One of Sega's big arcade hits using their 'super scaler' technology, it
was a bold move to try and convert this to any home machine. After Burner
II is, quite simply, one of the most mindless shooters that you're ever
likely to play: simply fly your F-14 into the screen, dodging missiles like
crazy and letting all hell loose with your vulcan cannon. There is precious little
strategy - even less than Space Harrier, and often luck plays more of a
part than skill. The action is split up by the occasional bonus stage - a run through a canyon blowing up anything that dares to exist in front of you. Fuelling planes and landing strips also make a regular appearance.
After Burner II is not the kind of game you will play for hours on end, but one you will repeatedly
stick on for a quick blast, and the conversion to the PC Engine is better than
you would have ever expected. The arcade has been replicated very faithfully
given the limitations of the machine, and thankfully it retains the furious
pace of the original. It even has some points over the Mega Drive version,
like the graded horizon and scaling of the refuelling plane. The control
method is just a tad fiddly, with you having to reach for the Run button
to kick in the speed, but you soon get used to it, but aside from that the actual controls themselves feel a little tighter and targeting is easier than other versions, including the arcade. The main thing that lets
it down is the canyon sequence, which is blocky and ugly - but this is only
a bonus stage and of minor importance. Sound is average, with the great
tunes from the original tainted a bit by NEC Avenue's poor drum beats, but
effects are full-on and satisfying enough. There's also a bonus 3D room
in which you can play around with the shapes and colours of the balls on
the title screen, which is a nice touch. Definitely one of the better NEC
Avenue/Sega conversions and basically damn good fun.
Too hard? Try this tip - Set your speed to 2 and hold DOWN and RIGHT to avoid enemy missiles. On stages 6 and 7 hold DOWN and LEFT.