Altered Beast occupies a strange place in Sega's library; when it was first released it garnered a lukewarm response, and its choice as a pack-in title for the freshly-launched Mega Drive / Genesis was a curious one — although its large, bold sprites were impressive for the time, it certainly wasn't strong enough in terms of gameplay to "sell" the console to the masses.
Even so, the fact that it was the first Mega Drive game that many Sega fans experienced has gifted Altered Beast a lofty status, and has no doubt gone some way to ensuring its inclusion in Sega's 3DS-based 3D classics range — which is currently exclusive to Japan, but is expected to find its way over to the west in due course.
Like 3D Super Hang-On, 3D Space Harrier and 3D Sonic the Hedgehog, 3D Altered Beast is basically the original game with some minor modifications. The 3D effect is quite subtle and (as was also the case with Sonic) feels less effective than it did in Space Harrier and Super Hang-On — largely because their "into the screen" perspective works better. Even so, the 3D lends Altered Beast a fresh dimension that is undeniably pleasant to behold.
Like 3D Sonic the Hedgehog, you can also opt for a bizarre CRT imitation filter, which makes the game look as if it's being played on an old television set. Significantly more useful is the opportunity to use save states, although the game is so short that you may not require them. Also included is a two-player link-up mode and the option to switch the order of the beast transformations; for example, the dragon becomes level one's monster and the wolf level two's. It's an interesting change and one that we admit we could have done with back in the early '90s, as it lends additional longevity to what is a painfully brief experience.
Outside of those new features, this is essentially the same game you completed in the space of an evening back in the days of your youth. Even the most dedicated Sega fan will admit that Altered Beast — despite its fame — isn't a particularly brilliant video game, and certainly represents the weakest entry in Sega's 3D classic range so far. Also, we're not quite sure why the developer picked the domestic port over the coin-op original, which would at least have offered fans a version they weren't so intimately familiar with.
We'd be willing to bet that most Sega lovers would have rather have seen After Burner, Golden Axe or Alien Storm updated for the 3DS eShop rather than this. As it stands, 3D Altered Beast will tickle your nostalgia bone if you've got a soft spot for the original, but it hasn't aged well at all.