Lost in Time: Altered Beast - Guardian of the Realms

Altered Beast is not a good game. It's a remarkably cool game, with it's awesome transformations, cool monster design, and legendarily silly voice acting. But a quality gaming experience, it is not. There have been talks over the years of Sega reviving the IP dating all the way back to the PlayStation 2, but the big-budget return of Altered Beast has yet to rear its head. What many fans missed though, was that not only did Altered Beast actually get a proper sequel, but it was really quite good. Unfortunately, it took the form of a hideous Game Boy Advance game called Altered Beast: Guardian of the Realms.

Not the most attractive box art ever made...

Not the most attractive box art ever made...

Oh boy, this game is hard to look at. It's got that ridiculous CG look going on that was so popular in its day, and it has not held up very well. It doesn't exactly have what I would classify as memorable music either. However, Guardian of the Realms does do something that is well worth commendation. It took the original Altered Beast formula and made it fun. Like, legitimately fun! It basically boils down to an auto-scrolling beat-em-up, much like the original. But it expands the formula with tons of new transformations, lots of varied levels, new moves, and a much more balanced difficulty. Where the original was designed to eat your quarters, this game actually encourages you to try and beat it. 

he art direction isn't.. terrible. But man, these graphics can be rough

he art direction isn't.. terrible. But man, these graphics can be rough

Now, like I said, this game is not pretty, and the visuals, from the packaging to the in-game graphics, are easily its weakest point. But in a weird sort of way, that kind of works in the game's favor. Maybe I'm being too harsh on the visuals, maybe I'm not, but the actual monster designs are pretty great. There are some seriously freaky creatures trying to kill you here, ranging from your typical zombies and bats, to some bizarre blobs and bug creatures. Enemies explode and squish pretty nicely for the most part, and while there isn't any blood, the whole thing still manages to come of as fairly gory. 

Some of the new beast forms are pretty sweet.

Some of the new beast forms are pretty sweet.

So, why is it doomed to be lost in time? Well, the game was licensed by Sega, but published by TH-q, and it wasn't exactly a success. It didn't get much of a marketing push, and by and large it just seemed like most people didn't even realize it existed. The developer 3d6 Games worked on a handful of other Game Boy Advance games, including the less-impressive Revenge of Shinobi, but has been defunct since 2013. So the chances of Sega scrounging up the publishing rights to re-release this gem are slim to none. But you never know, right? Stranger things have happened. 

The good news is, since nobody seems to care about its existence, it's a pretty easy find. It's not exactly the cheapest game on the block, especially if you want it complete in the box, but loose carts are fairly reasonably priced. If you were a fan of the original arcade/Genesis classic, track this one down. It's well worth your time.