Now That’s How It’s Done: After Burner Climax Review


I wrote last week how old arcade games – despite how fondly they’re remembered – don’t always have a high “replayability” value.  The case in point was Capcom’s Final Fight/Magic Sword Double Impact release on Xbox Live Arcade, a game (or games, I guess) that got real boring after just a few sessions of playing.  I remembered really liking Final Fight back when it was available on the arcades and hypothesized that our sense of nostalgia severely warps how good games actually are.

Another classic arcade game was released on the Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network last week, but unlike the Final Fight/Magic Sword release, this one is actually worth playing.  Yes, After Burner Climax is still as fun as it once was and actually feels like an arcade game magically transported onto home consoles.


If you’ve played After Burner – and really, who hasn’t? – then you’re undoubtedly familiar with any game in the After Burner series.  Although you cruise through the skies in one of three bad ass jets, After Burner is much more of a shoot ’em up than it is a flight simulator.  The plot involves destroying a nuclear arsenal or something similarly generic, but the story doesn’t really matter in this type of action-packed game.  Instead, it’s clear that the game’s focus is on visuals, sound, and smooth controls, all areas in which it excels.

There’s something about the speed of After Burner Climax that makes it feel like a real arcade game, as I’m not used to playing games in which the background (or in this case, the ground) moves by so quickly that it’s nearly impossible to relax for even a second.  But that’s not to say that the ground is one enormous blur.  Quite the contrary, actually – each stage in After Burner Climax is beautifully designed and it’s hard not to appreciate how gorgeous each one looks.  From an endless ocean to a battle in the clouds to twisting and turning through cliffs to a giant, sprawling metropolis at night, the stages add enough variety and character to keep After Burner Climax far from a generic shooter.

The gameplay is as smooth as one could ask for, and you have the option of customizing your controller with an inverted Y-axis (so that pressing down causes your jet/target to rise).  Rolling is as simple as moving your jet in one direction and then banking hard in the opposite direction.  Along with being able to choose between three models of jets, you can choose the paint job on your jet, including camouflage and flames.  One particular paint job is called “low visibility,” but I haven’t noticed it making a difference in terms of gameplay (I thought that maybe you’d be harder to hit).


Of course, it’s not enough to just play After Burner Climax; there are numerous modes of gameplay and achievements that come along with it.  There’s the standard “Arcade” mode, which is the main game and features rewards for shooting down a certain number of enemies and for finishing segments of the game with an “A” ranking (sort of like in the Devil May Cry series).  The rewards can become a bit much, though, as having a giant targeting cursor, unlimited missiles, and constantly charged Climax meter turn the game into a joke as you enter a sort of “god mode.”  Oh, right – the Climax meter.  When your Climax meter is full, simply pressing a button causes the game to go in slow motion, your targeting cursor to grow, and all enemies are essentially sitting ducks for a barrage of missiles.

In addition to the “Arcade” mode, there’s also a “Score Attack” mode.  In this mode, the point is to get as high a score as possible for the purposes of either self-satisfaction or, more likely, to upload onto a leaderboard for bragging rights.  After seeing how easy it is to unlock a “god mode,” though, I’m gonna say that every score is suspect. To really make this game a challenge, I recommend trying to get through it with the default settings in place.


Unlike Final Fight Double Impact, After Burner Climax is a fun, replayable, action-packed shooter.  It feels like an arcade game, but more importantly, it doesn’t feel antiquated.  If you’re into challenging yourself with achievements and unlockables, After Burner Climax can keep you busy for a decent amount of time.  If not, After Burner Climax can still be picked up and played just for fun.  Sometimes, arcade games do age well.

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  1. It’s official, I’m buying this on your recommendation.

    Is this the game that was at the arcade that would rotate the pod shaped cockpit depnding on where you flew?

  2. @ J5

    Cool – it’s just $10, so it’s real good value. And yeah. in the arcades, this was played sitting in a big cockpit. Pretty cool.

    Let me know what you think.

  3. As much as I dont need to get wrapped up in another game right now (trying to play Fallout 3, Prototype, MW2, Finish Fable 2 & play NHL 10) I’m definitely gonna get down on some blow some shit up fighter action.

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