Master – Altered Beast (Data Discs Remaster)

4 out of 5

Label: Data Discs

Produced by: Shaun Crook (vinyl master)

Simple but gloriously effective.

Altered Beast’s score is an interesting blend of nostalgia legitimate praise; being one of the first Sega Genesis games, for many that-era gamers, you likely remember hammering through the stand-here-and-you-won’t-get-hit five stages, marveling at the “adult” mood of the game.  And the music was a big part of that.  The classic simulated speech – ‘Rise from your grave!’ – aside, the very basic synthesizer tunes created the perfect black-and-white horror mood; a Hammer horror organ translated into 16-bit sound.  While it’s perfectly logical to assume that composed Master kept things fairly slim (you’ll rarely get more than a single layer going on at a time) due to an unawareness at the time of what, exactly, the Genesis could support, the limitation isn’t a bad thing: replaying the game now shows plenty of rough edges, but because the music isn’t especially showy – really just trying to establish a general vibe, which it absolutely does – it still seems to work.  And because of that, listening to the score separately works as well.  You get the Castlevania platformer sensation – i.e. keep moving to the right, amidst ghosts and ghouls – but it’s a bit more grounded, with interludes (‘Crystal Theme’) that feel like storybook transitions.

The concluding track, I’m Not Scare of Wolves, is rather humorously upbeat, setting it far apart from the other tracks – which don’t equal more than 30 minutes of music, for better or worse – but DD looped the tracks well so that you get a full taste of each theme before the next one.  And the usual praise to masterer Shaun Crook for another crisp, clean job that sounds great on wax.