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Animal King: Project Altered Beast
  opened by paleface at 04:15:46 03/17/05  
  last modified by paleface at 22:01:29 03/19/05  
  paleface [sys=PS2; cat=Beat_em_up; loc=JPN]
The initial part of the title, romanized "Jyuouki" by GameFAQs, babelfishes as "animal king description."
  paleface 21:51:40 03/19/05
Initially, this game seems a bit underwhelming. You're some thuggish dude who can turn into a werewolf and claw people, well that's all right I guess. But the graphics are murky, and sound nothing to write home about, and story pretty much nonexistent, and the control sorta sluggish, especially in wolf form. And you can't stay in wolf form indefinitely: you have to keep collecting green energy goo from enemies to maintain your wolfish look. Drag. Oh, and the enemies are dumb and fairly boring-looking.
Thankfully, things pick up a bit. From bosses (the first boss fight sucks, too, unfortunately) you gain "chips" that allow your experimental cyborg dude to transform into other beasts, like a merman (yawn) and a big strong Wendigo (oo). And then "data" or XP you find or collect from subbosses goes toward levelling up your beastly chain combos and abilities. So you start to kick ass a little more, and the game gets more amusing as a result.
The stages are vast and arranged in a branching scheme, with most of the branches blocked by some sort of obstacle. Each beast has some kind of ability to clear certain obstacle types; for instance, if you find a big boulder blocking your way, that can be moved out of the way once you get the Wendigo chip (hold the attack button).
That sounds great and all, but I find it sort of frustrating to see all these places I can't get to yet, and to know that I have to remember them and come back to them later. Sigh. Screw you, non-linearity, you just waste my time.
My main reservation about the game, however, comes from the controls. They're responsive enough for the default human form, but you can't kick too much ass in that form and usually you hang out in it only when travelling through cleared areas, so as not to lose beast energy, or when you need to use the form's energy drain attack (form your fingers into a point and punch it into an enemy's groin region, then pump--fun!) to get more monster juice. That's okay. It's when we go monster form that the problems pop up.
The werewolf, for instance, moves quickly, but when running can't turn on a dime, and instead wheels around with a fairly large turning radius. I guess this sounded neat on paper but in practice it just feels like the wolf is drunk.
The chain combos, too, sound neat on paper, but in practice they serve to increase recovery time after you attack. Let's say, for instance, that you put your energy/xp into learning a Square-Square-X combo. This may do something cool in a fight, like two slashes and an uppercut or something, but what if you want to hit someone twice and then jump away? Well, since X is the Jump button, you might instead get stuck doing the uppercut combo move instead of jumping away from peril.
And the merman just isn't that fun: he swims around, and can shoot bubbles at enemy fish. WOW. Well, they are homing bubbles. Double WOW! Okay, no, it isn't that great. And he can't swim up or down per se; rather, to go up you stop moving and pump the swim (X) button, and to go down, you just release the controls altogether and let yourself sink. Yay! It's a good thing those bubbles home, because otherwise you'd never be able to hit anyone.
And punching little monsters as wendigo, squishing them in bloodly little pulps, is fun, but he moves really slow. I haven't got any monster forms after him, but I won't be surprised if they all have some kind of control-related drawback. It seems to me that they could have based the monster balance on something less annoying than control difficulty.
While I'm complaining, I may as well mention that I'm irritated by the grotesque CG transformation sequences that play every time you switch to a monster form. Is there some way to turn those off? You can skip them after a few seconds, and there's a variety of clips for each monster type, but still, they're icky and time-wasting after you've seen them all once. Oh, and why have monster forms require the green goo "fuel"? This means that you always feel like you're on a timer and have to rush when you're in monster form. Boooo!
Anyway, aside from that stuff, the game manages to generate a certain amount of fun. Slashing/smashing little monsters into little red squishes goes pretty far, and while the little monsters are dumb as rocks, the bosses at least are big and have tricky, if limited, patterns.
So, eh, I don't know. I didn't really like the original arcade Altered Beast that much, but I played it a fair amount all the same, and I wouldn't be surprised if the same kind of thing happened here.
Apologies in advance for the icky screenshots: my projector's 256-color screenshot dithering really doesn't handle the game's murky look that well.

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