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It's been a sombre week for the gaming industry with Sony announcing the closure of its iconic Studio Liverpool. Founded in 1984 as Psygnosis, the software house is the PlayStation firm's oldest first-party developer, responsible for some all-time classics over the years such as Lemmings, Colony Wars and the WipEout series.
In the late 1980s, Psygnosis teamed up with Reflections Interactive to release a side-scrolling platformer called Shadow of the Beast. The game touched down on the Amiga in 1989 and set new standards for graphics and sound in the genre.
Shadow of the Beast cast players as a man named Aarbron, who was kidnapped as a child and transformed into a monstrous warrior thrall by the evil beast lord Maletoth. After witnessing the execution of his father at the hands of the villain, his humanity returned and he set out on a revenge mission.
The gameplay was simplistic by today's standards, as jump and attack buttons were all that was needed. Levels typically involved running around against fantasy backdrops, pummelling a menagerie of bizarre creatures that flew across the screen. There was a small degree of problem solving involved, and players had limited opportunities to explore the world.
A frequent complaint stemmed from its level of difficulty. Enemies flew at you from all angles at high speeds with mind-boggling movement patterns. To make matters worse, attack capabilities were limited. Although Shadow of the Beast garnered impressive review scores upon release, many critics claimed in hindsight that the developers adopted a style over substance approach, but there are legions of fans who disagree.
The game's technological prowess meant it bore a hefty price tag at launch, entering the market at an unheard of £35. That said, Psygnosis did go all out with the release, bundling in a T-shirt and commissioning fantasy artist Roger Dean to design the box artwork.
Players who ended up with the North American edition of the title on the Sega console suffered through one of the most brutal gaming experiences in history. Due to a sloppy conversion rate, the game ran significantly faster than intended, and went from unforgiving to near impossible. Sega released an invincibility cheat for the game shortly after release to actually give fans a fighting chance.
Two sequels were released in the ensuing years, continuing the game's story and themes. Shadow of the Beast 2 was another multi-platform hit, while Shadow of the Beast 3 was an Amiga-exclusive, despite finding similar success and acclaim to its predecessors.
Shadow of the Beast doesn't look anywhere near as impressive today (obviously) and remains gruellingly difficult, but it will always be remembered as one of many jewels in the crown of Studio Liverpool. The development house has long been an asset to the industry and will never be forgotten for its contributions to it.
Do you have any fond memories of Shadow of the Beast? Post a comment below.