MDM Game 33 After Burner II

Going down in a blaze of glory…

Twitch gameplay broadcast archived at:

This is more like it! Action at last! 1991 can officially begin.

After Burner II is, for want of a better way of putting it, a flight-based shoot ’em up. You strap into an F-14 Tomcat fighter jet, aim the nose at the horizon, and attempt to shoot down waves of oncoming planes before they shoot you. The premise is simple, but achieving the outcome is not. Be prepared to be gunned out of the sky a lot. I know I was…

Controlling the plane is simple, you press the d-pad and it goes in the direction you want, none of that inverted controls rubbish here (more on that later when I get to the flight simulators, I’m sure). You’re constantly firing a stream of bullets throughout, but the B button fires your secondary weapon, a limited supply of missiles that get replenished every two stages. These also home in on any targets you lock onto, but here’s the catch; a lot of the enemies also have this ability. As a result you spend the vast majority of a run dodging all over the screen, and when the stages began to get harder I couldn’t be sure if I was spending more time shooting other planes down or just frantically attempting to stay alive. Attempting is definitely the key word here, as try as I might I couldn’t keep my plane in the air, but it’s an surprisingly exciting experience trying to balance wiping out the enemy while preventing them doing the same to you.

(You’d think they would have sent more than one pilot out against these sorts of numbers, but TCLovesGames posited a theory that maybe I’m playing as the bad guy, and that I’m on a one-man mission to cause havoc, rather than stopping an incoming assault force. It’s a interesting one, but certainly possible…)

After Burner II’s action is backed with what I would consider the highlight of the game, a stellar soundtrack. With Hiroshi “Hiro” Kawaguchi (mastermind behind the brilliant Space Harrier score) in charge of that department it had to be good, and the title track in particular is a fantastic piece of work even today. It’s just unfortunate that most of the time you can’t hear it, those great melodies getting lost underneath all the gunfire and explosions, but it’s well worth your time if soundtracks are your sort of thing.

It’s an F-14 Tomcat, the very same that you play as. To the point, this one…

Maybe it’s the arcade-style gameplay, maybe it’s the fact that I’m just not that good at it, but one thing I can say of After Burner II is that it lacks longevity. Though the counter-argument is that this sort of gameplay was designed to be in short bursts, somehow I imagine that other cabinets in the arcade were going to catch a player’s eye (and wallet) more often. That logic extends to a home console port as well; it’s fun to come back to, but there’s better titles to spend your money on.

MDM Rating: After Burn-Out.