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.