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Shadow of the Beast

From Academic Kids

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Screenshot of Shadow of the Beast I (Amiga)

Shadow of the Beast is a side-scrolling platform computer game produced by Reflections Interactive and published by Psygnosis in 1989.

Originally released on the Commodore Amiga, its success launched a number of ports of the game to almost all other home computer systems and video games consoles of the time, including the IBM PC, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, C64, ZX Spectrum, SNES, Sega Genesis, Sega Master System, Atari Lynx and TG16. A later version with improved graphics and sounds was released in 1991 for the FM-Towns under the title Shadow Of The Beast Complete.

Psygnosis had published numerous side scrollers with nice looking graphics before (most notably Obliterator), but Shadow of the Beast was anyway a jaw-dropping experience for many since now the beauty of graphics (with many more colours on screen and multiple levels of parallax scrolling backdrops) seemed to be something that was not seen before in action games. In addition Beast had a stunning soundtrack composed by David Whittaker using high-quality instrument samples that fit into the game's atmosphere perfectly. Some reviewers complained that the game was too difficult, but for most gamers this was not a problem and the game became a huge hit. Because the game took advantage of the commodore Amiga's superior graphic and sound capabilities, conversions to other gaming platforms were often substandard.

The box artwork of the game, like many Psygnosis releases of the time, was created by acclaimed fantasy artist Roger Dean, in a style reminiscent of his Yes band artwork.

The game's story is about a man named Aarbron, who was kidnapped as a child and corrupted through magic into a monstrous warrior-executioner for the evil beast lord Malatoth. The creature's memory of his human life returns when he is ordered to execute a prisoner he recognizes as his father, prompting him to seek revenge.

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Screenshot of Shadow of the Beast II (Amiga)

There were two sequels for the game: Shadow of the Beast II in 1990 and Shadow of the Beast III in 1992. The former was again ported to a number of platforms.

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 interactive, complicated foes. For example, a drink of booze picked up at the Karamoon oasis must be given to the goblin jailer to free Aarbron from his cell. Only after Aarbron gives the old man his ring and his parchment does he achieve a spell-attack powerful enough to defeat Zelek. The game is very difficult. Many players had to cheat to see more than a fraction of it, by asking the first Pygmy to his right about "ten pints".

The cover art for Shadow of the Beast II was done by Roger Dean and the game was packaged with a promotional black T-Shirt that featured Roger Dean's artwork. The tribal music of Beast II was composed by Tim Wright and additional music for the project is available from his Cold Storage website.

The final chapter of the saga, Shadow of the Beast III was released for Amiga in 1992. It did not get as much attention as its predecessors. Its graphics and sound - though still high quality - were not revolutionary anymore in 1992. The game received lukewarm reviews. Beast III had four distinct stages instead of one big area. It also had more puzzles than previous Beasts. The tricky puzzles actually form the core of the game. Compared to Beast II, gameplay was much easier. The Beast III package did not contain a T-shirt, but a badge with a game logo instead.

The original Amiga music for Beast games can be downloaded from the web (see external links below) and can be listened with Deliplayer (when using Windows). The soundtrack of the first Beast game by David Whittaker is the most famous one. Also, Tim Wright's more atmospheric soundtracks for sequels are noteworthy.

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Atari ST port

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