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Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Unleashing The Beast: Werewolves in Video Games

It seems that werewolves have taken a backseat when it comes to video games. Vampires and zombies are the ones that seem to get the most attention, yet the inherent cool factor in being a werewolf gets left behind. Sure, we have the upcoming Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood which finally pays attention to lycanthropes, but there are plenty of other games that have explored werewolves that sadly have been neglected. So, what are we to do but remind you of just what you’re missing?

Keep in mind that this list is devoted to games where you can play as a werewolf, and not necessarily those games that just have werewolves in them.

We do have to make this a little discerning, after all.

Altered Beast – Arcade, Sega Genesis

Set in Ancient Greece, a centurion is resurrected by Zeus in order to rescue his daughter Athena from the ruler of the underworld, Neff. Through the use of power orbs, the player character can assume the form of different magical beasts, including a wolfman, dragon, werebear and weretiger.

A staple in the arcades in the 80s, Altered Beast made its splash when it was the pack-in game for the Sega Genesis. The concept, while not entirely original, was still a fun excuse to punch apart zombies and other monsters. The powerups granted you the ability to throw fireballs as the wolfman, as well as do a flying kick. Admittedly, the game is seriously dated now with its gameplay, but it holds nostalgic value for many players who reminisce about arcades. Altered Beast eventually received a sequel on the Game Boy Advance in 2002, and the infamous 2005 reboot for the PlayStation 2. The latter was poorly received despite its over-the-top gore, and never received a North American release.

Werewolf: The Last Warrior – Nintendo Entertainment System

In the future, a scientist named Dr. Faryan has discovered an ancient evil that ends up possessing him, resulting in him creating an army of mutants that has destroyed the world. The last remaining humans’ only hope is that of a Native American warrior named Chief War Wolf, who has harnessed the power to transform himself into a werewolf.

Coming off of the amazing Bad Dudes Vs. Dragon Ninja, Data East unleashed this over-the-top beat ‘em up in 1990. Known in Japan as Super Werewolf Chronicle Warwolf, the game is your basic “move to the right and beat up enemies” fare, but you do so as a werewolf with blades for hands(?). You can also grab orbs that build up your anger meter, which when full, turns you into a super werewolf for more damage and higher jumping. Despite being one of those games that reverses the A and B buttons for jumping and attacking for the North American version, it’s still a fun, albeit “NES hard”, game. The music is also quite catchy. The North American version also came with a comic book that gave more background on the game’s characters.

Darkstalkers – Arcade

A powerful alien demon known as Pyron has invaded Earth in order to add it to his collection of devoured planets. As a result, monsters from around the world gather to battle it out to defend the earth from Pyron. Among them is Jon Talbain, a werewolf trained in the martial arts. He fights to remove the curse and knows that if he were to exert himself to his limits, he’ll succeed. Hence, he looks to take out the other Darkstalkers.

Of course it’s a no brainer to have Jon Talbain included here. Darkstalkers was a nice break from what Capcom were putting out with Street Fighter at the time, and introduced some things (such as Super Moves and EX Moves) that were eventually incorporated into Street Fighter. Plus, the animation as a whole is quite fluid for its time. As for playing as Talbain specifically, he’s a quicker character while walking, and you can often use his dashes to potentially mix up opponents. His moveset is great for stopping opponents from jumping in.

Contra: Hard Corps – Sega Genesis

Set in 2641 AD, five years after the “Alien Wars”, alien cells kept at a military research facility are stolen in a terrorist attack. A new four-member task force known as the Hard Corps are assigned to the investigation. They discover that retired Major Bahamut has gone rogue, and has conspired with Dr. Geo Mandrake to create a biological weapon using the stolen alien cells in order to overthrow the government.

Okay, so it might be a little iffy calling Brad Fang a werewolf, as he doesn’t actually shapeshift. However, in Contra ReBirth, you can play as him in his human form. Regardless, the cool thing about Hard Corps is that each character has their own unique weapons, which varies your strategy. Brad is a character that requires the most skill to control, although when used correctly, he ends up potentially being the most powerful. The fact that you can charge shots while the game is paused can be exploited for things like his Psychic Blaster, which is handy for bosses. Much like Castlevania Bloodlines, Hard Corps doesn’t get nearly enough recognition because it was a Genesis exclusive. The graphics, gameplay and sound are all comparable to the SNES games, and are definitely fun times.

Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness – Nintendo 64

Set in the year 1844, a man named Cornell has been gifted with the power of the man-beasts, which allows him to transform into a man-wolf hybrid. After a year of training, Cornell returns to his village to find it burnt to the ground, and his only family, his adoptive sister, Ada, taken to be used as a sacrifice to resurrect Dracula. Cornell sets out to save his sister. Along the way, Cornell crosses paths with his rival and fellow man-beast, Ortega, who has allied himself with Dracula to finally beat Cornell in combat.

After the lukewarm reception to Castlevania 64, Konami released this sequel/director’s cut a year later that sought to fix some of the issues that plagued the first game. You now play as Cornell rather than Reinhardt, with the former having a moveset that makes it easier to handle some of the more awkward tasks found in the original game. Cornell’s primary attack has him doing more damage and having a greater range than Reinhardt, and being able to transform into a werewolf allows him to do more damage. The issues with the camera still persist, and while the level design is inconsistent, Legacy of Darkness still has the atmosphere and uneasy mood found in its predecessor that accomplishes more than what the later PS2 Castlevania outings were able to do.

Wolfman – Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC

Wolfman is a text adventure split into three parts. The overarching story has the player waking from a heavy sleep to find his clothes ripped and bloody, yet with no sign of injury. Outside, you see the body of a dead girl, her throat torn out. You realize that you are a werewolf, and must escape the enraged villagers. After falling in love with a young woman named Nadia, you must rescue her when she is kidnapped. You must then make your way to Fi Shan monastery to find the cure.

Despite being from a bygone era that makes the game feel like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure type of game, creator Rod Pike actually put a lot of thought and care into crafting this one. Sure, there’s plenty of violence (in text form), but Wolfman is also written with a great deal of vulnerability. The player is forced to solve problems in order to overcome their desire to rip people apart when the wolf overtakes them. And solve problems they must, as there are some tricky puzzles that will require you to be observant of the text. The only real drawback are the digitized pictures, which really show the game’s age in their hokiness.

Diablo II: Lord of Destruction – PC

In this expansion pack to the classic Diablo II, the Lord of Destruction, Baal, has been set free. He now wields a Soulstone which has increased his power, allowing him to capture and claim Mount Arreat in the northern Barbarian Highlands. The player is tasked with making their way to up Mount Arreat to defeat Baal before he corrupts the Worldstone, a massive crystal rock of great energies, built to prevent the High Heavens and Burning Hells from consuming the mortal realm completely into their respective folds.

How do you build on near perfection? Blizzard was able to with the Lord of Destruction expansion, providing not only more goodies to collect, new mechanics like runes and character-specific items, but also the new classes. And given the various builds you can play (a lot of players prefer the Wind Druid type), the Druid player that sticks to the shapeshifting abilities could be a force with which to be reckoned. The later updates included synergies that allowed skills to be made stronger by upgrading others in that skill tree, so you could toss skill points into the werebear attributes that would allow for bonuses in the werewolf form.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Set 201 years after the events of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Skyrim takes place in province of the Empire on the continent of Tamriel amid a civil war between two factions: the Stormcloaks, led by Ulfric Stormcloak, and the Imperial Legion, led by General Tullius. The player’s character is a Dragonborn, a mortal born with the soul and power of a dragon. Alduin, a large black dragon who returns to the land after being lost in time, is intent on fulfilling the prophecy of him destroying the world. You are tasked with destroying Alduin, but also deciding the fate of the civil war.

While you can finish the main questline in a few sittings, the real fun of Skyrim is the sheer amount of quests, one of which has you becoming a werewolf. The questline for the Companions of Jorrvaskr in Whiterun has a point where you can drink the blood of Aela the Huntress when she is in Werewolf form in order to gain the power of the werewolf. Of course, there’s also the Ring of Hircine which can be obtained during the “Ill Met by Moonlight” quest, but the result remains the same. Becoming a werewolf results in increased carry weight, increased damage and resistance to disease, but you also have increased vulnerability to silver, and in general people don’t like werewolves. Still, it can be fun to mow down people/monsters when the opportunity arises.

The Wolf Among Us – PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Based on Bill Willingham’s Fables comic book series, where various characters from fairy tales and folklore have formed a community within New York City known as Fabletown, after their homelands had been conquered by a mysterious and deadly enemy known as “The Adversary”. Players assume the role of Bigby Wolf, the sheriff of Fabletown, who along with Snow White must investigate the murder of a prostitute known as Faith. What results leads Bigby to become involved in the affairs of the interim mayor for Fabletown, Ichabod Crane.

If you’ve played one Telltale title, you know what to expect. Luckily, however, the writing and characters for The Wolf Among Us are charming and quite developed. Bigby is obviously one the player focuses on the most, as he tries to atone for his past actions (the whole blowing down houses and eating grandmothers), while at the same time juggling with his own inner beast. The action sequences, which admittedly are your standard quicktime events, manage to have an intensity to them that’s in line with the darker tone of the overall game. The detective work (you are a sheriff, after all) does have you using your brain, and you can incriminate the innocent if you’re not careful. It’s a nice slice of neo-noir that will hopefully continue in the resurrected sequel that’s currently in development.

Werewolves of London – Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC

A curse placed on you by the Sloane family has turned you into a werewolf. The only way to rid yourself of the curse is to kill all the relatives of those who inflicted it. The more you kill, however, the more the police want to capture and jail you.

Unfortunately, Werewolves can be best described as tedious. Sure, while the game managed to include a nice rendition of the Warren Zevon song of the same name, the gameplay is pretty simplistic, even when judged by standards back then. Your job in human form is to gather items that will allow you to access areas such as the sewer. In werewolf form, you’re now roaming around eating people and hunting Sloane members. The idea can be fun to run around causing mayhem, but it quickly loses steam. Bringing police into the mix does have you doing a bit of strategy, but it still ends up being the same formula of running around and looking for people to munch.


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