Retro Reviews: After Burner II


Game Reviewed: After Burner II

Reviewed Platform: Sega Mega Drive

Release Year: 1990


After Burner II for the Mega Drive is the home version of the arcade game of the same name, and sequel of the hugely popular After Burner. You take command of an F-14 Tomcat, and it’s your task to blast anything that moves.


As far as gameplay is concerned, After Burner is a pretty simple affair. It’s essentially a rail shooter, where you’re able to move your jet within the limits of the screen to try and hit your target. Like most other arcade games, it’s broken up into stages, each of which has it’s own distinct visual style. To blast you enemies you’re given both machine guns and missiles, the former firing constantly, meaning that most of the time you just have to aim at whatever it is you want to destroy. The missiles, however, are fired by you. These are handy for taking down incoming aircraft (of which there are a lot) where a white box appears around the aircraft along with a voice shouting out ?FIRE!?, which is your cue to blast them out of the sky with a barrage of missiles. Don’t worry about running out, though, your ammunition is topped up after every couple of stages when your jet connects with a support plane.

The controls for After Burner II are fairly responsive but sometimes not as fast as you’d like. At first, dodging missile can be quite a challenge, but after playing for a while you know what manoeuvres you need to pull to stay alive in the heat of battle. In the later stages, the screen is crammed with enemies and missiles, so quick reactions and a solid grip on the controls are vital. Added new in After Burner II is the ability to control the speed of your jet, giving you the opportunity to go full throttle or pull back in tight situations. If you’re hit, however, your jet will lose power, dive and crash on the ground, costing you a life.

Whilst using the normal controller is good enough to enjoy the game, it enhances the game drastically if you can play it using a compatible joystick. I played the game using a Quickshot Python and it worked really, really well. It’s much more intuitive than using the a gamepad and makes it feel much more like you’re playing it in an arcade.


For the time of the original arcade release (1987), the visuals were great. Whilst most players were used to sidescrolling shooters, After Burner II brought thrilling 3D action to the table with vibrant visuals. As with most games of this type, the scenery varies considerably with each stage, and it’s enough to keep it from getting that repetitive. The jet’s are quite nicely modelled, although there’s not much variation so you’ll be seeing the same enemies over and over again. The explosions look great, as do the missiles that create them. All in all, it’s probably one of the better looking games available for the Mega Drive.


The audio of After Burner is, like the visuals, pretty good for the time it was released. The music is fitting and in no way intrusive, adding to the experience rather than annoying the player. The music changes as you enter different stages so you’re not stuck listening to the same track all the time. The sound effects are great, with no static or distortion. It’s nice to hear voice in a game where you can actually hear what is being said, as most games that tried to incorporate voice normally ended up with a distorted, fuzzy noise which you couldn’t decipher.


Overall, After Burner II is something that every Mega Drive owner should have in their collection. The gameplay isn’t deep, but it’s great to be able to boot it up and mindlessly blast enemy jets into oblivion to your heart’s content. Whilst it’s still inferior to the arcade version (which had a moving cabinet), it’s by no means less fun and you’ll get hours of enjoyment out of it, especially if you can rustle up a joystick to play it with.


Retro Reviews is a TSA Guest Feature written by LiquescentShadow. Who is awesome and has no need for those lawyers now I’ve remembered to credit him…