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Shadow of the Beast (Genesis)

60
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.1
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Luis Silva (13294)
Written on  :  Oct 11, 2006
Platform  :  Genesis
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Summary

A good port of an interesting game

The Good

While not as visually or aurally impressive as the original Amiga version, it captures the essence of the game perfectly. Graphically, it's perhaps the best conversion (and we're talking about the PAL version, not the souped-up NTSC-J) of the game, forgiving how they turned Aarbron purple. One of the most impressive features of the game is the number of enemies: there's a good number of one-offs, and most of the regulars are only repeated an handful of times, with little of the palette swaps a lot of 16-bit games are so fond of. It also maintains the multi-layered parallax scrolling, but sadly the gorgeous effect is only shown in the plains, with the underground and the castle (where most of the action takes place) rendered in a bit of a dull fashion. The music, while not being a match to the original tracker files is pretty acceptable and fits the pace in the game quite nicely, but for some reason there's no sound from the kicks and punches.

Then, there's something in the game that makes it incredibly challenging. It's not the best looking game in the platform, and certainly isn't the most playable or the best story development, yet I find myself having a go at it almost everyday. Forgetting for a while that the game oozes style, it might be argued that as the game is the same as the previous and as the next will be, there's a need to search for perfection - making all the way from in the underground base or one of the "flying things" sequence without dropping a single hit point, for instance. While a few games are only rewarding once the player beats it (and a few others, not even then), Beast makes the player proud even for completing some of the tougher sections. And that's perhaps what's fascinating me in the game.

The Bad

The difficulty level perhaps is only matched in Gods, also a port of an outstanding Amiga game troubled by poorly calculated frame rates. While not impossible per se (in fact, it's easier in some parts than the Amiga version), the game draws its absurdly high difficulty level from three sources: the close timing required to hit the waves of enemies that follow the player, some portions of level design and the complex pattern of the obstacles. While in games like Sonic the Hedgehog (arguably the only game all Mega Drive gamers played) the player is rewarded by having sharp reflexes and jump calculation skills, in Beast it's all a matter of studying the the timing and patterns of the traps (such as the thorns coming out of the ground) and enemies. However, the difference in knowing where the next enemy will come from isn't one between "losing" and "winning", more one of "surviving for a few more minutes", so reflexes and sharp decisions are still required. I've mentioned level design in the start. While the game is pretty much linear, a lot of new players will make a lot of mistakes such as starting in the wrong direction or not picking some objects up (which I won't go into details, missing them the first times around is just part of the learning), just to get killed some minutes later. Even with the cheat code on, the player must be very careful to explore every inch of the levels to avoid being stuck for missing an item.

However, the high difficulty level is there for a reason, as the game is very short, being perfectly possible to complete it in less than 30 minutes. Of course, to do so, the player has to spend a few dozens of hours learning the best ways to avoid damage or simply cheat (and even then, it will take a while), but it doesn't make a complete run less short. I guess all the graphic layers, different enemies and music were included at the expense of a larger game world (let's not forget the original game was included in two floppies), and the difficulty level was tweaked a few notches up to cover that.

The Bottom Line

Beast isn't one of those games that one can recommend, and in most cases, it's an acquired taste. Some flaws prevent the game from getting higher marks, such as some lack of detail in graphics (as the Japanese version showed, it was perfectly possible to do better and closer to the Amiga version, but I've found some of the monsters better designed in the PAL/NTSC-U version) and the strange omission of sound effects. The gameplay is penalized for having simplified controls and being extremely hard, but that's part of the charm.

Hardly one of those "must have" titles, but an interesting title from the golden years of the Amiga that was perfectly ported into a home console.