Sunday, May 24, 2009

Altered Beast CD

Sega / NEC Avenue

Well, this is a shame.

You'd think that a CD rendition of Altered Beast would feature red book music; but as it turns out, the chip tunes perform double duty. And those tunes certainly sound great and all, but it would've been awfully cool to hear AB's compositions treated with vintage PCE CD instrumentation. Sadly, we'll never be granted that opportunity; but we do get "explosive" sound effects for the occasions when we bust up the odd rock or gravestone. The disc also delivers voices and, during the beast transformation scenes, a variety of howls and roars.

Okay, dreams of red book audio fell by the wayside; next on the "CD version" checklist is cinemas. Well, you can view a cinematic sequence that relays the Altered Beast tale (voice in Japanese, of course) and displays a bizarre string of images. Some of these images were lifted from the game's packaging, while others were cheap borrowings from the game itself, including exciting things like a slice of the title screen and a boss-monster collage. It's weird stuff, and it's all you'll get cinematically; there's no cool new intermediary or ending material.

There are some very minor in-game graphical amendments to check out, the most noticeable of which are first- and second-level color modifications. PCE AB's colors are very nice anyway, and while I don't mind the substitutions at all, they don't represent much of a reach on the part of the designers, who might as well have done more redecorating while they were at it.

The adventure itself is less challenging here than it is on card, but don't expect to roll right through it if you struggle with the chip version. The gameplay is still rough, but the bosses can't take quite as much of a beating. Up the level of difficulty and you'll find that some locations host more (and more-aggressive) enemies, but this is hardly a big deal if you can reach the end of the journey in the first place.

Speaking simply as a judge of the game itself and disregarding all other circumstances, I like CD Altered Beast. After all, it has a lot in common with the HuCard rendition, which I'm a big fan of. But I must say that the reason it exists at all eludes me. Why did NEC Avenue bother with such a project if they weren't going to deliver red book music? Why didn't they make more visual changes and include more cinemas? This could've been a very cool and worthwhile upgrade instead of a widely mocked product.

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