Genre: Action Developer: Software Creations Ltd Publisher: Sunsoft Players: 1 Released: 1993
Back in 1991, Disney released what would become one of their more beloved films, Beauty and the Beast. It became a hit for both kids and adults alike, and was marketed on everything from pajamas to lunch boxes, and even spawned a direct-to-video movie follow up of sorts (it’s set during a blank area in the original movie’s time line). However, what not many expected, was that it would also become not one, but two video games on the Genesis in 1993. One of those games was called Roar of the Beast, an action romp centered around the beast defending his castle from villagers and woodland creatures. But is the game something you’d invite to be your guest, or something to be left off the guest list? Read on.
You are the beast, a one time prince who coldly brushed aside an old woman who offered him a rose in return for the night’s shelter. Only she wasn’t an old woman, but an enchantress, and your selfish act cost you dearly. Transformed into a monstrous beast, you’re now cursed to remain as such until one of two things comes to pass… either you fall in love and are loved in return so that the curse is broken, or your twenty-first birthday arrives, after which you’ll forever remain a beast. Just when things are seeming hopeless for you, it’s on one fateful night that a series of events begin to unfold as you defend your castle from animals that have become enchanted. These events lead you to discover an old man who entered your castle to get out of the snow storm… an old man with a lovely daughter named Belle.
As a game based on a Disney movie, the visuals and animation are generally expected to be high quality stuff to match the source. Thankfully, this game follows suit for the most part. The characters all look very much like their movie counterparts. The beast, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts and Chip, Lumierre… they’re all here, and they’re all drawn up well with plenty of details and shading. The other characters who weren’t in the movie, like the various bears and bats, weren’t ignored either. They too feature the same qualities as the movie cast and fit in well. The animation is very good, with all the characters moving smoothly, whether it be Lumierre lighting a villager’s backside on fire, or the beast walking on all fours. It’s clear that Sunsoft tried to carry over the fluidity of Disney’s movie, and they did a good job of it.
The backgrounds are suitably dark given that you’re following the beast around at night, but they’re not dull or devoid of visual appeal. Instead, they’re colorful, yet moody, with nice details on trees, curtains, windows and even the distant landscape. You’ll also find little touches like the wavering torches, falling snowflakes and leaves, and even the glitter falling off of the beast’s rose. Like the characters, attention was paid to the backdrops, putting the Genesis color palette to good use. That’s not to say they’re perfect, as there are some areas that look a bit grainy. But overall, when you add in some decently done still cinemas featuring scenes from the movie, the end result of all this are visuals that are quite pleasant and befitting their Disney origins.
When it comes to sound, the game doesn’t quite match up to the visuals. The music itself isn’t bad per se, but it’s safe to say Sunsoft has done better work. Two songs (“Beauty and the Beast” and “Battle on the Tower”) are taken from the movie, with the rest being original works for the game. While the music does fit with the mood and settings, and the most of original works aren’t too bad, the instrument choice s aren’t the best. They’re not horrific, but some instruments are rather piercing at times, and the composition quality is a bit scattered, with some songs having more depth to them than others. The end result is a soundtrack that’s not as memorable as it could have been given the source material and Sunsoft’s other offerings.
While the music’s a touch above average, the sound effects are oddly lacking. There are no voice samples in this game (leaving the beast’s roar rather… unroar-like), quite a few other things simply don’t have a sound given to them at all (or have a weak one), and the only effect you’ll hear for oddly long stretches at times is the one played when the beast swipes at something. Sure, there are some sound effects (the beast jumping, boars charging, etc.), but the game has a distinct lack in this area to go with the action, and what’s there isn’t all that good.
The gameplay is fittingly simple, given that this game was made for kids. You have three options at your disposal, with jump, swipe and roar. Jump is self explanatory, and roar is a straightforward stun move that causes weaker enemies to freeze in their tracks for a few seconds. Swiping on the other hand, has a little variety to it. You can tap the button and have the beast do a quick punch, or hold it down and have him do a slower slash that inflicts more damage. You can also hit the swipe button while jumping, causing the beast to pounce on an enemy below him.
There are four levels to make your way through, with each level being divided up into several parts. Along the way, you’ll battle bats, snakes, bears, wolves, villagers, and boars, all in an attempt to reach the boss at the end of the level. The boss attacks are straight forward, with two of them changing their patterns after they’ve been damaged a certain amount. The levels are deceptively long at times, with little dangers like falling icicles, fallen torches and traps to be jumped over, and so forth scattered about. And you’ll come across items that will give you health, an extra life, invincibility, or take away some life. There are also between level bonus rounds, with each one having a different purpose. The first one is to earn an extra continue by piecing together a stained-glass window, the second is to recover some life by catching rose petals, and the third is to reclaim some treasure for points.
OK. So, the game looks good, is aurally so-so, and has simple gameplay. Anything broken? Sadly, yes. First and foremost, are the collision detection and enemy hit boxes. It doesn’t happen every time, but once in a while you’ll fall through platforms you clearly landed on, fall off platforms you weren’t on the edge of, be hit by enemies you punched and pounced on as if you’d done nothing, and even be hit by traps that you were well away from. Another issue is that some enemies have very large hit boxes (areas that detect your character “hitting” them), while others (like the goofy looking bear in level one) have very oddly shaped hit boxes. These hit boxes are pretty consistent, so it’s not really a case of bad hit detection, but it still looks sloppy at times when you hit that bear in the face and do no damage, then visibly miss a bat, yet kill it.
Also, as stated earlier, there is a noticeable lack of sound effects in this game. I have no idea why, but there are a lot of bits left silent or given a rather weak effect, making this aspect of the game come off as half done. It wouldn’t be that bad if what effects were there really had some punch or life to them, but they don’t. So this area just feels forgotten about.
On the more minor side are the occasional cheap hits that crop up. As you go up and down the hills in the forest, birds come in from the left or right. Most of the time, they appear on screen. But there are times when they fly in as you’re going downhill, and thus stay off screen until they dive at you. You can counter this by jumping a lot as you move, but frankly, the player shouldn’t have to behave like a Mexican jumping bean for several levels to make up for a bit of poorly thought out design/programming. The bats in the bedroom section of the castle do the same at times. They come onscreen when there’s a curtain blocking some of the side, and suddenly it’s right on top of you. Sometimes they’ll hit you without ever being visible until afterward if the timing’s right.
Another thing is how the levels are… well, rather dull at times. The castle (level one) is straight forward left-to-right walking with little to interrupt you, coupled with pretty sparsely populated sections. The forest (level two) spices it up more with jumps and traps to go with the enemies, but this then gets countered by another castle level (level three) where you basically just do the same thing over and over again (hit villagers into one of your servants). Then it’s back to more action-oriented traps and such to avoid as you climb the outside the castle (level four) avoiding arrows and torches. So really, only half the game actually feels like a game (levels two and four), with the other half just being either dull from a lack of things to do, or boring from heavy repetition. Even taking into consideration that this game’s aimed at little kids, it could have used a little more diversity and intensity. There’s also the lack of a health bar for the bosses. This may seem trivial, but not knowing if you’re even close to beating the boss is rather annoying… especially on some of the longer battles (like the giant wolf and Gaston). It raises the question, “I have a health bar, so why don’t they?”
One last bit that I have to mention, is the final challenge. So yeah, spoilers here. You’re given a full bar of health which ticks away as you try to find and touch all of your servants so that they can be rescued from the curse as well. However, one little slip up, and you die. You barely have enough time to get to all of them, and this results in something of an unfair final test before you get to see the end. You beat Gaston outside the castle. That should be it. But instead, you have to touch everyone within a time limit, or die in the attempt. I can easily see a little kid back in the day getting frustrated after making their way through all the level subsections and bosses, only to lose the game because they fell off of a platform and lost two seconds due to having to jump back up. It’s a rather coldhearted thing to throw at the age group this game is for.
So what can we say about Roar of the Beast? It’s one half of what Sunsoft tried to do… make one game for boys, and one for girls, loosely following aspects of the film’s story. While they got the visuals right, and stumbled a bit on the sound, the at times drawn out and dull nature of the levels doesn’t make for an exciting run through regardless of how old you are. The muddled hit detection and cheap hits add an unwanted frustration factor, hurting the half of the game where platform jumping and enemy pouncing makes the game more interesting. The game isn’t broken, as it is beatable. But the ups and downs this game has just don’t add up to more than an average game that even little kids will grow tired of fairly quickly.
SCORE: 5 out of 10