Originally released in the arcades in 2006, After Burner Climax is the sequel (sort of) to the classic After Burner games of old. In simple - you fly an awesomely kitted out plane through interchanging zones blasting bad guys with rockets. The loose terrorist plot serves only as a means of justification as you fly ridiculously fast through the game's ridiculous environments. After Burner Climax is all about picture-postcard spectacle more than anything. And it nails it.
We really can't express to you just how much After Burner Climax feels "Dreamcast". We're using the failed-but-still-absolutely-amazing console as an adjective here, that we know other fans will relate to. There was a mentality to the Dreamcast era that defined SEGA's exclusive line-up like no other system before it. The clear blue skies, the bright over-saturated colours, the bulky models, the exaggerated physics, the simplistic controls: After Burner Climax inherits all of that. Which is totally awesome. It's like a slice of nostalgia.
After Burner Climax is a fun game. The gameplay feels on rails at times, as you have minimal control over your ship's direction. It's all about lighting up the sky-bound targets that you encounter in the air. Painting them with your reticle allows you to fire a "homing" missile at them with Square, while holding the X button allows you to shoot down near-by air-crafts with your on-board machine gun. You're also given a "special" Climax attack, which allows you to slow down time and paint multiple targets in one swift movement. This can be particularly helpful in tricky spots. The key is that it all feels responsive, fun and very easy to pick up and play. Climax is the type of game you can play for five minutes then put it away. Thus just like the PSN's Outrun Online Arcade, it's absolutely worth having it sitting on your PS3 hard-drive for those five minute sessions.
After Burner Climax looks amazing. Taking an OutRun "zone" approach, there's really no rhythm to Climax's levels (ice capped mountains follow volcanoes) but it's all about providing a Hollywood action movie experience. As you zoom through the game's lovely environments, you'll blast enemies' planes to pieces, getting rewarded by detailed explosion and particle effects. It's completely exaggerated, but that's the real beauty of it. After Burner's eye-watering frame-rate allows the game to convey a sense of speed and make you feel bad-ass at all times.
The first-time you play through After Burner Climax, you'll probably get no further than zone 5. But that initial Game Over will reward you with an "Ex Option" to extend your amount of continues from the default three to five. Many of After Burner's gameplay elements are rewarded with these Ex Options. For example, shooting down a certain number of ships with the machine gun will reward you with an auto-machine gun. Other achievements reward you with a bigger targeting reticle. And so on. The key is, each time you play After Burner Climax's arcade mode, you unlock an option that makes the game a little bit easier, and allows you to progress a little bit further. Of course, you can pick and choose which options you want to turn on, so those who want to play with the arcade settings can do so - but those who want to see all of the game's environments will relish the extra credits, etc.
Outside of After Burner Climax's 10 minute arcade campaign and online leaderboard driven score-attack mode, there's not that much replay value to the game. That's fine, but it makes the £7.99 asking-price seem a little on the steep side. After Burner Climax is absolutely a game you'll return to for a quick five-minute session from time to time, but perhaps some harder trophies could have extended the game's life appeal beyond the 2 hours or so it took us to get nearly everything.
The greatest joy provided by After Burner Climax is the distinct sense of throw-back. That's not to say the game looks old - it's stunning in high-definition - but it feels "classic" in its mould. Here is a game with very few rules, very few stipulations. Its blue sky-thinking is typically SEGA, and it'll take many players back to those days when Dreamcast was next-generation.