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First Impressions: 3D After Burner II

Posted by Kerry Brunskill

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Japanese code-shop M2’s range of Sega 3D Classics consistently puts everyone else’s retro remaster efforts in the shade, and the time we've spent with the Japanese version of 3D After Burner II yet again shows that the studio simply cannot be beaten when it comes to getting an arcade-accurate port running smoothly on the relatively humble 3DS.

Just like the previously released 3D Space Harrier and 3D Galaxy Force II, After Burner II’s "Super Scaler" technology greatly benefits from the addition of true 3D and if that’s not enough you can — as with other 3D Classics releases — immerse yourself in a replica tilting cabinet with working warning lights. And if that’s still not enough, there’s the option to turn on authentic cabinet noises so you can hear the machinery working away while you play. It’s just like the arcades of old, only now we don’t have to look at cigarette-burned cabinet panels and politely ignore the “helpful” advice of random backseat gamers with no sense of personal space while we play.

Perhaps less overtly exciting but still very welcome is the inclusion of true transparencies (optional, of course), a “secret” option that allows you to view all the wonderfully "Engrish-y" story messages without remembering obtuse and undocumented button codes and the ability to jump right into the action from any stage previously reached.

After Burner II may be exciting, but it’s never been accused of being lengthy. To combat this, M2 went out of its way to include an all-new mode, unlocked once the main game has been completed. This “special mode” rearranges many enemy patterns and adds a unique Burst Gauge to the game, allowing you to slow time down After Burner Climax-style and actually have a decent chance of avoiding missiles and locking onto that one special enemy that will blow up the entire group. In another unexpected twist, the bonus “avoid the walls” stages from the original are thrown out the window and replaced with new “dog fights” against a single and incredibly tough fighter that just loves to shoot you down from behind — assuming it didn’t blast you to bits with rockets from the front first. This mode also does away with the level select and continues of the standard arcade mode and makes you play the game through in one sitting, only handing out extra lives based on your score.

The was a danger that sitting down at home with one of arcade gaming’s greatest spectacles would reveal it for what it is – a flashy game that ultimately has little substance under the surface. M2 has skilfully averted this with not only a plethora of options that allow gamers to tweak the original game exactly (and we mean exactly) how they want it, but the special mode is a rewarding and refreshing take on a very familiar title without ruining all the things that made the original game so enthralling in the first place. Roll on the Western release.

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User Comments (60)

AyeHaley

#1

AyeHaley said:

I have Ecco, Space Harrier and Shinobi so far and I'm really looking forward to playing Galaxy Force, Streets of Rage and this one next. Having never played any SEGA classics except Sonic, the chance to play these games the way you want and in spliffin' 3D is incredible. And dirt cheap as well! Thanks M2/SEGA!

Magikarp3

#2

Magikarp3 said:

Y'know, I always thought Arika and Grezzo were the best at remastering old games. Then M2 comes along and shows everyone how it's done. I love how they consider every possible thing a fan could want and add it in so that the remasters have something for everyone.

Shiryu

#4

Shiryu said:

I'm really looking forward to this! I can't wait to hear "FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!" beeping from the 3DS speaker. Will be picking this up for sure and keep my fingers crossed for "Power Drift" or even "Rad Mobile".

Kirk

#5

Kirk said:

Sega is really doing a stellar job with all these 3D Classic games.

I wish Nintendo would put this much effort into the classic games from it's own library it's releasing on the VC and eShop.

readyletsgo

#7

readyletsgo said:

Will Ninty ever release another 3D Classic again? Some how I doubt it as they prob didnt sell all that well.

Mommar

#12

Mommar said:

I'm a bit confused, these are all arcade games from the late 80's.early 90's... pretty much anything with a computer these days can easily replicate these games. Why is M2 being praised for running a 23 year old port on a modern system? I mean, other than actually adding new modes, it's really not a spectacle to emulate something that old even on "weak" 3DS hardware.

drexegar

#14

drexegar said:

@Mommar Have you even played any M2 games on the 3ds? there not just emulated ports, on top of the hardware they have to emulate the game then add the 3d on top and add new graphics (adding transparencies and new sprites), fix bugs and extra controls and the correct options to make the game playable especially for non gamers (most arcade games are very unplayable due to high difficulty design to much quarters) then on top of that to preserve the arcade experience, they program in the machine borders and the movements along with it,more heavy processing to rotate the emulation screen on top of it with the cabinet sound effects. All the games released even the genesis ones have a lot of extra options. These games take several months to finish and are designed for fans by fans. You can't not get the same experience on a pc or on any other consoles. All old games should be released this way. It feels really great and is a treasure.

Donjwolf

#15

Donjwolf said:

Must...get!! I never played any of these games when I was a kid.

I find it a little sad that SEGA currently is doing a much better job at making these 3D Classics than Nintendo on a system that Nintendo owns. Get with the program, Nintendo!

TheRealThanos

#16

TheRealThanos said:

Oh man, this article brought me back to the days.
Especially this line:
"and politely ignore the “helpful” advice of random backseat gamers with no sense of personal space while we play."
Sometimes I really had to resist the urge of interrupting my game to deck someone...
@Mommar maybe you should read the article again and with care, and then see some of the comments of people that actually played these remakes. It's not only simply porting these games, but besides all the extras also bringing along that exact same feel that the arcade version had and THAT is something that VERY few of them do. M2 is king in that department.

unrandomsam

#17

unrandomsam said:

@readyletsgo The games they chose will more than likely have some influence on that. (Kirby has plenty of newer and better stuff readily available it is the only good Nintendo made one though.) Sega is at least releasing stuff that is pretty decent.

unrandomsam

#18

unrandomsam said:

@TheRealThanos M2's sound emulation is always incorrect. (Not found a single example at all yet where it is 100% right).

Look on Youtube for real hardware recording / Saturn CD Audio Track.

For Sonic the Android version is closer to real hardware when it comes to sound. (That I have actually tested myself as I have the means and all three copies).

TheRealThanos

#19

TheRealThanos said:

@unrandomsam I'm not much of an audio fanatic, so besides the fact that it may be true that the sound is not spot on, it's not the first thing that grabs my attention. I think that most emulated software has some discrepancies to be found, but the overall experience is what counts for me, and in that I prefer M2.
And come to think of it, with arcade conversions it's a bit harder to compare, because most of these cabinets are gone now, so you would have to emulate them and if you do, is the comparison still valid, since what you are comparing the conversion to is not the real thing?

Windy

#20

Windy said:

These sega games which are being brought out are so worthy of 3DS! They are in my oppinion Close to equal of a retail Quality game. I so wish they had come on a collections cartridge. If they ever do "Take my Money Sega!"

unrandomsam

#22

unrandomsam said:

@TheRealThanos I have played lots of M2 stuff (Sometimes what they do really is needed i.e the overclock for Metal Slug 2 on PS3 Neo Geo Station that sorts out most of the lag). The sound is wrong on that though as well. (Whereas it is perfect on the D4 Enterprise Wii VC one).

When Sega emulated these on the Saturn they just recorded the music straight from the Arcade board didn't emulate it just played the audio track.

The Megadrive ones are not right either. (Nobody has the Game Over screen on Gunstar Heroes emulated properly as far as I know).

I notice it straight away if the sound is off. (Think I remember the sound most and the look of the cabinet more than actual content of the game in most cases).

e.g For After Burner 2 what I remember is the look of the Joystick and the Music most. Then the look of the rest of the cabinet. Then the content of the game.

TheRealThanos

#24

TheRealThanos said:

@unrandomsam I've played in arcades up to my 18th or 19th birthday, so since I'm 43 now I can honestly say that it is too long ago to accurately remember details like that. The look of the cabinet, the controls and so on probably, yes but sound and so on not so much, which is why, coupled with my 80's and 90's rosy colored glasses I can enjoy most of these conversions like I was getting re-acquainted with an old friend. If the sound or frame rate isn't pixel perfect (let's say somewhere around 90-95% which is what they achieve most of the time) I don't even notice it or it doesn't bother me that much. Just speaking for myself I cannot punish a game for not having a pixel perfect image or sound if I can't be a 100% sure that I know what it should be like, and for reasons I explained at the beginning of this comment I can't, so I'm happy with any retro game that does a decent enough job and has enough charm to take me back to my youth.
I can understand and respect people that do pay a lot more attention to detail (I have a friend that makes music and he also tries to make me understand minute differences in sounds, although for the life of me I can't tell them apart), but for me it would take away too much of actually enjoying a game, which is what games are for, after all.

Mommar

#27

Mommar said:

@Mqblank @ChessboardMan @TheRealThanos @drexegar
I am specifically referring to "the relatively humble 3DS" comment at the beginning of the article. it implies the hardware shouldn't be able to bare it. I understanding porting games from other hardware/systems is difficult. I'm a software engineer. That being said these old systems are just that, they're old, the 3DS is more than capable of emulating them hardware-wise.

TheRealThanos

#28

TheRealThanos said:

@Mommar with all due respect, but it is just not as black and white as that. The best examples I can give you are the Sega Saturn and the Atari Jaguar. Even on relatively heavy PC systems those emulators are still not reaching their full potential.
The explanations found in the article that @Mqblank linked to are also very insightful as to why it is so difficult to port to the 3DS.

Laxeybobby

#29

Laxeybobby said:

I already have Super Hang On and Galaxy Force 2, both which devoured 10 and 50 pence pieces during the 80's when I used to visit the arcades during my school summer holidays. As did Afterburner so this is a must purchase for me.
I would still like to see Outrun :-)

Kisame83

#30

Kisame83 said:

Haven't played these yet, but they are on my radar. Want to finish the Ninja Gaiden Trilogy, then segue into Shinobi. M2 sounds like an awesome group. I will give some love to Christian Whitehead, though. His ports of Sonic CD, and later Sonic 1 and 2 are fantastic.

Ootfan98

#32

Ootfan98 said:

I really hope this makes it West.

The conversion looks fantastic, even the Super Hang On bike and Outrun car on the runways made it

I also hope this is swiftly followed with Power Drift and Outrun

GearsOfWarU

#33

GearsOfWarU said:

I wish Wii U VC would offer Atari Jaguar games ... I was one of the few that owened & loved that system

B3ND3R

#37

B3ND3R said:

YES!!! HECK. YES!!! I LOVE Afterburner! I may just have to dedicate a folder on my 3DS menu to Sega 3D Classics! Now for Outrun....

DamoAdmin

#38

Damo said:

@Mommar You seriously need to read the aforementioned interviews with the guys which ported these games. Yes, these titles are old, but they are based on highly specialised arcade hardware which was the absolute top of the line when first released.

Emulation is still largely misunderstood these days, and is rarely "100% perfect", even on powerful modern systems. M2 have really gone to town making sure the experience is as close as possible to the original, and then they've gone the extra mile to add in 3D effects and other bonuses. Their work cannot be taken lightly.

DamoAdmin

#39

Damo said:

@andrea987 The update hasn't been issued by Nintendo yet. Not really much we can do about that, I'm afraid.

retro_player_22

#40

retro_player_22 said:

@Donjwolf So just because another company does something they like to do, Nintendo had to do it too? I don't get it why turn something good into a negative, Sega had done their part for 3DS, just let Ninty does theirs.

Donjwolf

#41

Donjwolf said:

@retro_player_22 Are you saying you're happy with Nintendo's lineup of 3D Classics then? I wish they went the SEGA route and give us button mapping, etc. I'm just saying that they're giving us barebone options in their 3D Classics on their own system, yet SEGA gives us a wealth of options and more love.

B3ND3R

#42

B3ND3R said:

I really hope they do this magical treatment of theirs to Strider, my absolute favorite Arcade/Genesis title of all time. Then, in the future, I would love to see Sega bring back Skies of Arcadia to Wii U or 3DS. That will make me one happy gamer :)

Play_It_Loud

#43

Play_It_Loud said:

I cant wait for this one. I loved afterburner in the arcades. And If this is six bucks then right on. I must have spent at least triple that over the years to play this in the arcades.

Mommar

#45

Mommar said:

@Damo I'm not making light of their effort, I'm pointing out that the 3DS hardware is not "humble" when compared to the hardware they are emulating from over twenty years ago. They've done a good job emulating it, but it's not really a surprise it can be done on the 3DS. It's far more capable hardware wise.

Mommar

#46

Mommar said:

@TheRealThanos In terms of making the 3D work with the old games, it takes effort. But your point about the Saturn or any other system doesn't hold water. None of these games were on those systems, they're from a much earlier era and the 3DS is far more powerful.

unrandomsam

#47

unrandomsam said:

@Damo This is how I see it. People doing such as this have the datasheets. If an amateur (byuu) can produce that level of quality it is not unreasonable to expect a team of professionals to produce output of the same standard. (The NEC Avenue version of After Burner 2 is more impressive I think to me than these). They don't seem to care about the audio either universally. (D4 Enterprise I cannot tell the difference between the Wii VC they did and a real MVS whereas M2 its obvious straight away). D4 has some issues with slowdown and tearing on some stuff but the scanlines are in the right places etc. The one sound option that sounds the best is the one M2 didn't bother with for the Megadrive emu. (The MegaPlay Arcade board it uses the real chips not the clones that the consumer hardware used).

MAB

#48

MAB said:

WOW! there's some serious nerdage afoot up in here... Honestly who cares about sounds not being perfect, just buy the bloody game when it comes out ;)

Untitled

Meaty-cheeky

#49

Meaty-cheeky said:

This is an instant buy for me when this game comes to America.

After Burner is a great SEGA classic that is still fun today!

ecco6t9

#50

ecco6t9 said:

Who knew when the 3DS first came out that M2 would be one of the top developers for it?

Ootfan98

#52

Ootfan98 said:

@Mommar These games were released on Saturn as part of Sega Ages collection, sold separately in Japan, and only 3 available as a compilation in the west (Afterburner 2, Outrun, Space Harrier). I think the Saturn version of Outrun is the only Home Console version that is arcade perfect

Beau_Skunk

#53

Beau_Skunk said:

@readyletsgo
Actually, from what I hear they sold decently, in fact, "3D Classics: Kirby's Adventure" is among the most best-selling 3DS Eshop games. I think it's because Akira hasn't made anymore yet, as Akira seems to be the one developing the "3D Classics" line, not Nintendo. If Akira is unavailable, or busy, Nintendo should allow M2, or some other developer to remake some of their 16-bit games in 3D. (Like the original F-Zero, or Star Fox.)

readyletsgo

#54

readyletsgo said:

@Beau_Skunk Ah, that makes sense. But just seems Ninty have given up on the 3D Classics since 2012 or so. Oh well.

Just a random thought on 3d Classics, I wanna see Resident Evil 4 Remade in 3D for the 3DS, dream come true, but it'll never happen.

eviLaTtenDant

#57

eviLaTtenDant said:

Hope this one comes to Eustralica like the many Sega 3D Classics before. Their prices are nothing to scoff at so far either.

TheRealThanos

#58

TheRealThanos said:

@Mommar My point is exactly as it should be. A 3DS is not a PC, so emulators have to be adapted to the not so standard hardware and software that makes the 3DS run. Besides that an emulator takes a lot of effort to program and optimize. They're not making an 8 bit port but an arcade one. They have to emulate an entire arcade board and chip set, plus all the extras that made the arcade version superior to the home console edition. I just brought up the other consoles as examples to emphasize how difficult emulation actually is, not because their games are on 3DS. You make it sound so very simple while it definitely is not. You can't just say: "that was 8 bit, this is 128 bit (or whatever), so it should easily be able to run it" That's just not how it works. Making it 3D is actually the least amount of work of the whole process, because the 3DS dev kit offers a solution for that, once conversion is ready.
Just go back and look up how long it took for a decent C64 emulator to be made for Windows and what system you needed to be able to run it. In the beginning it used to be about 5 to 8 times more powerful (to be able to smoothly run the software AND emulate the hardware it needed to run on at the same time) but with more modern systems (like the Saturn, which had an atrociously complex chip set, which is a pain to emulate) it's a whole different ball game. And arcade machines are somewhere in the middle of that, so yeah, DEFINITELY an achievement for them to be able to optimize it and max it out option wise on a hand held.
P.S. Seeing as you're a software engineer, you might want to check out www.gamasutra.com, if you aren't a member already. You will find other people from the industry there.
@MAB Exactly, thank you for adding that. (even though I kinda got caught up in the discussion myself)
@unrandomsam How do you compare? Do you actually have arcade machines or boards?

retro_player_22

#59

retro_player_22 said:

@Donjwolf

I'm saying Nintendo is working on making games on their own platforms, they have their own ways of offering games to their audience, if Sega wants to give new offering to 3D re-releases then that's their own way. All I'm saying is that just because Sega did something doesn't mean Nintendo had to do it like that too example Sega release a mega or ultimate or premium or something collection of all their past games for consoles, okay so now Nintendo had to do that too? Okay so Sega dropped 15% off their VC games, so Nintendo had to do that too then? So Sega make Sonic and All-Stars Racing into a driving, transform to water riding, transform to air piloting racing game, okay now Nintendo had to do that too with Mario Kart? I mean Nintendo is Nintendo, just because Sega does something and does it better doesn't mean Nintendo had to copy it. Besides Sega is doing all of this for Nintendo anyways so why want Nintendo to do the same thing?

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