17th May 2010 - After Burner Climax is a combat plane game made by SEGA, which first appeared in the arcades in 2006 and finally makes its’ way on to Xbox Live Arcade (Reviewed) and PSN 4 years later. It is of course the successor and the fourth instalment in the After Burner series which was hugely popular in the late 80’s; it also coincides with the last time I played the franchise. Gone from the home version are the sit down moving cockpit cabinet and fighter stick although the Hori Ace Edge Flight Stick is supported although not tested.
You start the game with 3 fighter jets to choose from and each has multiple paintjobs that don’t affect anything except the aesthetics. You pilot the plane through multiple missions to save the world from nuclear domination or something as equally implausible. To be honest the storyline is fairly inconsequential in this game, it is an arcade shooter after all. You shoot down wave after wave of enemy planes that as you would expect get faster and harder s you go through the levels. The main upgrade in this version of the game from its predecessors is the climax bar which builds up and you can then unleash it for a bullet time style slowdown with a bigger targeting crosshair which is then easier to lock onto enemies and takes them down automatically. The biggest difference between the arcade version and the home version is the EX Options which are “cheats” or unlockables that are opened by completing or achieving certain things in the game such as getting more continues after you have had game over a few times.
The game is strangely addictive and suffers from JOMG factor (Just One More Go). You will find yourself having one more go to try and get one of the different endings or choose one of the other paths when the levels fork out and force you to go one way or the other. However some people may want something a bit deeper than this.
My one gripe with the gameplay is that on occasions it is not clear that you are required to go under an archway or something similar and you will try to go around it only to realise that you aren’t going to make it causing you to crash, that could also be because I am no good.
The default controls just felt wrong to me as coming from a shooter background I felt the weapons should have been on the triggers with accelerate and de-accelerate on the A and B buttons respectively. There is scope to change these so it is not a big issue but it is just something look out for. The responsiveness of the controls is fairly solid and the only gripe being that sometimes with so much going on you can accidentally barrel roll into a missile when you just wanted to evade one. Maybe it was the controls or maybe it was my lack of aforementioned skills!
The graphics are crisp and obviously have been given the High Def treatment for the home version. I didn’t see any instances of slowdown at all even with all the enemy planes on the screen that I had failed to shoot down. Some of the backgrounds in the levels are really well done with mountains in the background and whilst some others are really plain it is a nice change of pace from the really busy levels.
Personally one of my favourite things in the game was the sound. You can select the music and sounds from After Burner 2, which is a great idea and a bit of a nod and wink to the older generation who played the originals in the days of their miss-spent youth at arcades. The new soundtrack is very good though and stays true to the origins of the series with a heavy synthesized style which just seems to fit well with this genre. Other sound effects are portrayed accurately and don’t overshadow the music in the game which is the real winner here.
If you are fan of the series then this is a much purchase and at 800 points is fairly reasonable considering how much you would have to dump into in an arcade machine. New comers might wonder what all the fuss is about, but I implore you to cast your mind back to a simpler time and take this game for what it is, an arcade shooter that is great for a quick blast.
Those who try to compare this game with games such as Ace Combat and Blazing Angels are missing the point, it is an arcade that has been ported to a console and they have done a good job of doing it. However in doing that it has the inherent problems of trying to port games from the arcade, they sometimes lack depth and replay ability. If you, like me, used to get to the arcade and miss the days when it was about beating your best mates high score not someone who plays the game no stop until they are the top of the leaderboards then you will enjoy the simple yet slightly addictive nature of this solid shooter.
AAG SCORE: 7/10
+ The sound – nostalgic, retro and very fitting
+ Graphics are a nice upgrade
+ Simple and addictive gameplay
- The default controls don’t feel right
- Can be a little busy
- Not enough depth for some
Reviewed and Written By Michael Brennan