Afterburner: Black Falcon
A trailblazing flight action game, or another disappointing Sega revival?
After Burner: Black Falcon is yet another example by Sega to return a classic franchise to glory. Granted, their track record has been pretty good thus far, with Virtua Tennis, Outrun, and a few other games (aside from the paltry Sonic titles) staying true to their classic code. After Burner, however, takes a slightly better route than expected, thanks to the creative minds over at Planet Moon. These guys may be lunatics, but, MAN, are they concentrated lunatics.
The game pits three pilots in a top-secret crew against a terrorist organization known as the Black Falcon. It seems that they've made off with sixteen top-classic prototype jets from a military base, looking to make a quick buck on the black market. To stop them dead in their tracks, the pilots have to track down the rogue jets and blast them out of the sky (since recovery's obviously not an option- that'd make the game rather boring, trying to force-land the enemy jets instead of blasting the living crap out of them). The game takes place over a variety of missions, with targets to blast from the sky and on the ground.
The gameplay works just like the original, but with a couple of mild twists. First off, ground and air missiles are clearly divided up. Players who want to shoot at air targets merely have to follow the blue targeting icons, while hitting ground targets that are marked with green ones. If missiles run out, no worries. Players can rack up combo bonuses by taking out a series of enemies in one swoop, leaving behind a parachuted box to pick up. These bonuses not only include restocking of weapons, but the occasionally ability to slow down time. This lets the player get off more concetrated shots on enemies, a nice touch. Players barrel roll simply by hitting the triangle button, and it comes in real handy for avoiding incoming missiles.
After Burner benefits from a few customization tricks. Over the course of the game, players can buy new jets and skins, so they can trick up their plane any way they see fit and try out new ones for performance. The game remains "on-rails", so those looking for free flight will probably be disappointed. However, it stays true to the nature of After Burner, sticking with what's on-screen and never losing a bit of its pacing -- not even during the boss battles when it's just one jet frenetically flying around on-screen.
The graphics look spectacular. Some of the textures are a bit fuzzier than we would have liked to have seen, but oh well. The game moves at such a zippy pace that no one probably will even notice anyway. The levels themselves vary, from the snowy mountains to sand-filled deserts, with obstacles constantly getting in the path of the jet as it flies around and shoots at enemies. The sound is purely rock cheese, but fits the game pretty nicely. It would have been great to hear more pilot chatter, but After Burner works well enough on its own.
If anything, it could've used more in the mulitplayer department. The game does feature co-op support so two players can go through a level at once and blast the crap out of everything for a collective score. However, multiplayer is pretty limited, with one player becoming the chasee and the others merely the chasers. Once they catch up, they become the chasee. Now, it's done in a clever way, with the player becoming a flying cow (typical Planet Moon touch), but more could have been done with it.
Never mind. After Burner: Black Falcon is one of the better PSP games to come out this year, a trailblazing flight action game that doesn't let up on the gas. It stays true to the arcade roots while also creating a little something new, and it ranks amongst Planet Moon's best works. Fly into the danger zone as soon as you can, you won't regret it.
What's Hot: Great presentation; wicked gameplay; wonderful revitalization of the classic.
What's Not: Multiplayer seems like an afterthought.