Before advancements in technology that allowed games to be played on consoles within the common household, gamers would walk down to their local arcade and place their hard-earned cash into the coin-operated machines. In those days, constantly being greeted to “Game Over” was a lot more costly than it is today. After Burner was one of the machines available at the arcade before it made the conversion to the game console, 23 years on from its original release (in 1987), Sega have brought After Burner to the Xbox Live Arcade in the form of a sequel.
After Burner Climax consists of players guiding a jet through the skies as they destroy an onslaught of enemy jets whilst avoiding missile attacks and landscape obstacles, as they attempt to complete the ultimate goal of preventing ‘Z’ from the launch of a nuclear weapon. Whilst the narrative’s impact on the game isn’t particularly effective, it does allow players to concentrate and enjoy the game’s core mechanics.
Whereas the original only permitted players to fly the F-14D, After Burner Climax contains an additional two jets: the F/A-18E and the F-15E. Regrettably, neither of the jets particularly affects the gameplay and therefore the choice of different aircraft seems irrelevant. Furthermore, each jet can be painted in four options, altering the appearance and supposedly improving the jet’s capabilities. The options are: Standard Paint, Camouflage, Special Point and Low Visibility. However, like the jets themselves, neither of them is as effective as gamers might have hoped for, with no real gameplay differences becoming apparent. Each of the jets employs a machine gun and a limited set of missiles that can be used to take down the game’s enemies.
After Burner Climax contains three game modes, each of which provides the same exhilarating experience with some slight variations. The main game mode is ‘Arcade,’ in which players fly through the game’s stages attempting to reach the end on a set number of lives and continues. Despite one playthrough of the Arcade game mode lasting a matter of minutes (often around the twenty minute mark); After Burner Climax is a title that requires multiple playthroughs in order for the game’s true potential to be met. On the whole, Arcade mode is a thoroughly enjoyable and will provide players with plenty of entertainment.
Furthermore, the Arcade game mode works hand-in-hand with another of After Burner Climax’s game modes: ‘Ex Options.’ Ex Options introduces a total of 35 preferences that can be used to heighten the game’s experience. The options include additional lives and planes, as well as boosting the jet’s statistics. Whereas the game mode is more or less the same as Arcade, the reward at the end of the playthrough isn’t as satisfying – with all the extra choices making the same experience a lot easier.
The final game mode is ‘Score Attack’ which plays out similarly to the variations. The only difference in this case is that players have an unlimited amount of lives in which to score as many points as possible. Although the scores contribute to the leaderboard where players can compare scores to their friends/rivals, this game mode doesn’t bring anything different to the title and is therefore the weakest of After Burner Climax’s game modes.
Graphically, After Burner Climax manages to sufficiently maintain the original arcade style whilst also bringing out the best of players’ swanky high definition televisions with bright colours and great designs. Similarly, the audio is also to a decent standard with some good sound effects being evident and the game’s soundtrack featuring the original musical score, as well as a re-mastered version – both of which players will enjoy listening to. However, the only niggle with the audio is the constant talk of the pilot who feels the need to shout at every possible enemy, which wouldn’t necessarily cause a problem if there wasn’t a high number of enemies attempting to prevent players from prevailing.
To conclude, After Burner Climax’s core mechanics ensures the game is one of the better titles on the Xbox Live Arcade. Whilst it does have a small number of disadvantages, it’s a well-developed game that contains enough content to justify the 800 Microsoft Points price tag - definitely one to consider.
David Wriglesworth is a Northern lad with a passion for gaming, who graduated from the University of Lincoln with a BA (Hons) Journalism degree. If you can drag him away from the consoles, you can probably find him Tweeting or watching Coronation Street.