It’s not hard to believe that the arcade version is much better once you’ve played this poor adaptation.
This game was my first shooter and, even at the year of eight or nine, nothing but a big disappointment.
“After Burner” was a very popular arcade game of the 80’s and some consoles got an adaptation. Whoever had the idea to put it on an 8-bit system, it was a bad idea! Let’s get on to the details…
…you control a F-14 “Tomcat” a shoot your way through several levels (taking down other jets and helicopters). You move straight forward (from a third-person perspective) and are limited to control your F-14 only a little bit to the left, right, up and down. One button lets you fire missiles that will seek enemies that you locked on before (you just have to move the aiming-rectangle over your enemies) You can also do a roll when flying quickly from one side to the other.
You’ll often be like “Hey, but I DID press that damn button! Why didn’t it fire away?!”. In the arcade version, you fired your machine gun constantly when holding down the button, in the SMS version you’ll shoot short bursts, which just doesn’t feel right.
It was also a bad decision to give the player an unlimited supply of missiles. It just takes away one part of gameplay and the tactical aspect of the game (if there ever was one, anyway). That also affected certain parts of the original, where you could re-fuel your supply.
The game has 18 levels and after each sixth level, you’ll be confronted with a boss. To defeat one you’ll have to destroy several parts of it.
Well, that doesn’t change the fact that “After Burner” gets boring very fast. Keep in mind that this game is meant to be played as arcade, where people can enjoy some short shooting-action. On the SMS, it just feels like doing the same over and over again, because that’s what you do! You dodge missiles and enemies, fire away and dodge again. That’s it.
I’ll talk about the graphics now and don’t get me wrong: I know that this was an 8-bit game, but there’s no way to justify why it was converted to the SMS.
The arcade version had some stunning graphics for that time, but on the Master System it looks awful. Everything here is just a pot of ugly pixels and the backgrounds…oh my god, those backgrounds are really the worst I’ve ever seen. They are just…how I can say…colors with dots. Those colors change after each level. However, it’s a nice idea to also change the sky, so you’ll be given the feeling that there’s a day-night change. And let's not forget that it felt somehow like playing a 3-D game.
And here comes the next one: I can only advise everyone to play this game with the volume turned off. Not only that there are only five tunes, they also just sound bad and, even worse, still burn themselves into your memory.
The sounds are also very, very weak and can give you a headache after a while.
It just doesn’t stop: The difficulty here is a mess! I really don’t know how to categorize it.
First of all, you have even less lives than in the original, and if you don’t know some little tricks, you’ll die all the time. By tricks I mean that, for example, in the first 12 levels or so you can just move to the upper left corner of the screen and no one and nothing will ever hit you! After the 12th level and that “tactic” won’t work anymore. But don’t be afraid, now you can just move up and down, without looking at the screen at all, to avoid your enemy’s missiles.
BUT then there are the bosses, where no such thing will work. Their missiles just will hit you 90% of the time. Of course you can try to shoot them before they can hit you…with the crippled controls I wish you good luck.
That all combined with the fact that you have only a few lives (and some continues with a cheat) makes this game on the one hand extremely easy, on the other hand it becomes so very frustrating because of the bosses.
Don’t even think about that this unbalanced difficulty gives the game any replay value. If there’s such a thing at all, it’s because you want to shoot something once in a while.
It must have been fun to play the (way better) arcade version with your friends, but it’s nothing but a waste of time to play “After Burner” on the SMS.