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Sky Target (Saturn) artwork

Sky Target (Saturn) review

"After Burner's really, really, really... really distant cousin."

For US Saturn owners, 1997 was bittersweet, since we knew it was going to be the last year the system would be graced with a steady stream of supposedly entertaining titles. The pre-Final Fantasy VII PlayStation had already proven itself as a system with solid sales and a varied library, and the Nintendo 64 released anticipated games such as Mario Kart 64 and GoldenEye 007, leaving the Sega Saturn with rapidly decreasing sales and a low supply of quality third-party support. Dedicated fans that could afford it resorted to purchasing imported games, while the rest combed game magazines' depressingly small Saturn preview sections for titles that might be good. Enter: Sky Target. In short, the descriptions and screenshots made this appear to be a spiritual successor to the After Burner games... but in 3D! How could this possibly be a bad thing?

Well, after selecting the F-14D Super Tomcat or the other three selectable aircraft, this question is answered after a mere ten seconds of gameplay. If you're expecting the intensity and speed of After Burner II, then you're in for a shock when you realize this moves at a more tepid pace. Like, imagine playing an After Burner game in slow-motion, and that's Sky Target in a nutshell. I want to believe this was a deliberate design choice, but a hunch is telling me it was due to the limitations of the arcade's Model 2 hardware (and the Saturn's, of course); it could've gone faster, but likely not without tremendously sacrificing draw distance. I seriously contemplated turning off the console after a minute or two of playing this on my first run, but I stuck with it, because I wanted to give the game a fair shake in spite of its leisurely speed.

It was difficult, though, since not only does it betray the mechanics that made the After Burner titles fun and exhilarating, but it's just a generally dreadful video game experience. No longer do you desperately dodge incoming missile attacks from zippy fighter jets, but instead contend with opponents that approach in predictable patterns at a steady rate. Sky Target should be easier to complete thanks to this, but certain problems get in the way, making the game harder than it has any right being. The immediately noticeable issue is the clunky handling of the target cursor, as it's like the equivalent to doing combat in an underwater stage, since you're just focusing all your energy on trying to lock-on to a target. In an arcade-style game that needs quick-ish decisions before enemies attack, that's a big no-no. This is especially frustrating when six planes appear on screen at once, and you know you're not getting everyone before they fire missiles.

Can you tell what's going on in this image? Me neither... and I played it!

The other distracting flaw is the fact that the 3D graphics in the Saturn version look absolutely garbage in motion. The console is usually known for having games with underwhelming 3D, mainly due to the complexity and difficulty of developing for it, so when a 1997 Saturn release not only fails to met even the system's expected "standards", but also dives way below it, that's shocking. There's constant pop-up that occurs almost in the middle of the screen, textures from separate objects that easily bleed into one another, as well as textures viciously warping and stretching whenever your plane flies past them, and the game absolutely falls apart when it attempts a brief cutscene of the general area. It gets really bad to the point that one stage even succumbs to transparent ice canyons and another forces you to fight a white-coated boss plane over snow-covered mountains. Brilliant.

Considering the abysmal nature of having to look at Sky Target, it's often very tough deciphering when certain opponents appear on screen, as not every enemy is accompanied with a marker. This is especially terrible when the action kinda picks up late in the game, which, combined with certain stages' textures mixing together, makes for a really frustrating experience since you can't even tell when missiles are approaching your fighter jet. Worse, the Arcade mode only gives you three continues, so you'll need to be almost untouchable in the early stages in a game that makes that nearly impossible. The Ranking mode allows full health at the start of each stage, but the catch is that you have to complete the whole stage on one life, so it's not much of an advantage in the latter ones.

Why is a remixed After Burner theme playing? Because it's in the game. Yeah, they went there...

While the controls are kinda similar to the arcade's (the awkward framerate helps screw things up here), I just found it very surprising that Sega would make a Saturn port with visuals this poor, considering their past efforts with stuff like Sega Rally and Virtua Fighter 2. But then I realized Sega only published the port, with development duties handed to... Appaloosa Interactive. You know, the same team that was responsible for the graphical masterpieces that are the first 3D Contra titles? Yeah, those magnificent bastards. So, if you're an After Burner fan and you always wanted to give this a spin, then fight that temptation! It'll fill you with feelings of sadness and disappointment, forcing you to the nearest copy of After Burner II or Climax to wash that bad taste out of your mouth. If you want a slow-paced After Burner on the Saturn, then just play a Panzer Dragoon game; I mean, the first one was a launch title, and that looks and plays better than Sky Target.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (April 09, 2014)

Do I wish there was a sequel to Super Puzzle Platformer Deluxe? Sure. But not if nothing new or drastic was added. We don't need another Puzzle Bobble/Bust-A-Move mess on our hands.

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EmP posted April 16, 2014:

So, I read this review back when you wrote it and I thought "man, I own this game -- I should play it!" so I went up in the loft and retrieved my Saturn then I spent twenty minutes setting it all up and trying to get new TV to work with old console -- and then I did. Then I noticed I had no pads, and remembered that I lent them to someone who owned a Saturn and Winter Heat so they could multiplayer it up. So I rang them to let them know I was coming to get my pads, but they were out, so I ignored the Saturn for a bit and played some pretentious Indie stuff online instead. Then, the next day, I went and got the pads (after about two hours of Winter Head Vs. because bloody <3 Winter Heat) and decided to test the console as a whole with whatever game was in there. It was Sonic R, so I played that for a few hours because, screw you haters, Sonic R is awesome. Then I recalled why I had the Saturn set up again, so looked through the CD wallet where I stored my Saturn games, but this was not there. I figured it was probably still in my parent’s loft with the few games I left in their original boxes. So I drove over there a few hours back and rooted around in that death-trap loft that I’m sure is haunted and still couldn’t find it. Turns out I never owned it at all.

So thanks for wasting my time, Pick!

great review, though
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honestgamer posted April 16, 2014:

I hope pickhut feels bad about wasting so much of your time like that, but I do know there are some great used game shops in the UK, so maybe you can still repair some of the damage he carelessly caused, EmP!
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pickhut posted April 16, 2014:

I take great pleasuring in knowing someone went through more trouble trying to play the game than I did having to play and write about the game.

So you're welcome!

Thanks for reading, too.

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