Friday, July 17, 2009

A Closer Look at Beauty and the Beast

A Closer Look at…
Beauty and the Beast games for the SEGA Genesis.

Megan Fox is extremely hot. Football season starts in two months. Would you care for a nice juicy steak?

Ok, now that I have safely secured your manhood, we can get on with the business at hand.

Whether you can allow yourself to admit it or not, SUNSOFT created two very good, although somewhat simple, games for the SEGA Genesis based on the popular 1991 Disney animated feature Beauty and the Beast. (Megan Fox, stay with me here). Two games were released for the Genesis under the Beauty and the Beast banner. One game, Belle’s Quest, is obviously marketed predominately to young girls. The other, Roar of the Beast, is slightly more ambiguously geared toward the middle ground between boys and girls. I say this because Beauty and the Beast is arguably a film that appeals to girls more so than boys, but the game Roar of the Beast features the Beast as the main character and the game play is more akin to what is found in standard side-scrolling platforming games which suggests that the game is more geared for boys. Gender studies aside, these two games have long been overlooked and perhaps even disregarded due to their subject matter tie-in and perceived niche appeal. In short, boys don’t play games for girls. But they should.

Keeping that in mind, and let us first take a Closer Look at the Belle’s Quest game. This rather charming (yes I said “charming,” remember: football) game is a collection of platforming/exploration levels punctuated by exceptionally well executed mini-games. The premise of the game appropriately follows the film’s female protagonist, Belle, the daughter of a local tinkerer, throughout the events of the film as they happened to her. Thus there is a level where you are bidden to explore the town and fend off the advances of the local braggart warrior, Gaston, while you seek to solve the mystery of the town’s water shortage (which surprise surprise will require you to use your feminine whiles to enlist Gaston’s help). You will also work your way through the tangled forest that leads to the Beast’s enchanted castle. You’ll explore the castle itself in order to uncover the secret of the Beast. Finally, you’ll have to ride your horse Philippe through the treacherous frozen forest in an attempt to save your father.

These four uniquely designed levels feature platforming and exploring elements in a simple, yet engaging way. For instance, in the Beast’s castle you’ll have to explore and find keys, the magic mirror and the master key in order to gain access to the west wing of the castle where the secrets of the Beast are hidden. The level, once solved, is very simple, but it is a lot of fun poking about the nooks and crannies of the castle seeking out the various items and meeting up with the other characters that inhabit the castle. The final level, wherein you ride Philippe, is particularly fun even though it is a standard obstacle course platform level.

In addition to the main levels, Belle’s Quest also features a handful of fun mini-games interspersed between and within the main parts of the game. Sometimes it is sorting books at the bookstore, others it is dodging the wildly playful enchanted utensils in the kitchen. There are even two levels in which you and the Beast dance in the ballroom, a classic scene from the film, and must catch falling petals from the enchanted rose (can you smell that steak on the grill?). All of these levels are optional with regards to progressing the game, but are fun breaks from the main adventure.

All in all, Belle’s Quest is not a terribly huge challenge (although figuring out the enchanted forest is a bugger at first), but it is a lot of fun to play through.

Next, take a look at Roar of the Beast, following the jump!

Roar of the Beast, on the other hand, feels much more like a standard platforming game and therefore contains a lot of the trappings of the genre when not executed well. Like Belle’s Quest, Roar of the Beast tells the story from the Beast’s point of view and therefore deals with his parts of the story. Sadly, for the level design, this generally means walking across long levels, punching or biting various enemy animals (“enchanted” according the game) as they attack you.

Each level concludes with a boss battle and with the exception of the wild boar boss, these encounters offer little in the way of challenge of inspiration. The main problem lies in the fact that the levels are needlessly long, particularly the first and fourth levels, and when you die, you start back over from the very beginning of the level. The third level does break from the mould a bit and instead of fighting forest creatures you’ll have to expel invading townsfolk from your castle. Unlike the animals which you dispatch without concern for their families, you’ll have to literally toss the members of the lynch mob out on their posteriors so as to remove them without harm. The final showdown with Gaston is very cool and looks great; however it may be the easiest boss fight I have encountered. Just enjoy the experience.

Fortunately, Roar of the Beast also features some really neat mini-games to break the tedium of the walking/punching action. If you can wade through the levels to get to them, you’ll have a chance to search the castle for treasure, construct a stained glass window puzzle, and catch enchanted rose petals for bonus points. These mini-games provide a nice alternative to the main action and add some real flavor to what could have been a really monotonous game. Especially the final mini-game after you defeat Gaston, but I’ll not spoil that little surprise.

In the final analysis, Roar of the Beast is playable, but not terribly memorable as a stand alone game.

Both games feature musical numbers from the film as well as incidental music that is surprisingly catchy and not tedious or overly repetitive (unless you play the first level of Roar a million times like I did). The graphics are superb and feature nice still shots that closely resemble animation cels from the movie. The character sprites are big and well rendered. The action is smooth, if only slightly stilted, and the backgrounds are rich without being a busy mess. They both score very high on production values which helps when you consider that there isn’t a whole lot of meat to the games and both can be reasonable completed with a couple hours play time (20 mins. each if you take the time to master them). Despite their brevity, both games feature a hidden level select screen which allows you to start from any level, and in the case of Belle’s Quest, you can even select to play any of the mini-games as well. This feature is particularly helpful in Belle’s Quest since there are no continues.

Overall, the Beauty and the Beast games for the SEGA Genesis are little nuggets of classic lost in a misconception of being games for little girls, thus they are generally looked over in favor of the bigger mass appeal hits like Aladdin or Lion King (both exceptional games for the system). Surprisingly, Belle’s Quest even turns out to be the superior of the two. (Megan Fox, Football, Steak, you are going to make it I promise) Both games are worth looking into and while they may not spend days in your Genny, they can provide a few hours of whimsical enjoyment outside of the endless hours of Mortal Kombat that your Genesis has grown so accustomed to. Man up! Play the Beauty and the Beast games!

(See, I told you we would make it with our manhood intact. That wasn’t so bad, now go here and cool off:


Good for you! You found the strength to subdue your inner John Wayne long enough to actually give these games a try. So, to help you out, as if you need it, here are a few tips to help you along.


The enchanted forest is a monster of a puzzle if you don’t understand a few basic rules. I wasted hours wandering around in there before I found the deceptively simple solution. I will provide one complete, step-by-step solution at the end, but for now here are the basic guidelines for getting through on your own:

Forget what that fat pumpkin farmer told you back in town. He is useless and stupid.

The forest is based on a simple one way tiered maze model. This means there is only one correct solution for each level of the maze that takes you to the next tier. Hence, anytime you pick the wrong path you will be placed back at the beginning of the maze and will have to start all over.

The maze does not change once you step in it, however if you reset the game or use level select, the pattern will deviate slightly here and there. Best to do it all in one shot if you can.

Each time you reach a new tier successfully, the landmarks and enemies will be different. Hence no two parts of the forest look the same. If things are looking familiar, you have chosen poorly.

Each tier is constructed of two horizontal screens, going beyond that will be considered a “poor choice” and you will find yourself back at the start.

A down path was never a correct choice in any of the variations I have played.

Now for those of you who are still befuddled by a game designed for little girls, here is one complete solution (this is the one I always get playing through the first time on my system, I do not know if it will vary for you):

From the start go right to the second screen. Go up the first passage (there will be a blue flower to your right). On the new screen, go right, jump the trap and continue to the second screen. Duck the bat and jump the weird plant, then go up at the next path (there will be a yellow flower to your left and a dead tree to your right). On the new screen, go left and jump the trap, then up the next path. On the new screen, go up again immediately; do not walk anywhere. On the next screen, go right, avoid the dangers, bat, trap, forest animal, then go up when you see the castle.

Inside the castle, search under everything for keys. If you encounter Lumiere or Cogsworth, they will send you back to the entrance of the castle, so don’t freak out when you they shoo you away. You’ll know you are going the right way if you start going through big doors when you travel left and right.

On the balconies, there is one big jump that will kill you every time unless you run as far to the edge as you can, Belle will actually start to fall off, before you jump. Time this right and you’ll land safely on the other side.

Once you have the mirror, it will tell you where to go to find the Master Key. Once you have the Master Key, you’ll have to find your way back to the big door that leads to the Beast’s inner sanctum. You’ll know you are there when you see the blue book that restores your health.

While riding Philippe, patience is key. Wait to see what the next jump has in store before you blindly leap into a chasm or frozen river. Also, Philippe needs a little time to ready himself for a jump. Try not to cut your jumps too closely or he will not be able to make the split second leap and instead go rocketing to your mutual doom.

For your amusement, here is the level select code for Belle’s Quest:

At the second title screen (with Belle’s picture) enter the following on controller 1:
B , UP ,B , B , A , Up , Right , A , B, A, Down, Left, A, Down, then START.


The best overall tip is patience. Some of these levels are long and generally only feature one invincibility sphere and one bunch of grapes (restore health), so take your time. Trying to rush only gets you killed, a lot.

When fighting the enchanted Wild Boar at the end of level 1-4, use your four-legged stance and bite him when he is preparing to charge. If you follow him back when he retreats to charge again, and bite while he is raring up and down you can get two good bites in before he charges. Just be ready to haul ass back left before he mows you down. He does a lot of damage when he hits you. The good news is, after about six bites he goes down like a paper tiger.

In level 3 when you are tossing out villagers, it is generally best to pick one side of the screen and mount your offensive from there. This way you are close to an elimination point and you can easily turn around and toss an incoming townsperson into the action area, then immediately toss him back out. However, I have occasionally found that sometimes a townsperson can only be tossed out a specific side. Not sure why this is or if it is specific to certain townspeople, but be ready if you have guy who just won’t go away.

The final climb to your showdown with Gaston is maybe the most frustrating part of the game (well, maybe, that first hallway is long, long, long). Bear in mind that you can, yes you can, punch the arrows and torches launched at you, as well as the bats. There are also more power-ups in this level than any other. Just be sure you don’t fall into the void once you reach a decent height; you’ll die.

In the interest of saving your sanity, here is the level select code for Roar of the Beast:

At the second title screen (with Beast’s face on it) enter the following on controller 1:
Up, right, A, B, A, Down, Left, A, Down, B, Up, B, B, A, then START.

Alright, now that we have all gotten in touch with our inner Beauty, or maybe Beast you can make that call in the comfort of your own home, time to move on. Join me in a couple of weeks for a Closer Look at Activision’s Private Eye on the Atari 2600 (I’ll be bringing maps…)
Feminine Side Stan

No comments:

Post a Comment