Showing posts with label after burner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label after burner. Show all posts

Friday, April 23, 2010

After Burner Climax Review

It's Called Climax for a Reason.

After Burner Climax is the fourth game in the popular After Burner franchise, owned by Sega. The game was developed by Sega-AM2 (published, of course, by Sega) and released to arcades in 2006. Climax was the first new title in the After Burner series since 1992, ending a fourteen year long wait by fans. At least, for those fortunate enough to have access to an After Burner Climax arcade cabinet. Many fans did not have such access, and, as such, were left unable to play the new title. That is, until now. Fast forward to April 21, 2010, and owners of both the xbox 360 and Playstation 3 can now download and purchase a port of the arcade title for a fee of ten dollars. The xbla and psn versions of the game are identical.

After Burner Climax follows the formula of the original games. It's largely an on rails shooter, meaning your forward movement is controlled for you and you fly in a straightforward path. All you need to concern yourself with is moving and shooting. You move along the X and Y axises, meaning that you can move the plane horizontally and vertically, in order to dodge enemy fire and environmental obstacles. You can execute barrel rolls as another evasive option. Similarly to After Burner II, you also have throttle control, meaning that you can control your speed. Anyone who has played Star Fox will be familiar with this formula. The game removes the view options added in After Burner III, and has the player play only from the original After Burner view, which is comprised of a behind the back (or in this case, plane) perspective. This is a move that aids the game in really retaining the feel of the original two games.

In terms of shooting, it's classic After Burner. You have a machine gun, which has infinite ammo, and you also have a large store of missiles, which you can fire at after first locking onto an enemy. The locking on process is very straightforward. You simply move your reticule over an enemy, and they are marked. Once you are locked on, you can launch a missile and enjoy the ensuing explosion. Missiles replenish over time, removing the docking for missiles (and refuelling) seen in some other versions of After Burner. This serves to keep the action moving, which works well for a game of this nature. It's a pure arcade title, and fortunately, it plays to this with no remorse. It's usually to an arcade title's detriment when the developers try to inject simulation aspects into it. Ask any NHL Hitz fan, and they will tell you that Pro basically killed the series, as it lost the magic of the excellent formula found in 20-03.

The one major addition to the formula, and from where the game derives its name, is the Climax mode. It's basically bullet time, for anyone familiar with that concept. For those who are not, time, for a set period, slows down, allowing you to easily target and destroy enemies. In addition, your reticule greatly increases in size, allowing even easier targeting. You can enter Climax mode, target everything on screen, and, upon returning to normal time, watch them all explode in a very impressive display. This feature adds to the formula in a significant way without drastically altering it, and without changing the balance. For those worried that it detracts from the challenge, it doesn't. The climax bar takes time to recharge, and the developers compensated for this feature by building enemy formations around it. You will notice that there are moments which seem to have been implemented specifically for the feature. It's also optional. You can play the game without ever once utilizing Climax mode.

The gameplay takes place over 20 odd stages, some of which are hidden, only accessed by meeting certain conditions. This brings us to the one of the two main complaints that could be levied against this game: it's incredibly short. True to its arcade roots, After Burner Climax can be completed in ten to fifteen minutes. However, like the arcade games of old, fans of the game do not just complete it once and move on. You play it over and over, earning all of the accolades possible, including the special stages and being rated AAA in the three ratings categories that the game scores you on (enemies killed, longest combo, and completion speed). And of course, any arcade gamer will know, you also go for the holy grail of arcade gaming: the high score.

After Burner Climax feeds into the quest for the high score, providing a score attack mode in addition to the default arcade mode. The score attack mode is where the hardest of the hardcore will spend most of their gameplay time, as this mode tallies your score over the course of the playthrough, and uploads it to the online leaderboards upon completion, allowing you to compete with both friends and people around the world. Score attack mode can be completed by anyone, as, unlike the arcade mode, you are granted infinite continues. It's all about the score in this mode, as opposed to the arcade mode which you play more for completion.

For those who do not concern themselves too greatly with attaining a high score, do not despair, as After Burner Climax may still be for you. The developers have seen fit to allow gamers of all stripes the ability to play the arcade mode, which caters to many different playstyles. By default, the game gives you 3 continues, and 3 planes per continue. The arcade mode presents a fairly decent challenge, and may take several tries to beat with the allotted continues. If the player chooses to stick to the default. If they do not, they can play around with a vast array of options, known as EX Options. These are unlocked throughout the game, and more are granted with successive playthroughs, giving players other than the high score hounds incentive to continue playing.

The EX Options allow one to change many different aspects of the gameplay, and allow for one to make the game much easier, or much harder. You can increase or decrease the continues and lives granted. You can have your gun and missiles autofire. You can choose to remove particle effects, which means no smoke trails emanating from missiles and explosive effects, increasing visibility. Some options allow you to play around with enemy fire rates, even allowing you to remove the ability for them to attack altogether. You can increase the size of your reticule, enabling much easier targeting, you can allow infinite climax mode, and on and on. Basically, you can make After Burner Climax play to your personal specifications, greatly increasing the amount of people to whom the game will appeal, and increasing replay value by a large degree.

The original arcade version of After Burner Climax had a feature called dual play mode, which allowed for cooperative play. Two arcade cabinets could be linked together to allow for this. Unfortunately, this mode is absent in the home port, which represents the second drawback to the game. It's quite likely that this was due to lag, as any lag would kill the experience for a game of this nature, but there is no system link option for this either. However, it may not be all that prudent to lament the absence of this feature, as the co-op, from anecdotal accounts, consisted mainly of kill stealing, as the nature of the game, being one hit kills and all, does not play to a cooperative experience all that well. It seems to be the case that After Burner is much better suited to a solitary affair, although not having the option to try this for myself is somewhat regrettable.

There are three planes to choose from this time around, although the differences seem purely cosmetic. You can customize the paint scheme for each plane prior to take off, although these are preset. The last thing you get to select prior to starting is the soundtrack that plays over the game. You can play with the default soundtrack, or, for those who prefer the classic After Burner tunes, the classic After Burner I/II soundtrack can be selected, which provides a very hefty dose of nostalgia while you play through a new After Burner experience. Personally, this option has greatly increased the enjoyment experienced while playing this game, as the classic soundtrack has resonated with me for 20 years.

Graphically, the game is gorgeous. Great looking environments are coupled with excellent particle effects. Seeing missiles leave trails across the sky en route to exploding planes into bits, all taking place over beautifully rendered oceans and landscapes, through canyons, and even indoors, is thrilling. And all of the action does not hinder the smooth, consistent framerate one iota. The game is an aural and visual treat.

After Burner Climax is a no brainer for After Burner fans. It will also appeal to fans of fast, frenetic arcade action. It's an adrenaline fuelled, gorgeous rush, and for someone like myself, who loves the series and has very fond memories of the NES game, playing a gorgeous, updated iteration of the franchise while listening to the classic tunes in all their glory is absolutely thrilling. This is very much an arcade game, and it makes no apologies for that. If you are into arcade games, and you know that they are very short but very replayable, this game is for you. If you're not sure, well, download the free trail and give it a shot.

This game represents the perfect modern addition to a retro series. It maintains the formula while employing a few additions that do not in any way detract from the game, and it maintains the series structure of fast, frantic, fun, short, and replayable. A six hour After Burner would probably not work. This game is meant to be played in bursts. Keep that in mind, and, if it works for you, you cannot go wrong with this game. It knows what it is and it is brilliant at being just that. Kudos to Sega on bringing a fantastic new addition to the After Burner series.

Overall Score: 9/10