Its been over 20 years since weve been introduced to the After Burner series and now After Burner Climax hits Xbox Live Arcade to bring in a new era of adrenaline seekers for some frantic and quick gameplay.
Climax is brought to us by the same Sega developers that also make the OutRun series and you may even notice some very similarities (other than a plane as opposed to a car obviously). The classic essence of what made After Burner great returns: frantic and quick gameplay, piloting the fastest fighter planes in the world, and a whole ton of bullets and rockets; all while dodging enemies and terrain and trying to stay alive.
While there is a plot to be had, its a very cliché and overdone one at best; essentially you are a member of a top secret squadron to stop the outbreak of an all-out nuclear war that is about to happen, so you must take to the sky with your incredibly fast fighter jet that is completely armed to stop them in time. Its not much, but at least it tries, though you wont care in the slightest.
As you begin your brief campaign to save the world you have your selection of three different fighter planes; the F-18 Super Hornet, F-15 Strike Eagle and the F-14 Super Tomcat. You also get the selection of four distinct paint jobs to suit your taste that vary from standard, special, camouflage, and low visibility. Your next choice is what tunes you would like to take to the skies with while saving the world; your only two choices being the After Burner Climaxs music or go old school with the original soundtrack from After Burner II which is a great nostalgia touch for veterans.
Your goal other than saving the world from nuclear holocaust is to try and clear every enemy out of the sky and off the ground. If youve never played an After Burner before, its quite a simple design by basically putting your plane going in a forward line going from point A to point B. You can slightly move laterally from side to side and even doing barrel rolls to avoid incoming missiles, but its a fairly linear experience overall. There is a couple spots in the game where you will have to select which area you want to go next by choosing left or right though, thus feigning the linearity feel at times even though its a predetermined path.
Your arsenal includes your machine gun that youll never let go of due to its infinite ammunition and your supply of missiles that can be shot once you aim over an enemy and gain a lock on. As your Climax bar gradually fills, it can be used once full to go into Climax Mode; a brief slowed down period that ends with any enemy locked on getting a missile sent up their noses. Combat is a simple process but will take some time to get used to due to the sheer amount of busyness on the screen at one time. It will take some time to learn how to focus on specific enemies and how to avoid the terrain at the same time. With the amount on play-throughs that youll complete, itll come somewhat quickly and your score will gradually become more provident.
Aside from the main mode, you can practice individual stages to practice certain sections or play Score Attack which gives you infinite lives and the goal is to get the best score you can. The Score Attack mode will most likely get the most use since this is where your scores are competitively placed on the online leaderboards.
Achieving certain goals and requirements will unlock you more EX options which are small rewards that can greatly increase or decrease many of the unlockable options. Many of these options can really make the game much more appealing such as extra continues and lives, a larger aiming reticule, automatically keep your machine gun firing without the need to hold the button down and more. There are some very tough EX options that will take some time to complete, but you can always go into the menu and check your progress of the prerequisites.
While a single run will only take 10 to 15 minutes, Climax is meant to be played over and over again, quite a few times. You need to be either a fan of the series or have a highly competitive nature and want to see your name high on those leaderboards if you want this title to have a decent amount of shelf life. If you do not fall into these categories, the long lasting appeal of Climax is going to be very short lived.
If only there was a way to recreate the arcade experience of After Burner Climax complete with the bucket seat that sways and moves to your game play this game would be a much longer lasting experience, sadly it is decent, but albeit a shallow experience that the majority of players will complete in a day and not look back.