After Burner Climax

Top Gun has a lot to answer for, not least of all the series of After Burner games that have been with us since the mid ’80s when it was cool to want to fly an F-14 from an aircraft carrier and engage the enemy.  After Burner originally appeared in the arcades, sometimes in an over the top cabinet and quickly made the jump to the home systems with varying degrees of success, I had the version for the ZX Spectrum and it was ok but never brilliant. Four years ago Sega saw fit to release After Burner Climax in the arcades and it was fairly well received, nothing too special but a decent enough game. Now we have the ability to play it in the comfort of our own homes, is it worth it or is it a pocket full of pound coins wasted?

As you would expect from a Sega game, the front end and menus are are crisp and clear, enticing you with the game running in the background, pure arcade tricks to lure you in.  You are presented with three game modes to try out: arcade, score attack and training. Of course my gaming instincts directed me straight towards the arcade option and I was ready to fly some metal and shoot some bad guys.  You are presented with a choice of three officially licensed fighter planes to play with, each with four different paint jobs, for the completionist out there. The planes are the Super Hornet F/A-18E, Super Tomcat F-14D and Strike Eagle F-15E, however you will be hard pushed to notice any difference in their capabilities in the game.  After a brief cinematic you are launched in to the first mission on a level called Boundless Ocean. This is the first level out of around twenty levels all with classic names that Sega are well known for.  Some of the levels are named: The Lure of the Sky, Vertical Hot Air, West Vigilance Network and Sleepless Sanctuary. Some of the names are relevant to the scenery but most are random and don’t fit at all, but it is a Sega game after all – par for the course. One of the first things you will notice is that the visuals look stunning with plenty of enemies being chucked around the screen with no visible slowdown, a good thing in a game of this nature.  Your aircraft comes equipped with machine guns and missiles that you have to target to the enemies which will then seek out their target, at first this takes a bit of getting used to as you have to move your targeting reticule over an enemy before it locks on, pretty soon, though it becomes second nature and enemies are being obliterated.

The scenery that you fly over all looks lovely and moves along at a breakneck pace as you accelerate and decelerate through the levels, no longer is the scenery made up of repetitive items like the first After Burner games.  Here you have a genuine sense of flying over landscapes, not that you will have a chance to take them in as it is all moving so fast. Very soon in to the game, though you will get the feeling that all you are being asked to do is move and shoot much like a super glorified Space Invaders, which if you strip away all the gloss, that is all this game is.  In an attempt to make it a bit less straight-forward you have a Climax meter that builds up as you play, when this reaches its capacity you press a button and everything slows down, you can then target multiple enemies and fire off a volley of missiles.  All this goes towards a combo score that runs for as long as you keep shooting enemies within a time limit which eventually tallies up to your final score.  As you progress you are offered a few choices of which stage to play next, much like the branching map of Outrun but nowhere near as featured. This happens a couple of times in the game but really doesn’t add too much to the overall experience.  Some of the levels have objectives to be met which are usually concerning the shooting down of special planes or missiles, if you succeed you can access bonus stages which are only there to boost your score and offer some longevity.  As the game progresses the enemies become more intense and in your first few plays you will struggle to make it to the end of the game, but as you learn to deal with the onslaught you will make it to the end of the game in no time, at which point you will see one of three very short ending cinematics.  All sounds pretty normal and average, something for a quick play to be forgotten easily?  Not quite.

As you play through the game you unlock EX options by fulfilling different criteria; this could be shooting down a number of enemies, getting to the end of the game a number of times or using your Climax attack.  When you achieve these goals you can then tinker with the in-game options that basically enable you to cheat your way through the whole game by setting number of lives, target size, enemy density, invincibility and even auto-firing of all your weapons.  In essence this should make the game a soulless experience but for myself it changed  how I played it – it made the game more fun as I experimented with different options enabling me to see all the game has to offer.  In order to be at this point I had to play through the game several times but as I played and was able to change the playing field I found myself being drawn in more and more to the experience up until the point I had to unlock everything it had to offer.  At this point, I only need to shoot down 1,900 more enemies to finish the game entirely.







3 responses to “After Burner Climax”

  1. Ironredboy II avatar
    Ironredboy II

    I remember the original Afterburner, cost a £1 and you had to strap yourself into a hydraulic cabinet. I may download this one for old times sake.

    I doubt Mrs Redboy would entertain the idea of me attempting to replicate the original cabinet though.

  2. arc14716 avatar

    I liked playing the game a lot. I’ve already gotten all but one of the EX options unlocked. I much prefer the soundtrack from Afterburner II over the Climax soundtrack. I tried the Climax soundtrack and couldn’t wait until the playthrough was over before switching back!

  3. Martin avatar

    If you unlock all the EX options there is an avatar award of an After Burner top, there is also a flight helmet for collecting all the in game medals that I didn’t find out about until my review was done.
    A great game that keeps me coming back. The hydraulic cabinet was something else but was it not superceeded by one for a flight game called G-Loc 360? maybe.

    It is a shame arc, that there was not more music to unlock.

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