My interest in the Sega 32X has evolved from something of an ironic curiosity to that of a genuine fan. Completely disregarding the business sense the unpopular Genesis add-on made, it’s hard to argue that it didn’t host some solid games. Its limited library of about forty is one of the prime drivers of my interest: the smaller library should make it easier for me collect and play each title. So when I came across After Burner for a fair price at Game Cycle of Pittsburg, Kansas, I had to jump on it.
Truly, this is a port of After Burner II, originally released by Sega as an arcade game in 1987. Developed by Sega AM2 and designed by Yu Suzuki, this version was ported by Rutubo Games and released in 1995. It seemed like a solid translation of the arcade game but having not played the original (or any other game in the series for that matter) I can’t say for sure. The slight research I did indicated that this version was somewhat inferior to the original arcade release. To the unfamiliar however, it’s hard to tell and regardless of those differences, this version is still quite fun.
I say that after having a rough go early on. Since I’m a bit of a rookie with the series, a good chunk of my playtime was spent learning the intricacies of the gameplay. Like any great arcade game worth its weight in CRTs, this one was easy to learn but difficult to master. Piloting an F-14 Tomcat, I had to shoot down incoming waves of jet fighters while evading their missiles. At my disposal was a machine gun with unlimited ammunition and a bevy of replenishable lock-on missiles. When the skies grew too unfriendly I could utilize my jet’s after burners to zoom out of tricky situations.
Without much trial and error, I was able to complete the first stage or two, but with a total of twenty-three stages, simple trial and error wouldn’t see me to the end. I struggled on and off, memorizing wave patterns, making it a little farther, and hoping to reach the checkpoint stages. Over the course of my playthrough, my skills did improve and I became much more adept at dodging missiles and taking enemies out quickly, the two key factors for success. It took me longer than it should’ve but once I did, the end was in sight. That being said, the constant game overs were demoralizing and I contemplated putting the game down a few times.
To overcome the challenge, I eventually had to lower the difficulty and increase my total lives (no shame!). Additionally, I set the machine guns to auto-fire, a compensation for the lack of dedicated speed buttons on the standard three-button Genesis controller. On this controller, the speed up and down functions were assigned to the A and C buttons, the same buttons used for the machine guns. So whenever I wanted to fire the machine guns, I would also increase or decrease my speed. With the six-button controller, each function of the jet had a dedicated button. Presumably, the six-button controller would be ideal for this game, but I felt like auto-fire was a fair tradeoff for the otherwise compromised state.
There was little variation from stage to stage in terms of gameplay. Combat stages consisted of shooting down enemy jet fighters and avoiding their missiles. The only real deviation stemmed from different wave patterns and a few types of enemy aircraft. A couple of stages tasked me with destroying communication towers, shifting the perspective slightly to focus on the ground rather than the skies ahead. These featured no enemies but seeing how the enemy bases were usually located in mountainous areas, I still had a challenging time trying not to crash. Besides minor gameplay changes, the stages alternated between land and sea and day and night missions.
Of the Sega 32X’s paltry library of games, After Burner is another worthwhile addition to one’s collection. It’s a great example of the easy to learn, difficult to master approach of many arcade games. Coupled with the fast-paced gameplay and responsive controls it’s a simple, fun game, despite the difficulty. The challenge was often overbearing, and although I had to tip the scales in my favor, this didn’t detract from the sense of accomplishment I gained after completing it. It’s another game that makes me look at the 32X not with a sense of derision, but satisfaction.
I did record a let’s play for this game, playlist below. Completing this game required dozens of small advancements and much of the recordings are attempts with minimal progression. This likely isn’t entertaining to most, but here they are regardless.