Headin' into twilight and shovin' into under-drive.
Among the select group of speedy Sega arcade classics, such as OutRun and Daytona USA, After Burner was a blast back in the day. Sitting inside that massive cabinet as a little kid and pretending I was flying a real fighter jet is still one of my best memories of playing in an arcade.
[image1]Flash forward about twenty years. The gaming industry is much more competitive, with each iteration of games becoming more and more complex. So it's no surprise that many want a nostalgic slice of the past, holding on to their sometimes candy-colored memories of years past, wishing classic games would come back into the spotlight today. After Burner Climax is one such revival, but sadly, it only reminds us that not everything that gets a new coat of paint can live up to those happy memories.
After Burner Climax is the latest in Sega's effort to bring back old arcade franchises to the downloadable stage. Similar to last year's Outrun Online Arcade, it received an entirely reworked presentation, effectively turning an old 2D game to 3D. Everything else about the game remains basically unchanged. You still only get to fly a handful of jets and you can fire an infinite number of lock-on missiles at an endless supply of enemies, all the while hardly having to break a sweat controlling such an expensive piece of military technology.
The problem with playing an oldie like After Burner nowadays is its depth: There's hardly any to be found. No matter which course you take, the thirteen levels you fly through can be quickly finished in less than eight minutes. Every four or so sections, you get to choose which path to take and even then, it only extends the replay for a few extra playthroughs in order to see everything the game has to offer.
[image2]Such an issue wouldn't be much of a problem if Climax was in, say, the Xbox Live Game Room, in which you pay a very low amount of money for a quick thrill game. You don't get any sort of online component other than a leaderboard and even so, there's only so much you can squeeze out of such a repetitive game.
Climax tries to shake things up with a selection of awards that can be earned throughout its 'arcade mode', which turn into a sort of cheat menu, dubbed 'EX'. 'EX' can easily break the game and make high scores a walk in the park, by getting rid of the game's score system crutch, the combos, or turn it into a nightmare, by taking away 90% of your armor.
The 'Climax' in After Burner Climax refers to the Climax mode, a bullet time for fighter pilots so you can get a better shot at enemies. It's a gimmick in the most literal sense of the word and something you very rarely have to or remember to use during levels. It's just as easy to spam missiles whenever you get a lock-on, which has the same effect as Climax without even slowing down your jet.
[image3]The Trophies/Achievements are also ridiculously easy to obtain. I don't consider myself much of a skilled player and even so, in less than forty minutes, I was able to reap all of them without much effort. There's a little extra incentive for the more dedicated (or desperate, in some cases) players in the Xbox 360 version of the game, though. You unlock a few Avatar trinkets for completing all of After Burner's meta-achievements, like a helmet for checking the list of required tasks for unlocking all the medals in the game's score attack mode.
There are much better ways of spending ten dollars on PSN or XBLA than buying After Burner Climax. And if you're patient, the original version of the game is bound to hit Microsoft's Game Room for a much more reasonable price in the future.