After Burner Climax Review

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Date Released: 21 April, 2006
Date Reviewed: 30 April, 2010
Players: 1 Player Only
Length: 15 Minutes
Replayability: High

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Introduction

After Burner Climax
is an arcade title available for digital download on Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade service and Sony’s Play Station Network Store service. Created by AM2, the game was originally released in arcades during the year 2006 on the Lindberg arcade system, and it is a sequel to the classic After Burner arcade and console series. Its name – After Burner – is in reference to military hardware used on jet engines to create supersonic speeds, as it consistent with the game’s high speed gameplay; while Climax refers to an in-game gimmick used to attack enemies in limited ‘bullet time’ sequences. It stays true to its 1980s arcade roots with simplistic controls, and sensational visuals and sound.

Concept

Being an arcade title, the game does not devote much time to storyline or complexity. The player chooses to pilot one of three real-life jet aircraft and is then greeted with a short dialogue cutscene before the game starts. During gameplay, the player performs constant combat action throughout the game’s high-speed levels – having to complete 13 to 15 levels out of a total of 21, and is then concluded with another dialogue cutscene at the end before the credits roll. At the start, the player chooses either an F/A-18E, an F-14D, or an F-15E aircraft – two of which are officially licensed, and each aircraft comes with four paintjobs to vary the game’s visuals. These paint designs include low visibility, standard, special, and camouflage. Its controls rely on analogue movement, two simple attack abilities, a special Climax move, and trigger controls for speed adjustment. The game’s levels are divided up into linear progression with mild branching paths, as well as four secret levels. Scores are obtained using typical arcade methods, namely being through destroyed enemy totals, avoided damage, chained combo-attacks, and completing levels quickly.

Some unique features also exist that distinguish this title from its predecessors. For examples: some levels offer the player unique missions to gain extra score while others contain manoeuvring sections to test the player’s movement ability. These additional gameplay features in conjunction with branching paths give After Burner Climax a much deeper and varied feel compared to previous titles, putting up both the replayability and the originality of the game.

Story

As is expected from an arcade title, the story line is very brief and is mostly presented during the game’s introduction and conclusion cutscenes. An enemy faction known as ‘Z’ has launched an attack on its bordering neighbours and it is up to the player’s aircraft squadrons to defeat this foe.  To make the situation more dire, ‘Z’ has set up a nuclear arsenal for their offensive and it is up to the player to stop them within a 48-hour period in order to avoid defeat. Depending on how well the player does, the endings of the game change, with a total of three. For example, Ending C offers the player a neutral victory, stating that ‘Z’ has retreated back to their borders and the day is won, although they have yet to be defeated. In order to truly defeat ‘Z’, players must complete the game and achieve Ending A to receive the best ending.

Gameplay

After Burner Climax’s gameplay is as simplistic as the concept. Once the game has started, the player is given three ways to defeat enemies. The standard attack is a lock-on missile based system where the player’s reticule must target an enemy first then launch the missile before the enemy leaves the screen. Ammunition is limited and must be reloaded at two points during the game; and varying terrain obstacles, such as mountains, can block the player’s missile attacks. Another attack is a machine gun which offers close range damage, although it is unguided. To its benefit there is no ammunition limit and it can target aircraft that cannot be detected by RADAR (which controls the lock-on function). The final attack method is the Climax attack. This is essentially a slow-motion ‘bullet time’ with a larger reticule, resulting in an unleashed barrage of missiles at the enemies targeted once completed, usually resulting in large combo-attacks if used at ideal times. To use it the player must have a full Climax bar, and the amount of Climax power used can be controlled for context specific attacks.

Outside of attacks, manoeuvring sequences frequently appear in many levels. The player must pilot their jet engine aircraft through mountains, arches, underground enemy complexes, and volcanoes. Beyond just avoiding collusion with solid obstacles, laser defence grids and enemy projectiles – such as varied types of missiles and machine guns – must also be avoided. Some enemies, such as specific mission targets, also require the player move properly in order to intercept them. To do all of this the player must make use of acceleration, deceleration, Climax attacks, and aircraft rolls, giving the game a wide variety of movements to master. Each type of stage, enemy, and incoming attack will require that the player understand specific tactics in order to defeat the enemies and protect their self from damage.

The missions include perusing and destroying special enemy aircraft, making use of varied attack methods, destroying groups of special targets, and aiding friendly aircraft. Each mission differs with no repetition, making them all a separate challenge to perfect in order to achieve higher scores.

Two different gameplay modes also exist. Arcade Mode gives the player the standard arcade experience, offering limited credits and lives, as well as a name entry screen upon completion of gameplay for local leaderboards. It features 12 achievements/trophies, as well as a variety of EX goals to unlock, with each EX goal giving the player a special customisable feature to use during arcade mode (such as increased credits, a larger reticule, and weaker enemies attacks). The other mode, Score Attack Mode, offers unlimited lives and an online leaderboard. Rather than offering EX options, it stays on a specific settings to offer fair gameplay to all players, with a medal system replacing the EX goals. Depending on certain gameplay achievements, the player will gain medals corresponding to each medal’s listed goal(s).



Music

The music of After Burner Climax consists of guitar and electronic tracks which often focus on fast sound to match the game’s high speed, keeping the atmosphere of the game intact throughout each level. Sound effects include explosions, enemy attacks, and environmental effects, as well as voice clips that explain the game’s story, give gameplay tips or instructions, and encourage the player. All of the sound is professionally created with no issues to mention. As a bonus, the sound of After Burner II is also included as an option.



Visuals

Visually the game creates stunning environments, easily making it a counterpart to high budget HD console games. The frame rate stays high and consistent, while the graphical effects enhance the visual experience greatly, offering instances such as erupting volcanoes or the night sky being filled with enemy search lights. Each level is unique in this regard and many environments exist to keep the game always feeling fresh.

Special Notes

After Burner Climax is compatible with the Hori Flickstick, originally released on XBox 360 for the game Ace Combat 6. The hardware is based off of the Saitek X45 Pro Flight System design, which is available in newer revised models on both XBox 360 and PS3.

Conclusion

After Burner Climax is a fun and visually-enticing experience that is unique to the current generation of consoles. Keeping true to its arcade origin, it offers fast and action filled fun without any distractions, allowing it to be played casually or masterfully, making it suitable for any audience. Difficulty settings and EX options give even the least skilled of players a chance to have fun with the game, as well as giving them goals to complete to increase the longevity of the game, further enhanced by multiple endings and branching paths (as well as secret levels). For a 10 or so dollar game (relative to USD), it offers enough content to justify its price, and it fits in perfectly well with the visuals and sound expected from a high budget HD game.


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Format(s): Arcade, XBox 360, Play Station 3.

The console releases of the game added EX mode, Score Attack Mode, various sets of goals to complete, and online leaderboards. For the arcade release, three different arcade versions exist: standard, commander, deluxe. The soundtrack was also used in SEGA Superstars Tennis, as well as some of the art. OriginalReviews

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