Sega executives packed themselves into a boardroom one frosty November morning. The chairman stood up, furrowed his brow, and said, "Okay, gents — how are we going to make money in 2017?" One member chimes in with, "Let's churn out more Sonic games. I'd say we could probably make 23 in a year. That'd be okay, right?" And another follows suit, "We'll make a killing by remastering Danan: The Jungle Fighter from the Master System and dropping that on the Switch. We'll be everyone's favourite company then, right? RIGHT?!" And yet another: "Square Enix has the right idea. How 'bout we make Phantasy Star II-2?"

Finally, a voice of reason burst through the effervescent cloud of lame, unfathomable ideas and, bearing a glowing halo over his head, spoke the truest words of them all: "Just re-release all of our back catalogue." And that member was applauded, patted on the back, and given a small raise and a corner office near Stephanie, the receptionist with the unmistakeable wink of lust/unstoppable nervous tic. And Sega got to it as only Sega could: with an adept combination of speed and lethargy.

Over time, Sega is planning on releasing their entire back catalog to iOS and Android, from the early days of the SG-1000 all the way up to Dreamcast legends of olde, all for free. Well, almost for free: the games come with ads, but you can disable them for $1.99 USD per game. So THAT'S how they're going to earn their investment back: advertising and users paying them to NOT advertise! When did Sega become YouTube?

The first rollout of games was released on June 22, 2017, with more promised on a seemingly monthly basis. Five games were on the docket: the original Sonic the Hedgehog, Comix Zone, Phantasy Star II, Kid Chameleon, and Altered Beast. Let's talk about about that last one.

Think back to the days of Greek gods. Yep, way back then. The great Zeus' daughter, Athena, has been kidnapped by the evil demon lord, Neff of the Underworld. (Hades was apparently on vacation in New Zealand — he can't get enough of those adorable kiwis!) Not being capable of doing anything himself, he goes not to a living warrior to rescue his beloved, no, no. He revives one that's already dead and entasks him to be the hero.

Delving deep into the, uh, depths, our unnamed protagonist is aided by the collection of spheres which, when collected, strength him... and I mean SERIOUSLY strengthen him. He can easily transform from Gerard Butler to Gerard Butler on steroids within a minute's time. Grabbing a third magical sphere alters your entire body into that of a beast (hence, the game's title), be it a werewolf, a dragon, or a... bear that walks around on his hind legs, each with its own unique attack style. Mmmm, yes. It is only when you change into your new spirit animal that you can fight the boss of that stage; otherwise, you have to loop through it again until you change forms completely. As well, once you defeat a boss successfully, your powers are drained, putting you back to square one as Standard Gerard Butler again. You'll have to punch, kick, and cavort your way through five stages, finally arriving at Neff's lair, called "Dis". Yes, you heard me right. Dis. Dis is de place indeed.


I likely died shortly after this screenshot was taken.

Altered Beast was a pack-in title on the Sega Genesis at one time, and now it can be yours on a mobile device! The question is, do you actually want it?

Well... no. No, you don't. I've had bad luck with ports/emulated versions of console games on mobile, and this is definitely not the exception to the age-old rule that they cannot, by any means, be playable. That being said, I WILL add a bit of a disclaimer: I'm using an Android-based tablet for this, rather than a smaller handheld phone, but having a larger screen shouldn't detract from actually using software. Playing Altered Beast on a mobile device is awkward and unpleasant. With a touchscreen D-Pad on the left and the A, B, and C buttons on the right (just as the Genesis controller was set up), your fingers will be buggering up part of the screen at all times, and that can get distracting. Although the buttons ARE responsive, it's the inelegance of the control scheme as a whole that makes playing so blocky and clumsy. I'm no expert at Altered Beast — never have been — but I can at LEAST get through the first level. On mobile, that's not possible, given the horrendous controls.

Add to this the save function. Yes, you can basically save anywhere, similar to save states on an emulator, but all saves are stored using the Google Play cloud; thus, you need to be logged in and allow some basic information and your first born to be given to Sega/Google just to save a game. It's a very long-winded experience to save for the first time. Just let me make a little file on my device and move on. Then again, you might not even last long enough to make saving even worthwhile.

Add to THAT graphical chugs from time to time because, as Star Trek's Scotty probably once said, "the engine can't take much more'a this", and you have a recipe for portable digital sewage. Don't. Just don't.

In theory, having Sega classics on the go for free sounds too good to be true, and that's because it IS too good to be true. Sega apparently used Unity instead of a dedicated emulator to reproduce their hits and forgotten gems and made this decision a little too late, resulting in sloppy presentation all around. It's a real shame, it is. The game actually LOOKS accurate and sounds pretty crisp. Let's cross our fingers that releases in the future don't suffer from this half-assed attempt to win back consumers and fans.


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