There always comes a time in a man’s life when he needs to play Altered Beast again. This is such a time. I decided to go with the arcade version this time, despite it being arguably slightly inferior to the console port, because I just felt like having the full arcade quality graphics and all this time.
The Genesis version definitely handles a bit smoother, but this one’s still perfectly playable and enjoyable too. The biggest problem with the arcade version has to be the massive difficulty spike in the final level. Enemies will just savagely beat your ass in this version and the power-up wolves are extremely elusive, which will make you have to run through the level loop more times than usual. They really went after your quarters hard here.
Other than that, the only other real difference in the arcade version is the weird “it was all just a movie” ending. You know, I just realized those little purple enemies are from Golden Axe. I should play that soon too…
Shinobi-thon continues with Shadow Dancer. A quick piece of Shinobi trivia for you: did you know that the arcade and Genesis versions of Shadow Dancer are completely different games? I never realized until now and I don’t think I’ve ever actually played or even seen the arcade version. The gameplay is about the same and they share a few enemy types, but all the levels and bosses are entirely different.
Another fun, but painfully challenging ninja game where you die in one hit and enemies are fucking everywhere. If you thought the bosses in the previous games were cheap you have no idea either. They’re ridiculous here. I can see why this one never got popular here, it’s just too nasty. It’s not Haunted Castle bad, but it’s pretty close.
I always liked this game as a kid, but could never finish the damn thing. Looking back on it, I can see why. While the core gameplay is a kind of half-port of the arcade version of Temple of Doom, there are a lot of weird, poorly explained mechanics tossed in there that don’t seem super important for most of the game, but will come back to bite you hard later on if you weren’t doing things right.
You need to be collecting swords, guns, and bombs like crazy, but…try not to actually use many of them because you’re going to need all you can get in the last few levels or you’re screwed (also using these things is a huge pain because you have to hold select and press a direction on the d-pad to choose one, both of which are right next to each other on the left side of the controller so you do the math there).
This is a 12 level game and the first 8 levels are pretty straight forward, requiring you to simply rescue kids, collect items, and find the exit door. Level 9 is where things suddenly start to get crazy. You find yourself unable to progress due to a huge lava field and the only way to get across is to wait for these little monsters to stick their heads up so you can kill them so they turn into stepping stones. Unfortunately, they can only be killed with special weapons so if you haven’t been stockpiling these things you’re shit out of luck. Even if you have plenty, this is much harder than it sounds because the hit detection on these things is awful, the timing and placement of them sticking their heads up is extremely erratic, and enemies will be endlessly spawning to try to knock you into the lava the whole time. I could never get past this part as a kid so I had no idea that this wasn’t even the worst part.
Level 10 is the ultimate “fuck you”. This level is made up of 6 huge, mazelike sub-areas that are all connected. Somewhere in one of these 6 areas is an exit door. The exit door is INVISIBLE and can only be revealed by throwing a bomb at the right spot. This spot apparently changes randomly every game and can be at any of 24 possible locations. You have no idea which of these to check unless you had been furiously collecting map pieces through the whole game, something the game doesn’t bother to explain to you at all until it’s too late, and good luck even understanding the map if you do get to see it. Oh, that’s not even all either. Any time you die here the sankara stones that you found at the end of the last level will be dropped and scattered around the level, AND you’ll need to go find them all again because even if you find the exit, you can’t leave without them. It’s all so much worse than it sounds and I almost gave up, but I just couldn’t let it go. I had to finally finish this game, dammit!
What did I get for my troubles? The knowledge that the developers never expected anyone to actually beat level 10 because the last two levels are very clearly unfinished. What a terrible ending. Oh well. Now we know. Now we know!
Note to self: next time just play the arcade version!