Hey, guess what. I finally finished this review. So that’s…cool.
After Burner Climax
Release Date: 2006
Before I begin, let me drop ya’ll a brief note: I have never played the first two original After Burner games. The closest thing I’ve played from Sega (gameplay-wise) it’s Space Harrier. The closest thing I’ve played from other companies might be, I dunno, Star Wars Battle Pod and Star Fox 64. With that in mind, I’ll be reviewing the gameplay in After Burner Climax on its own merits entirely.
Folks, After Burner Climax is thrilling beyond belief. It’s high-octane action quite unlike anything else to have been released within the past 10 years or so. It’s highly-tuned flight combat with a heaping of awesomeness. Honestly, I’m at a loss for words for how to explain the gameplay. It’s a great third-person rail shooter aerial combat arcade game. On top of that, you also have the added strategical bonus of “Climax.” Once the climax meter is full, you can push the throttle forward and enter a slow-motion sequence in which you can target-lock of multitudes of enemies and unleash a stream of missiles all at once. Much like “Vertigo” in Demolish Fist, the addition of Climax heightens the fun and keeps things interesting.
Difficulty-wise, After Burner Climax is incredibly fair. While it is a short game, I only put in six credits to beat the entirety of the campaign—only $1.50. That's pretty rad, people.
I suppose that if I had just one complaint about the gameplay, it would be that the machine gun doesn’t seem to do…well, anything. It may have just been my faulty perception, but it seemed like the missiles were the only attacks that did anything to enemy aircraft. Take that with a grain of salt, though.
But still, it’s a great game. I can’t say much more.
The only truly glaring flaw in After Burner Climax is the exact same dilemma that Cruis’n Blast faces: it’s just way too short. Like, crazy short. A full playthrough of the game only lasts about 10 to 15 minutes, and quite frankly, this length leaves a lot to be desired. After Burner Climax is, like I said, an incredibly thrilling game. Since it’s so brief, it almost feels like you don’t get enough time to interact with the incredible gameplay experience. Just when you start to get super pumped and immersed, you’re greeted by the credits and game over screen. Unfortunately, this game’s brevity is very disappointing.
However, After Burner Climax does find one way to make up for its total gametime shortcomings: alternate paths. These branching paths can make each and every playthrough feel unique, and thusly alleviates some of the burn from being kicked off the game so quickly. Furthermore, these paths almost make the short length seem excusable, believe it or not. When each playthrough can provide slight variations, it almost seems natural that you can just few credits for 10 minutes of high-octane fun and then, you know, leave. You aren’t tied to the machine for 45 minutes, meaning you can enjoy After Burner in quick spurts of awesomeness.
These two sides of the proverbial coin, however, mean that opinions on the game’s length can vary wildly. My opinion? The game is way too short. If it had been 30 to 45 minutes long, I would have been much more forgiving in my criticism. However, I did enjoy the “pop-in-and-play” length quite a bit, so it truly is an either-or scenario. In all honesty, my theory is that Sega made the game so short so that kids clamoring to sit in that fancy motion seat wouldn’t have to wait so long for their turn that they would become bored. Of course, that’s just what I think. I ain’t Sega, people. (But for a little proof, look no further than my first playthrough of the game. A kid was begging to get on the machine the whole time that I playing. I was kind of thankful that it was so short, because the little weeaboo kept interfering with the safety sensor and locking the motion seat. Gosh danged kids, am I right?)
In terms of actual game content, I’d say that After Burner Climax does fairly well. There are three aircrafts to choose from: the F-14D Super Tomcat, the F/A-18E Super Hornet, and the F-15E Strike Eagle. On top of that, there are four paintjobs for each plane: standard, camouflage, special, and low visibility. I didn’t play with each plane, so I can’t quite judge any differences in playability, but I can certainly say that the number of playable aircrafts is fairly standard for an arcade game. I would have preferred that there be more planes, but I suppose it’s fine. The paintjobs are really what boost the content, I suppose.
One thing that would have certainly been nice, however, is more levels of customization. Think about it: This game would have totally benefited from a post-level upgrade screen, a la Planet Harriers. Sega could have done it, for sure. But hey, I ain’t here to tell people how I would have made the game. (But it would have totally elevated this game’s awesomeness.)
The controls in this game work wonderfully, just as they should. You have a flight stick with a button for missiles and a trigger for regular machine gun fire. And, as to be expected, you have a throttle at your disposal. Everything controls just as it should in the game—tight and fast. It’s pretty darn good.
I figure that I should note that, if you’re not a big fan of the motion seat, there is a button to stop movement on the control panel. I dunno, it just felt like a control thing. Also, I don’t think there was much of any force feedback in any of the controls or the seat, which is just a slight shame. Maybe I’m just not remembering correctly.
The graphics in this game can be summed up in a single word: beautiful. Aircraft models are high-poly and well crafted, environments are gorgeous and detailed, and the colors and lighting effects are spectacular. This game makes me incredibly nostalgic for good ol’ Lindbergh.
Oh, how I miss the Lindbergh hardware. It was so glorious, so powerful. Now, Sega couldn’t produce good arcade hardware if it tried, because every game they release looks distinctly last-gen. At least Daytona Championship USA looks fairly good. That’s a step in the right direction.
If I must name a complaint in the “Graphics” department, it’s that the most versions of the game use a CRT, somewhat hampering the appeal of all those models I was drooling over. I guess it is kind of excusable, though; I mean, it was 2006, after all.
But yeah, beyond that, nothing really jumps out about the graphics. The game looks glorious, and that’s pretty much it.
I played After Burner Climax in the “Deluxe” cabinet, which, in my opinion, was a pretty darn good way to experience the game. You’ve got a sleek 29-inch monitor and a motion seat that only tilts side-to-side. The cabinet isn’t too big for its own good, but it’s also not completely unassuming. It’s a very nice balance between standard and flashy, if I do say so myself.
The motion seat itself is DEFINTIELY of particular note. I don’t know if I can put to words how visceral and exciting it was to experience a motion seat for the first time. I once thought that motion simulators in arcades were kind of a pointless gimmick, but I can now safely say that this is anything but the case. Motion simulation elevated my After Burner Climax experience to a point that I can only describe as the most amazingly mind-blowing thing ever. However, if motion simulation isn’t your thing, you’ll be happy to know that there is in fact a button to lock the seat, just as I mentioned in the Controls section.
But seriously, kiddos—motion simulators will change your life.
This game kind of brings to light a major problem that I have with modern arcade games: Music takes a backseat to in-your-face sound effects. Don’t get me wrong; After Burner Climax has great sound. The speakers are placed nicely (two in the seat and one on either side of the monitor), and the audio itself sounds real nice-like. However (and it may have very well been because Chuck-E-Cheese’s didn’t bother to crank up the volume), the soundtrack is barely audible, and that’s super uncool.
The sound effects are very nice, but so is the original soundtrack. And as a bonus, you can access the OST from the original Afterburner II by holding the throttle back and pressing the missile button after choosing your plane. Considering how great the soundtrack is from both Climax and Afterburner II, you’d think Sega would make music a bit more of priority volume-wise. Thanks to the Internet, though, you can enjoy the songs outside of the arcade. Here are some particular highlights:
"Vertical Hot Air"
"Clouds of Twilight"
"After Burner (Climax Remix)"
"A Moment of Peace"
After Burner Climax is, in a word, bombastic. It is exhilarating; it is thrilling. And while it may be an incredibly brief experience, it’s also incredibly cheap to play (I used six continues in both playthroughs—only $1.50 each!), so I highly recommend it, at least as a fun little distraction. I can’t say if fans of the original After Burner will enjoy it, but I’d like to think that you would. After Burner Climax is just a quality game. Honestly, I had trouble explaining in-depth anything besides the lack of content, because the game's just pretty solid.
Well, see ya later. I’m out.