Retro Resolution Retro Review
System: Sega Megadrive / Genesis 32X
Developer: Sega AM2
Graphically very close to its arcade parent, After Burner Complete on the 32X successfully emulates the super-scalar technology of Sega’s arcade original, but in an arguably less effective manner than Space Harrier. Pop-up, the blight of the first generation of true 3D consoles, is evidenced even here on last generation 2D hardware, causing scenery to appear Mr. Ben Style (‘as if by magic…’)
Perhaps I’m just sorely lacking in ability, but to me this game redefines ‘unfair’, even when played on the surely ironically-named ‘very easy’ difficulty setting. Enemy fighters, helicopters, missiles and bullets fill the skies to such an extent that you feel as though you’re ploughing head long into a wall of metal. To add to your woes the aircraft doesn’t appear interested in reacting to the player’s input; the experience is less fly-by-wire, and more like a rodeo simulator.
Soon abandoning any attempt to fly rationally as too suicidal, two modes of progression emerge through Darwinian forces. The first option is to follow Peppy Hare’s admonitions in Star Fox 64 and barrel roll, constantly. This works as an evasive manoeuvre, but only in the same manner as the hyperspace button in Asteroids; inevitably in avoiding one collision you emerge helplessly straight into the face of another. Alternately, apply the aeronautical breast stroke – repeatedly alternate between lunging towards the floor and climbing as fast as possible, in a bid to pull off the old Blue Thunder 360 loop (which sadly can’t be done in this game).
The home port of the coin-op provides a lifeline in user-selectable lives, and the option to continue from the last waypoint reached (level 5, level 9 and so forth). Many deaths, and many, many continues later you find yourself flying through a canyon at which point, devoid of enemy fighters, you can appreciate the interesting airframe of your fighter; presumably British made, the plane handling is akin to a hybrid of garbage truck and hangglider.
Without the thrill of the awesome hydraulic arcade cabinet, the game struggles to engage the player for more than a few minutes of high-speed visceral fun. As is not uncommon, the downside of an arcade perfect port is the exposure of the limitations and coin-guzzling focus of the coin-op original. Despite the impressive visuals, the clunky handling and sense that you are not in control ultimately deaden the excitement; in a choice between Afterburner and it’s half-brother Space Harrier, the latter wins out every time.
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