After Burner II 3D Review

After Burner II is a fun relic of tense political times, but despite all of the work involved, the 3D port to portable hardware is too miniscule to capture After Burner II's excessive luxury.

Only under Reagan-era defense spending and Cold War gamesmanship could After Burner II exist. Born of late '80s (1987 specifically) excess, Sega and Yu Suzuki's hurtling, low attention span jet fighter depicts a country trapped between super powers with their support leaning entirely toward the hyper military of the US.

After Burner II had a cover, a somewhat rote narrative jumping point of rival pilots and the paranoia over possible international defection. The fascination with Top Gun lended After Burner the feeling of Hollywood with a near pornographic level of explosiveness. It would be grotesque were it anything other than planes. Sega's hard display of lo-fi pixel smashing situated them amongst a cultural backdrop of lurid but splashy '80s violence – Schwarzenegger and Stallone. Commando. Rambo II. Only in a jet. With a sit-down plastic cockpit. It was and still is absurd, but there lies the legacy and likely the memories, hence why After Burner was ported to 2015 at all. The 3DS could only wish to harness a fraction of such a behemoth.

After Burner insisted on lock-ons. The mechanism still proves alluring if devoid of gameplay substance.

Games of After Burner's ilk screamed at the film industry before budgets and motion capture allowed for actual cinematic subtly. After Burner was one of many loud (and iconic) arcade attractions. Over the screen, embedded dancing light shows appealed to After Burner II's stampeding yet lyrical motion. “Fire, fire, fire!” After Burner insisted on lock-ons. The mechanism still proves alluring if devoid of gameplay substance.

Danger Zone

Being shouted at relentlessly built the unbelievable odds. Odds became everything to After Burner II. Under an economic bubble, Japan's digital exports reflected surplus and luxury. These F-14s don't carry two missiles – they carried a volley of 100. They flew for entire day cycles and detonated thousands of rivals. Plus, those extravagant cabinet designs with gimbals, lights, and punishing subwoofers (preserved to anemic miniature scale on 3DS, optionally anyway) were arcade opulence.

If there is a reason this industry falls back on the '80s, it must be the untethered affluence which these games project. Action video games are no longer like this. They need safe cover, damage limitations, and bettered odds for the hero. They bleed too much too. Not Afterburner II.

Even with the monetary might which created these fighting machines, they remained fallible. Sleek air piercing machines or not, one shot meant doom. Part of it is financial; Sega turned a hearty profit on the friendly F-14's explosive debris which slammed forward across the ground after missiles made impact. Another side is the uneasiness between competing nations. Japan acted as a prosperous middle man with a chummy United States at their guard, but it too was imperfect – one shot could break the truce. It's a common thread in both nation's reflective pop cultures. For arcade militaria though, it was unique: Another quarter, or in other words more money, is all that was needed; defense spending above all.

Cold War 3D

So why not turn all of this into a 3D spectacular, enhancing the gratuitous splendor of corporate self-indulgence? After Burner II begins with a Sega-branded aircraft carrier, as if the military resembled stock car racing and sold their launch pads to the highest bidder. It was an innovative concept then. Now it is only a dejecting sign of corporate narcissism.

Smoke trails and ignited engine fires poke from the screen, a lean effect. Sega's form of replacement animation, with dazzling hand drawn sprites growing larger toward the foreground, is ultimately too accelerated to be of any consequence in 3D. Using any of the surrounding, digitized cabinet designs robs too much of the intended scale, already pinched considering screen size. It's fancy and goofy and fun, but far removed from the impossible-to-replicate enormity of full size machines. Clever and accurate is this inclusion, but pointless. There is a reason purists believe in original hardware over any emulation.

Using any of the surrounding, digitized cabinet designs robs too much of the intended scale

It should be noted After Burner II is hardly any different from its predecessor. It was so spectacular the first time, Sega knew they could sell it again, so they did. Features were cut, stated to be restored here as intended although only the original team could know. Action can be slowed down in an earned “Burst” mode which comes across a touch counter-intuitive to After Burner II's voracious speed. It moves so fast because the onset of short attention spans demanded it and maybe the developers were in a rush to escape from the international tensions surrounding them.

Our Rating
5
After Burner II is a fun relic of tense political times, but despite all of the work involved, the 3D port to portable hardware is too miniscule to capture After Burner II's excessive luxury.
Reviewed On: 3DS

Featured Contributor

Freelance critic seen on Playboy, GameSkinny, and others. Passionate vintage game collector. Fervent physical media supporter and consumerism devotee.

Games After Burner II Genres Arcade Platforms 3DS
Published Jan. 27th 2015
  • billd75
    Contributor
    Awesome review! Your wording of this review, took me right back to the 80's arcade I use to play this crazy game at. You nailed the essence of what made it great. It was the "behemoth" arcade cockpit system that made it great. The game itself, was mediocre and why Sega thought that it would be good on some tiny system like a 3DS is stupid and a total money grab. They did it cause they knew they could sell it to a bunch of nostalgic suckers like me. Lol. Glad I read your review first. Not that I play 3DS, but had it been on a system I do play, I might have got bit by this crappy game. It was epic "back in the day". I played it many times because of how it "felt" like a real jet, the way it was designed and how it threw you around like the real G-forces of a jet. It was fun. Thank's for the throwback and for a very honest and well thought out review!
  • Matt_Paprocki
    Featured Contributor
    Thanks! I'll note that Sega's other 3D remastered games - including Galaxy Force II and Streets of Rage specifically - are absolutely spectacular. I do wish, even though the market is tiny, Sega would toss these onto home consoles in 3D. Afterburner would be perfect fit for big screens and said 3D effects would actually mean something.

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