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After Burner II Mega Drive Review

After Burner II is a game that needs no introduction; AM2’s flight combat simulator is a legendary game developed by Yu Suzuki and its high speed action and flashy graphics wowed many an arcade-goer. A Mega Drive port was an inevitable occurrence what with the hardware being very similar to SEGA’s arcade boards but After Burner II for the Mega Drive is not the port that does its arcade brethren justice.

Before we tackle this port’s problems, let’s discuss the gameplay itself. The Mega Drive version of After Burner II certainly feels like its big brother. The action is just as visceral, it’s still wonderfully satisfying to shoot down enemies with homing missiles and that barrel roll is still one of the coolest things a SEGA game has ever done. Controls are responsive and simple. The A button speeds up your F-14, B fires missiles and C slows your flight speed. The F-14 is constantly firing the Vulcan cannon so that’s another function you don’t have to worry about as long as you point your craft in the direction of the enemies. If SEGA do anything right it’s simple, flashy, arcade fun and this is no exception.

Unfortunately there are two main issues with the Mega Drive version. The first is the console can’t handle the same amount of sprites that appear in the original. This means the scenarios lack the same detail. Take the first stage of the game; the choppy ocean is not nearly as striking and no land masses appear whatsoever.

The second issue is even more of a problem. The Mega Drive can’t pull off the same scaling effects as the SEGA X Board. The Mega Drive gets around this by using a series of different sized sprites that appear depending on how close you are to them i.e. small sprites if the object is far away and big sprites for when you’re close. This creates bizarre collision detection issues that can be infuriating. You often find yourself colliding with objects during the sections where you have to destroy radio masts because the inaccuracy of the Mega Drive’s faux scaling effect.

It’s a shame that the graphics create gameplay issues because the Mega Drive port of After Burner II is generally a competent and enjoyable experience. The rest of the presentation package is of a much higher quality and the soundtrack and sound effects are almost identical to the arcade version. This is actually quite an important achievement as the After Burner II soundtrack contains some of the most iconic SEGA songs and the sound effects are equally satisfying and memorable.

After Burner II for the Mega Drive is a real casualty of context. In this day and age there are far more faithful ports of the original, but in 1990 this would have been the truest representation of After Burner II that you could play at home and keep forever. Nowadays this is not an essential addition to your Mega Drive collection but if you’re looking for some cheap arcade thrills then it can still deliver.


Written by Lewis “Sonic Yoda” Clark on 29/01/2015

Cover Scan, Instruction Manual Cover Scan and Cartridge Scan
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