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After Burner I & II

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G-LOC
Strike Fighter
After Burner III
Sky Target

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Sega Strike Fighter
After Burner Climax
After Burner Black Falcon


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G-LOC: Air Battle - Arcade / Genesis / Sega Master System / Game Gear / Commodore 64 / Amiga (1990)


Genesis Cover

G-LOC (Arcade)

G-LOC (Arcade)

Despite the name change, G-LOC (which stands for "Gravity-induced Loss of Consciousness") is pretty obviously part of the After Burner series. However, now each level has a certain goal, usually being "shoot down X number of enemies". You're also timed now, and clearing each stage will add some extra seconds to the clock. You can technically die as many times as you want, but this naturally wastes a bit of precious time. The graphics have improved substantially, as the landscape is now comprised of scrolling textures rather than just dozens of scaling sprites pasted together. The improvements are due to running on Sega's System Y board, which also powered Galaxy Force and Power Drift.

The viewpoint has been changed to a first person cockpit view, although it zooms out whenever an enemy is on your tail. The game has been changed to focus less on dodging enemy fire and more on shooting enemy planes that just saunter up behind you. You have greater control over your plane's rotation, so you can also fly completely upside down. There are also ground based missions, where you fly low to the ground and dodge enemy fire as you blow up enemy installations. There's now a "damage" meter, so you can survive a bit of gun fire or bumps with enemy fighters, but getting hit by missiles or slamming into bad guys will still kill you instantly. Unfortunately, the game is much slower, both due to its lackadaisical pacing and sluggish controls. While the original After Burners were a little too insanely fast, G-LOC is almost relaxing to the point of sedation.

But fast paced action wasn't necessarily G-LOC's goal to begin with. In the arcades, certain cabinets (dubbed the R-360) featured a seat that would physically turn back and forth and even upside down, greatly enhancing the immersion. A safety bar keeps the player in place (like amusement park rides) and an emergency stop button would turn the cockpit to it's upright position. There's even an option to just sit back and let the game play itself, making the game feels more like a ride. Naturally, this was an incredibly expensive machine, so it didn't exactly see widespread distribution.

Since this gimmick was the big draw for a G-LOC, all of this was lost in the home translations, which weren't even powerful enough to recreate the game to begin with. The Genesis version, once again, can't handle all of the graphics, but most the gameplay still holds up. It's a longer and easier game, which makes it less frustrating too. Also, some levels alternate between first and third person views. The third person stages are a bit strange, since the horizon doesn't rotate and your fighter seems to move along a parabola.

The Sega Master System version completely alters all of the levels. Half of the screen is taken up by a HUD, the landscapes are now rolling rasters, and while the game looks worse than the SMS After Burner, it plays a little bit better. In addition to the time limit, you can only die a certain number of times before being required to continue. Additionally, since the after burners are gone, the chase sequences - done in third person like the Genesis version - are simple annoying sequences where you need to dodge enemy fire for a certain period of time. Sega also added strange boss fights to certain stages - while the original After Burner titles have some grasp on reality, these look like things you'd fight in an outer space shoot-em-up and feel really out of place.

The Game Gear version goes off in a completely different direction. You're given a choice between several missions, with the usual goals of blowing up a certain number of planes or sinking a certain number of tankers. Depending on how well you'll do, you'll get points which can be used to upgrade your ship. It's a cool concept, but the gameplay just doesn't hold up. You actually control a cursor with only limited control over your ship, which makes it feel like even more of a static shooting gallery. The graphics are worse than the Master System version, and doesn't run smoothly either. Your fuel meter also acts as a life gauge (??), and when you get blown up, then it's Game Over. An interesting experiment, but the hardware isn't remotely up to it.

G-LOC (Arcade)

G-LOC (Genesis)

G-LOC (SMS)

G-LOC (Game Gear)

Genesis Screenshots

Sega Master Screenshots

Game Gear Screenshots


Strike Fighter - Arcade (1991)


Strike Fighter

Strike Fighter

Strike Fighter

Strike Fighter is essentially another variation on G-LOC, except it's more faithful to the original After Burner. The pace is much faster, there's no time limit to worry about, and the level-based structure has returned. You also have unlimited missiles now, which is also quite improvement. The graphics engine is practically the same as G-LOC, and the first person cockpit view once again returns, except for when enemies get on your tail. There's a bigger visual variety in levels, and some of them are excellent, especially the stage that takes place over lava. Although the gameplay is faster, it still suffers from the slow turning speed of G-LOC, and the music is still fairly forgettable. While it's a pretty decent game, it still lacks the intensity of the older games. Strike Fighter only saw release in Japanese arcades.

Strike Fighter

After Burner III - FM Towns / Sega CD (1992)


American Cover

After Burner III (Sega CD)

After Burner III (Sega CD)

After Burner III is essentially a bastardized port of Strike Fighter, ported by CRI. It was originally released on the FM Towns computer, before being ported to the Sega CD. Despite the relative strengths of both platforms, After Burner III looks noticeably worse than the Genesis ports of After Burner III and G-LOC. There's barely any detail to the landscape other than a handful of tiny sprites sparsely spread throughout, and it's totally lacking the energy that made the previous entries so chaotically compelling. There are a couple of impressive visual tricks, like the take-off sequence and the transitions from first to third person views, both of which are exactly like the arcade version of Strike Fighter. Some of the animation is nice, and the landscape rotation is the smoothest of any of the 16-bit versions.

The Sega CD version adds an optional third person view to make it feel like the older games. However, your plane is gigantic and blocks too much of the screen. The only real advantage of the CD format is the opening cutscene, wherein some professional announcer rants about awesome the F-14 Tomcat is. The soundtrack to the FM Towns version is a strange combination of jazz and electronica, and is much too laid back for a game about jet fighters. While the Sega CD version uses some of these tracks, most of the in-game music has been replaced with music from the FM Towns ports of After Burner II, which is far, far superior.

While the Sega CD version is the better of the two ports, After Burner III is still an awful game. After this somewhat embarrassing release, it's easy to see why the public didn't exactly have confidence in the power of the Sega CD.

After Burner III (Sega CD)

After Burner III (Sega CD)

Sky Target - Arcade / Saturn / Windows (1995)


American Cover

Sky Target

Sky Target

Once again, Sega masks its lineage by giving a completely new name to what's obviously a new installment in the After Burner series. Sky Target is the first fully polygonal game in the series, courtesy of the Model 2 hardware. While the vulcan/lock-on missile set up is the same, the pace is a bit slowly, and the handling is more easily comparable to Star Fox 64. There are four different planes to pick from - the F-14D, the RAFALE M, the F-16C, and the F-15S/MTD. Each has slightly different movement capabilities and missile loadouts. Unfortunately, the throttle controls have been removed.

After the first few levels, the game branches off and lets you take a few paths to the final stage. There are only a few alternate stages, and there are only twelve levels in total, but it does add to the replayablity. At the end of each stage, you'll find some kind of boss, which range from gigantic planes to deadly blimps. These feel a bit more like a Panzer Dragoon game, especially with the multiple weak spots you need to hit to take them down. While these battles are distinctly unlike most of the other After Burner titles, they're less silly than foes in the Master System version of G-LOC. You only get one life per credit, although now your plane has a lifebar and can absorb a fair amount of damage. Unfortunately, the music is the worst kind of generic butt rock, all done with very cheesy synth, although the composers tossed a rather limp arrangement of one of the older themes.

Sky Target isn't bad, but much like G-LOC and Strike Fighter the lack of speed makes the action feel slightly dull. It doesn't help that the Saturn home port doesn't run at a consistent speed, because it's constantly shifting gears depending on the action. And while the 3D graphics may have seemed cool at the time, the textures are painfully low res and the draw-in is quite noticeable. The missile trails don't even look right, now that they're rendered with dithered polygons as opposed to a stream of sprites. On some level, it is actually more playable since you can see what's going, but it's also just not nearly as fun.

Beyond the arcade release, Sky Target was also ported to the Saturn and Windows PCs. The Windows version gets the benefit of higher resolution graphics, though not much else. The Saturn version has a Ranking mode, which lets you replay any missions you've beaten in Arcade mode in order to get high scores. The manual also elucidates on the cheesy plot, where you play as a pilot from Mad Dog, a secret military organization, as you fight against the Deldine Corporation, who's stolen a top-secret weapon from the military.

Sky Target

Sky Target

<<< Prior Page    

    Next Page >>>

Page 1:
After Burner I & II

Page 2:
G-LOC
Strike Fighter
After Burner III
Sky Target

Page 3:
Sega Strike Fighter
After Burner Climax
After Burner Black Falcon


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