Shadow of the Beast
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|Shadow of the Beast|
Cover art by Roger Dean
Shadow of the Beast is a side-scrolling platform video game produced by Reflections and published by Psygnosis in 1989. The original version was released for the Commodore Amiga, and was later ported to many other systems. Shadow of the Beast is considered revolutionary at the time, because of its graphics, with many more colours on screen and up to twelve levels of parallax scrolling backdrops, were of a level rarely if ever seen before in action games. It was also notable for its atmospheric score composed by David Whittaker that used high-quality instrument samples.
A man named Aarbron is kidnapped as a child and corrupted through magic into a monstrous warrior-servant for the evil beast lord Maletoth. The creature's memory of his human life returns when he watches a man being executed, whom he later recognizes as his father. This prompts Aarbron to seek revenge on Maletoth. A long ardous journey ensues, with Aarbron forced to battle his way through both hostile terrain and Maletoths forces. He eventually confronts one of Maletoths minions, a gargantuan creature whose only visible body is its hand and foot. Defeating the creature, Aarbron is freed from his curse, the titular "shadow of the beast", and returned to a more humanoid form.
The box artwork of the game, like many Psygnosis releases of the time, was created by fantasy artist Roger Dean.
The soundtrack of the first Beast game by David Whittaker consists of twelve tracks. They are similar in style and have a new-age like sound.
|4.||"Inside the Tree"|
|5.||"The Power Orb"|
|8.||"To the Castle"|
|9.||"In the Dark Passages"|
|10.||"Beyond the Mind and Reality"|
The full soundtrack to the first Beast game was arranged, studio recorded and released in 1999, on an Amiga music compilation CD entitled Immortal.
The music for Beast 2 & 3 was composed and produced by Tim Wright. These titles featured a more extensive soundtrack and utilised ethnic samples taken from among other sources the same Korg M1 synthesizer that was sampled by David Whittaker for the original game (although in this case, it was the rack-mounted version the Korg M1/R). Beast 2 contained a total of 17 tracks, most notable of which are the title theme and the game over theme, both of which feature real sampled electric guitars. Beast 3 contained a total of 24 tracks again featuring ethnic instrumentation, but this time dabbling with the addition of some more synthetic sounds. The tracks in neither Beast 2 nor Beast 3 have been formally named by the composer, they are generally referred to by their location within the game. The FM-Towns and PC Engine Super CD-ROM ports of Shadow of the Beast features a soundtrack arranged by D.C. Productions Ltd. (Chris Howlett and Ian Henderson).
After Shadow of the Beast's enormous success on the Amiga, it was ported to almost every other computer and video games console of the time. Namely, the Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, SNES – unreleased, Sega Genesis/Genesis, Sega Master System, Atari Lynx, FM-Towns and PC-Engine TurboCD. An Atari 8-bit version was in the works in 1990 to be published by Harlequin, but it was never finished due to collapse of the company. The PC-Engine TurboCD version was the last to be released. The PC-EngineTurboCD version and FM-Towns (titled Shadow Of The Beast Complete) both had enhanced in-game graphics, animated intro and an enhanced studio quality CD soundtrack, not in any of the other ports.
The Sega Genesis port is renowned for its difficulty, particularly to North American audiences. This is due to an oversight during conversion to the North American region; the original game had a 50 Hz refresh rate, but all North American Sega Genesis games had to have a 60 Hz refresh rate in North America for NTSC televisions. The conversion team did not change the amount of time each frame remained on screen when the refresh rate was increased to 60 Hz, making it run 16.7% faster than the original (this problem is absent when the game is played on a European MegaDrive with 50 Hz refresh rate, however). Many gamers struggled to complete it after its release, but due to the incredibly high difficulty level with no continues available, very few achieved this goal until Sega revealed the invincibility cheat in January 1992. The Japanese Sega Genesis version ran at the correct speed and had enhanced in-game graphics as well as a toned down difficulty setting though the game still lacked continues.
Shadow of the Beast II has also been ported, albeit to fewer platforms. These are the Atari ST and FM-Towns computers, as well as the Sega Genesis/Genesis, and Sega Mega-CD consoles. The Mega-CD port of the game had drastic changes made to it, the most noticeable being a new soundtrack complete with voice acted dialogue sequences and added FMVs. The in-game graphics were also slightly enhanced, and some areas of the game were redesigned to be less difficult than the original.
Despite the success of the first two games, Shadow of the Beast III was not ported to any other system, and remains an Amiga exclusive, although a Sega Genesis version was considered and even developed at some point, with Matt Furniss tasked as the Sega Genesis conversion composer.
Shadow of the Beast and Shadow of the Beast II were reviewed in 1991 in Dragon #169 by Patricia Hartley, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave both games 5 out of 5 stars.
Computer Gaming World gave Shadow of the Beast III a mixed review. The magazine called the graphic "very good" and music "excellent" but criticized the puzzles' high level of difficulty, lack of a savegame feature, and slow load times (and copy protection that prevented the use of a hard drive), stating "I have grown tired of arcade games that punish the player rather than reward them for their efforts".
Shadow of the Beast II
Shadow of the Beast II finds the hero in half-beast form, wandering the lands of Karamoon in search of his kidnapped sister. She had been taken away from her mother's cottage by the dragon-form of the Beast Mage, Zelek, servant to Maletoth. Along the way, Aarbron befriends the wise dragon Barloom and must defeat the evil dragon Ishran. Tree Pygmies in the forest and the goblins in the Crystal Caverns serve as foes.
As in the first game, the cover art for Shadow of the Beast II was created by Roger Dean and the game was packaged with a promotional black T-shirt that featured Dean's artwork.
Shadow of the Beast III
The final chapter of the saga, Shadow of the Beast III was released exclusively for the Amiga in 1992. In this game, Aarbron has regained his human shape but must defeat Maletoth once and for all to become fully human. Beast III has four distinct stages instead of one big area. The game placed less of an emphasis on the action elements so prominent in the first two games, instead preferring a more cerebral approach. The Beast III package did not contain a T-shirt, instead, a badge with a game logo was included.
A re-imagined version of Shadow of the Beast was revealed at Gamescom 2013, developed by Heavy Spectrum Entertainment Labs and will be published by Sony Computer Entertainment exclusively for the PlayStation 4.
References in other games
Graphics from Shadow of the Beast and Shadow of the Beast II were featured in two special levels in the original Lemmings game (Amiga, Sega Genesis, PC, Super Nintendo, and Atari ST versions), called "A Beast of a Level" and "A Beast II of a Level". These references were supported by cameo versions of the title music from each version, in this case both pieces were arranged by Tim Wright.
- Goss, Steve (2002). "Atari 8bit Projects – Shadow of the Beast". JetBootJack.com. Archived from the original on 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2013-01-14.
- Lesser, Hartley; Lesser, Patricia; Lesser, Kirk (May 1991). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (169): 61–65.
- Miller, Chuck (March 1993). "Psygnosis' Shadow of the Beast III". Computer Gaming World. p. 66. Retrieved 6 July 2014.
- Jeffrey Matulef (2013-08-20). "Shadow of the Beast remake announced as PS4-exclusive". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2015-02-09.
- Musician Tim Wright's website
- Shadow of the Beast series at MobyGames
- Shadow of the Beast at World of Spectrum