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After Burner Climax

Up until this point, Sega hasn’t provided a convincing version of their After Burner franchise for home consoles. The problem has always been that much of the appeal for an After Burner game is in the specialized arcade cabinet, in which the swiveling seat provides feedback based upon what’s happening on the screen. While After Burner Climax doesn’t offer up a comparable experience of your seat jerking around as it did in the 2006 arcade game of the same name, it offers up similar twitch-based gameplay, an extra mission, some neat unlockable content, and a fully-realized visual update, in place of the hyperactive chair.

The premise of an After Burner title is all about rapid air combat at the most basic, straightforward level, meaning that you’ll fly in a pre-defined path, rarely breaking from the set route in order to avoid raised land masses. There are three fighter jets to choose from in Climax: the F-14D Super Tomcat; the F-15E Strike Eagle; and the F/A-18E Super Hornet. Each jet includes four exterior paint modifications and are modeled after actual military-level aircrafts. Official licensing from Boeing adds further legitimacy to the already impressive models of the real-life jets.

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In the Arcade Mode, you’re given a strict flight plan which offers a few branching paths, which inevitably lead back to the same path. With the same development team from the OutRun series also having a hand in After Burner Climax, it’s easy to draw comparisons between the branching paths and fast-paced play style, which until just recently was best experienced in arcades. With this game, SoulCalibur, and OutRun Online Arcade all being released over Xbox Live Arcade, there’s no longer any reason for Sega fans to ever return to actual arcades – light gun games aside.

Although the source material may already be four years old, the appeal of unadulterated high-speed pursuits over stretches of bustling metropolitan cityscapes, abandoned deserts, and a reflective sheet of calming ocean water is as appealing as ever. Apart from mountainous terrains and nuclear power plants, you’ll never really be in danger of making contact with the earth below, which allows plenty of opportunities for performing barrel rolls in order to avoid colliding with oncoming missiles. Your weaponry consists of rapid-fire vulcan cannons, as well as missiles. By lining up your cross-hairs with enemy aircraft and ground turrets, or spotlights, you’re given assurance that you’ve locked on with the classic “fire!” command. And once your Climax meter is filled, your crosshairs can be expanded and the gameplay can be slowed down into the bullet time-esque ‘Climax Mode’.

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One of the coolest features in After Burner Climax is the ability to utilize the soundtrack and some in-game voice commands from After Burner II. If you’re anything like me, the familiar songs and old-school voiceovers will strike-up some serious nostalgic memories of playing the aforementioned game on the Genesis or scouring local arcades in search of the awesome arcade cabinets. By using Hori’s ACE-EDGE flight stick, from Ace Combat 6, the feeling of using an After Burner Climax arcade setup is at least partially restored.

After completing missions in Arcade Mode, you’ll be able to play them individually in Score Attack, with a wide variety of medals to earn. While some players might find it disappointing that they can technically race through the game in about 10-15 minutes, they’re not realizing the game’s full potential. There’s a lot left to do, whether you’re climbing the leader boards or trying to unlock extra options, which net cool features like constant use of each jet’s after burners, persistent ‘Climax Mode’, unlimited lives & continues, etc. The unlockable content is varied enough to keep you playing for hours and enabling the extras doesn’t interfere with achievements (making Climax an easy 200/200). Unfortunately, with numerous extras turned on, the game suffers from dips in the frame rate. Otherwise, it’s pretty consistent.

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Beyond all of the enhancements and extras, After Burner Climax’s bargain price of 800 Microsoft Points ($9.99) makes it a must own. Whether you’re a long-time fan of the franchise or have never stepped foot in an arcade, the only thing preventing players from picking the game up is its short lifespan. If that’s your excuse for skipping a Sega game, then you’re honestly missing the point.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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