After Burner: Black Falcon Preview
Revvin' up your engine
Listen to her howlin' roar
Metal under tension
Beggin' you to touch and go
Highway to the Danger Zone
Ride into the Danger Zone
Okay, so sue me, but the mention of After Burner gives me flashbacks of Top Gun. As a child, I always associated After Burner with Top Gun, and it looks like even today I've retained that association. Don't ask me why I didn't associate the official Top Gun game with the movie; an adolescent's mind is a complicated thing, you know. Either that, or it probably sucked. In any case, this isn't about Top Gun, this about the rebirth of a Sega classic on the PSP: After Burner: Black Falcon. While PS2 owners were treated to a lightly updated version of After Burner with the release of the Sega Ages line, it'll be precisely 17 years since we saw the last proper release of an After Burner game: After Burner II on the Genesis. March 20th, 1990 was the original release date of ABII. And on March 20th, 2007, After Burner: Black Falcon will land on the PSP.
Developed by the guys at Planet Moon (credits include: Infected), there's one thing that Black Falcon will offer than a game like Ace Combat can't -- sense of speed. While Ace Combat's approach at action is much more realistic dog-fighting - After Burner is completely the opposite, as it heavily relies on its arcade like strengths. The speed of the game ultimately determines the action, and that, of course, determines the fun. Based on what we've heard, After Burner: Black Falcon is sure to deliver the fun, and it'll do so across a number of stages and modes.
The single-player mode will have you run soaring through 18 missions. The campaign mode is complete with a story which revolves around a group of mercenaries who have stolen 13 top-secret fighter planes. The group calls themselves Black Falcon, and it's your job to pilot your way to victory and retrieving what is yours. Throughout the campaign mode, you'll earn money which you can use to upgrade your chosen air-craft. There will be 19 real-life military planes featured in After Burner, all of which can be customized to your individual preference in a number of ways. Additionally, each plane is also completely unique, featuring specific characteristics not found in other planes.
When you're not in the mood to play by yourself, After Burner will feature something very enticing -- a co-op campaign mode! And if you want more out of your multiplayer experience, then take your game online and dog-fight against three other pilots in various modes of aerial competition.
Already you can tell that After Burner is staying true to its name-sake by providing bright and vivid aesthetics, with lush greens and sparkling blues. The aircrafts are richly textured, and the terrain is well detailed. Special effects like explosions, smoke, and other little intricacies are also well done - proving that After Burner's visual prowess maybe one of its biggest strengths. Though clearly the limitations of the PSP force to the game to have a noticeable draw-in distance; but as long as the distance is far-out, it shouldn't really deter the experience. Likewise, because things will get a bit hairy during each mission, we're hoping Planet Moon cranks out a solid 30 from frame-rate.
It's been quite a while since I can remember the last time I played a 3D rail-based shooter that wasn't top down perspective or Einhander, so I'm really pulling for After Burner to stack up well to its name and heritage when it sees release on the PSP this March 20th. Keep your eyes open for it, it may end up packing quite a punch.
1/9/2007 Arnold Katayev