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After Burner (Sega 32X) artwork

After Burner (Sega 32X) review


In 1987 Rob hit his late forties SEGA were routinely thumbing their nose at benchmark arcade machines and raising the bar for spite and profit. After Burner II was a bit of a landmark entry; as a game it was little more than a crafty update of the original but, as a machine, it was a powerhouse of its time. Never mind that the most sought-after version came with a mocked-up cockpit that turned and rolled with your on-screen F-14 Thundercat; it also offered a sense of scale and pitch previously unseen. Powered by dual 68000 Motorola CPUs, it was a beast – something highlighted by the fact that it took close to a decade for home consoles to emulate it. It wasn’t until the 1996 Saturn release of Sega Ages: After Burner II that an arcade perfect home port had been achieved.

The Mega Drive strain was well received, but, realistically, was little more than a neutered port of the Sharp X68000 build which was constructed from scratch in After Burner II’s image. The console landscape at the time simply had no chance of housing the kind of brute SEGA had released in worldwide arcades, so they did what they could to survive in its shadow. I’m not knocking them; the efforts put forth over multiple platforms are forever doomed to never receive the credit they fully deserve for building what they did with a limited toolbox. But it wasn’t until the Mega Drive’s much maligned add-on, the 32X, came along that there was finally a home console out there with the power to go toe-to-toe with SEGA’s Arcade X-board.

After Burner (Sega 32X) image

Rutubo Games had a shot at After Burner II. They’re a little known company with a backlog consisting purely of shoehorning arcade games onto SEGA consoles and were previously responsible for brilliantly converting Space Harrier to the 32X. Initially, this appointment seems successful; compare screenshots between After Burner Complete and After Burner II arcade, and you simply wouldn’t tell the difference. I’m going to start whining soon. I’m going to start talking about frames per second on a 1995 console release. You can hate me forever now; I understand.

The biggest problem Complete faces is that the arcade boasts a ridiculously smooth 60fps while it chugs away at 30. It becomes hard to ignore the frame rate being halved because you’re dogfighting at high speeds and the scaling sometimes struggles to keep up. Things start to look more and more pixelated as the action escalates. This might sound petty, but the arcade version is loved because it’s able to deliver on your need for speed, capturing that Top Gun feel without the obligatory pause every half hour to play more beach volleyball. After Burner Complete was the first real effort to step up and contend with that, but it stutters. Not badly; the game never hangs in place, but that it’s struggling becomes more and more noticeable as the action ramps up.

After Burner (Sega 32X) image

Complete suffers from the wrong kind of blurred visuals. The 32X shares compatible hardware specs with that of the original, so perhaps it could and should have done better. But some aspects were always going to fall short – it simply didn’t have the audio backing available to offer much more than a muted soundtrack of faded quasi-rock with repetitive explosions and gunfire spread thinly throughout. As a direct comparison – a comparison it openly and smugly invites – it simply falls short. This doesn’t make it a bad game; it’s a certain step up from the previous console offerings, but time has conspired to kneecap it further with the tyre iron of progression. Sega Ages, as a series, scantily more than a year later (somewhat ironically, spearheaded by Rutubo themselves with another excellent Space Harrier release) came along to throw out perfect arcade ports around the SEGA Saturn with a maverick sense of recklessness.

Since then, After Burner II has been expertly realised on consoles like the Dreamcast and the Xbox – systems significantly more prominent and more readily available than the 32X. The very small window wherein After Burner Complete was the best home version of SEGA’s dogfighter lasted little over a year and was almost a decade ago. The sad truth is that it became obsolete very, very quickly and exists now only as a historical side note of little relevance.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (March 05, 2016)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Masters posted March 07, 2016:

Nice work. A bit more technical and historical than usual, though, isn't it? The beach volleyball bit was gold.
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EmP posted March 08, 2016:

In this case, it was perhaps the most interesting thing I could find to talk about. It's an okay port, so I couldn't tear it down compared to the original but, at the same time, it's not the best port and was overshadowed less than a year after it was made on a system some people actually owned. I'm a bit of a tech nerd anyway, so stuff like that does interest me. And if it interests me, why, the whole world must thus be interested!

These 32X reviews are often a lot more challenging than I would have thought - thanks for reading.

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