Thursday Jan 28, 2010
There are arcade games and then there are arcade games: the former of these, you can ignore row after row of, while the later hold a kind of regal place in the arcade, with attention-grabbing cabinets, lines waiting to play, and graphics and sound that draw you in from halfway across the room. With a lineage dating back to SEGA’s golden age of arcade games, the 2006 game After Burner Climax can safely be called an arcade game, the sort of game that made going to the arcade an indelible experience, even as the arcade itself has become more and more of a scarce creature.
All of this is to say, you can start getting excited, because After Burner Climax is heading to Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network this Spring! In After Burner Climax you take to the skies in one of three officially licensed fighter planes (the F-14 Tomcat, F-15 Eagle, and FA-18 Hornet — all with customizable paint jobs) and do battle with hordes of enemies in a series of fast-moving stages; the player picks the course of the game on-the-fly, choosing which path to take at the end of missions, and depending on those selections and player performance the game will unfold differently.
With HD graphics this is a mind-bogglingly gorgeous game: the stages and aircraft look at once photo-realistic and stylized, with incredibly bright colors and, in particular, a stunning use of light: flying into the sun on some stages, it is almost painfully easy to be distracted by the nuanced way that light reflects off of a crisply detailed ocean. Likewise, the aurora borealis in one stage is mesmerizing, and flying through canyons has exactly the sort of exhilarating feel that a top-notch air combat game should have.
The game comes from SEGA’s AM-2 studios — the same arcade developers who crafted Out Run, Hang-On, Virtua Cop, and even the original Space Harrier. Actually, this jet-fighter game has a lot in common with games like Out Run — it isn’t just a fast-paced arcade action game, but a full immersion in beautiful settings and top-notch arcade graphics with sound & music to match; a tour of every conceivable vista in which you could do battle. Also like the recent Out Run arcade games released on Xbox Live Arcade, this is a game that may look great in stills, but the screen shots don’t really do justice to how good the game looks when playing.
I feel compelled to mention some more of After Burner’s lineage, too: even the Master System port of the original arcade game (with its tiny voice compelling you to “Get Ready!” as you rocketed off the aircraft carrier) was incredible, with amazing action and exceptional difficulty (I only beat the game a few times, which is saying something considering how often I played it). But the original arcade game itself was designed by SEGA legend Yu Suzuki, who’s creation Virtua Fighter has the distinction of being the first Japanese game ever to be housed in the Smithsonian.
Need more proof of the game’s pedigree? Among its biggest fans are Hideki Kamiya — creator of none other than Bayonetta — who lists After Burner Climax as one of his favorite games, with references to its titular (and titillating) subtitle scattered throughout Bayonetta.
Stay tuned for more on this terrific arcade game!
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