Great conversion of the arcade hit, underestimated due to overexposure.
Altered Beast was one of the first couple of games for the Mega Drive / Genesis. Its a side scrolling platformer and its quite original and fun. The graphics were very detailed and captivating with a mythology theme and a variety of large and detailed sprites. The game features paralax scrolling in several levels which was very new in console games at the time.
The game is overlooked due to its overexposure as the original Sega pack-in game of 1989. Makoto Uchida's masterpiece was done justice with this cartridge.
Altered Beast was one of the first Genesis titles and as such it was only a few megabits. This put constraints on the number of frames of animation.
As the original pack-in title there was also a need by Sega to eliminate the gore of the arcade game which is present on the Master System and PC Engine version (released five years later). In the original arcade game when you struck the zombies in the first level they exploded into internal organs and limbs. This gore is featured in both the Master System and PC Engine version.
Naturally, Sega could not include explicit gore in a game that would have the exposure of a pack-in title and instead of exploding into guts and limbs the Zombies simply break apart into flames.
Another graphical feature that was changed from the arcade was the sprites for the two-headed wolves. In the arcade they were brown and the special white ones were the ones you had to kill to get power ups. In the Genesis version the two headed wolves are pink and the power-up wolves are blue. They have also inexplicably shrunk. This causes the two-headed wolves, who are ubiquitious throughout the game, to be confused with pigs by most players.
Many of the colors of the sprites were inexplicably altered but usually this did not detract from the game.
As an arcade game it was long enough, but as a home console translation it was far too short. It needed to be at least twice as long and a little more development of the story would have been good also.
The Bottom Line
Altered Beast is a fun game that is an excellent translation of the Arcade version. Its still superior the PC Engine version graphically and in terms of control, though the PC Engine version retains some of the sprites and animations of the Arcade version that the Genesis lacks.