22 February 2015


Publisher/Developer:  Sega
Format: Cartridge
Game Size: 512K
Rarity:  2
Game Type: Third Person Jet Combat SHMUP Arcade Conversion
Region: USA
Other Ways to Play: Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Arcade, Atari ST, FM Towns, Commodore 64 (US and UK made ports), DOS, MSX, NES, Sega 32X, Sega Saturn, Sharp X68000, TurboGrafx-16, ZX Spectrum
Power Base Convertor Playable?: Yes, 6 button compatible.

Price I Paid: 8+ ??? (First copy had a different game in the box.  That I already had of course.  This has happened to me twice now.)
Price I Would Pay: 5 Dollars
Condition: Game, Case, Manual
Game Rating: OK
My History:  Bought for this collection project.  Played original arcade version in late 80s-early 90s.

  Wow.  Twice the cartridge size helps this game a ton compared to its sort of sequel Thunder Blade from last review!  In many of the ways Thunder Blade was awful After Burner is not, so you should probably take this review with a grain of salt.  It might just be more what I am comparing it to than its' own qualities, of which there are not exactly a ton.

  Much like Thunder Blade this game is a cut down port of the arcade title which is in of itself little more than a tech demo third person arcade flight shooter.  The SMS takes out the throttle control from the original and also removes missile stocks, making them unlimited.  Also you don't see your score except on death or in between stages.  Thankfully unlike Thunder Blade you have more correct flight controls.

  Every few levels you are scored on the number of hits you inflicted shooting at the various barely scaling enemies who fly around you or shoot missiles at you that can sometimes be shot down but at least for 10 or so of the game's 18 shortish stages are better avoided by just turning hard left or right and staying that way until they stop firing at them where you can then shoot your burst auto firing main gun or possibly the lock on to shoot homing missiles.

  Beating the boss plane with its even heavier slowdown than the game normally suffers or locking onto the refueling plane allows you to turn in those hits for a massive bonus score, usually around 2 million or so whereas normal scoring is around 100 thousand points a stage.  At 4 and 15 million points you get an extra life.  Given the sheer amount of poorly scaling enemy missiles that seem to hit or miss you at random outside of the constant turning trick this is really not enough.

  Like Thunder Blade there is a preset number of unreported continues if you hold up and both fire buttons on the Game Over message though your score and hits counter drops down to zero.

(Next 8 screenshots are from Kega Fusion emulator.)

Not the cinematic opening of Macross Do You Remember Love? on the Saturn but.. its 1987 what do you want?

"You can be my wingman any time Maverick!"
"Great you can help me be free of my Thetans.  You can find them in my butt!"


 Nope, Sega still thinks your score shouldn't be seen while playing.

 This image can be summed up with one word:  "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!"

 Sadly this isn't Spy Hunter so I don't dock for some sweet ass weapon upgrades.  Sega Scalers: Because Power Ups would be MORE FUN AND WE HATE FUN HAVE ANOTHER AWFUL SONIC GAME....  *Ahem*

 Airplane go DOWN DA HOOOL.  :(

Next four shots are from a Genesis.

 Uh oh.  Level 6 boss.  Somehow manage to hit three targets to win.  I am still trying to figure out HOW one beats it other than flying erratic and hammering on the fire buttons.

You lose your high score if you die and use one of your continues.  This is as high as I got with some tricks I figured out without having to continue.

These last shots are from a Master System proper.

Game Contents

  While the graphics and sound are decent the gameplay suffers due to the framerate and the lack of differently sized sprites to simulate scaling.  Missiles are constantly homing in on you and you generally don't have time to react outside of memorizing the attack waves or just spending most of a stage turning hard left or right until the trick seems to stop working around the 12th stage.  You also have a radar of sorts but it doesn't really do much.

  It's another cut down port of an arcade game that wasn't exactly filled with gameplay depth to begin with.  Take out the technical wow and the kiddie ride outside of the supermarket cabinet effects and you really have to make up for it.  Sega did not.  In fact they even removed some gameplay with making missiles unlimited.  And have I griped about not actually seeing your score while you play?

EDIT:  While doing a little web browsing on this snow and ice laden day I discovered that the throttle control might not have been in the arcade title until After Burner 2 which is more or less a remixed and enhanced version of the original with an additional number of ports.  If you would like to learn more http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/afterburner/afterburner.htm will serve you nicely.  (In general I try to avoid rereading or reading for the first time reviews of these games so my own opinions will be less clouded by others.)

Master System Play:  Outside of the usual SMS video output it plays just as good.  And honestly?  The SMS Control Pad is actually the BEST controller to use.  Just get a Turbo fire dongle or your hand will know pain.  Such terrible, terrible pain.  

Rating: Well it isn't completely bad but it VERY VERY far from good.  I am not sure if it is just because it is a vast improvement over Thunder Blade or not but I guess it is.. OK.  Still not really a must play or worth your time but it won't make you want to hit yourself in the genitals with one of those big hard rubber mallets or anything.  You can do a lot better but you can do a lot worse too.

Next Time:  We keep to some arcade conversions but this time we aren't just out to kill things.  join me in March for SHOOTY RESCUE MONTH as we play Alien Syndrome and Choplifter!

06 February 2015


Publisher/Developer:  Sega
Format: Cartridge
Game Size: 256K
Rarity:  3
Game Type: Third Person/Top Down Helicopter SHMUP Arcade Conversion
Region: USA
Other Ways to Play: Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Arcade, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, MSX, Nintendo 3DS, Sharp X68000, TurboGrafx-16, ZX Spectrum
Power Base Convertor Playable?: Yes, 6 button compatible.

Price I Paid: 7+ 6.95 (First copy had a different game in the box.  That I already had of course.)
Price I Would Pay: 2 Dollars
Condition: Game, Case, Manual
Game Rating: BAD
My History:  Bought for this collection project.  Played original arcade version in 1988 and bought remixed version (Super Thunder Blade) on the Genesis in 1989.

  Ahh Thunder Blade.  A game I wanted so much to like that I mostly just hate because of how it needed to be.. FUNNER.  About 20% funner.

  In 8th grade my Junior High Graduation trip was to Rocky Point Amusement Park in Rhode Island.  I had heard mention of a game where you sit in a rotating cockpit and pilot a helicopter.  Thunder Blade was it.  For a tiny moment my 75 cents in 1988 money got me this amazing scaling top down and third person experience.  Knowing it was on the Master System was incredibly infuriating to me as I only had a Commodore 64 and NES at the time.  But in Sophmore year in High School I got the mighty Genesis and the remixed semi sequel Super Thunder Blade as one of my two games with the machine.   I didn't love it but I did really like it and I still kind of do.

(At least in PAL land the C64 got Thunder Blade and it actually plays and looks much closer to the arcade title than you would think.  However it does have very low resolution and low colored sprites to manage this feat.)

  Well for this project it was finally time to buy the missing game.  I regret doing so.

 Next suite of shots are from Kega Fusion emulator.
 Get used to seeing this screen.  

 Digitising images from a movie as your title screen?

Top down mode.  Its the shorter part of the level because it is kind of fun actually.

 Yet another unfair death from CURVING CANNON SHOTS in third person view.

 Back to top down mode to fight the boss.

 What you want to see your score WHILE PLAYING?  Silly gamer!

 Next level.

Annoying and barely viewable cave section.  Can you see which bit you have to really avoid carefully?

  In Thunder Blade you pilot a helicopter using direct controls on your controller (so up is up in this game) and fire a gun and a slow moving but powerful missile that takes a moment to launch but can be fired again as soon as it hits a target or flies off the screen.

  Like the arcade game you have a top down mode and a third person 3d scaling mode.  However unlike the arcade the scaling and parallax 3d effects in the top down mode are absent in the SMS port and barely simulated in 3d.  Also the throttle control has been removed from this port entirely.

  Top down mode where your guns only can hit aerial targets that mostly just try ramming you and your missile is only for ground targets is somewhat fun.  The graphics are nice with only a small amount of sprite flickering when too much is on screen.

  The problem is 3d mode.  See me after more pictures.

Game and contents.

The next three images are from a Master System

 One of the later levels I couldn't be bothered to reach.

The easy, boring, and ugly first boss.

The next two shots are from a Genesis with Power Base Convertor.
 My tiny missile shooting towards a tank.

Not exactly Sega's programmers going all out to make this a killer app.

  While in 3d you sometimes have to dodge obstacles that barely scroll, coming at you both ugly, and with barely any resizing, the BIG problem is the ground targets who shoot at you with seeking cannon shots that actually curve towards you and seem to hit if they are even in your remote vicinity.

  The 3d levels basically require you to memorize the locations of enemies so you can either avoid them or shoot them with either guns or missiles (both work on ground and air targets in this mode, though missiles tend to drop towards the ground) as in general you are unable to dodge shots.

  Control basically requires you to pound the main fire button endlessly and basically BEGS for turbo fire controllers.  In top down mode missiles are best fired as needed due to the slower starting speed and having to hit moving ground targets.  Or really really thin ones as missing as mentioned means waiting precious seconds for the shot to go off screen before you may fire again.  I found all my controllers work though the Control Stick was absolutely MISERABLE, and the SMS Pad's long button travel can make things tough unless you have a way to get turbo fire out of them with a dongle or whatnot.

  If you can manage to survive the 3d section it is back to top down mode where you fly by a boss and blow up targets on it while moving forwards and avoiding shots.  Once complete, you gain a score bonus for number of targets hit which is where you will earn an extra life at 500K and then every million.  You don't see your score or lives on screen as you play or even get a DING when you gain the extra life.  When you die in level the screen shows you your lives remaining and it throws you right back in with only the closest enemies removes from the screen, yet without any actual invulnerability time so you might even die before you have a chance to react!

  While only listed in the manual when you reach GAME OVER (and you will so very very much) holding a direction and pressing a button at that screen will give you a continue but you only get it twice.
  And that's it.  4 stages of boring, unfun, ABUSE.  Want to win?  You basically have to memorize the entire game.  No power ups to be found here, and not exactly a plethora of extra lives.  

Master System Play:  About the same as it is on the Genesis.   So yay?

Rating:  I am sorry to say this game is  BAD.  It is very hard and just not worth it.  Super Thunder Blade on the Genesis more or less feels like an APOLOGY for this one.  Almost every issue I have with this game it fixes.  While still not the game the arcade title is it comes a lot closer and is much more fun.  Outside of decent music this game is a boring and tedious slog you need a turbo fire and a very good memory for.   This was a port of another Sega arcade game that was a technical demo and experience more than a proper game to enjoy in the long term.  Sega did nothing to add in any depth of gameplay, merely made the game WORSE.  This review took so long because I just wasn't enjoying it or making any progress.  I had to go watch a review on youtube which gave me a little idea of what I could do to make some headway.  And it still wasn't enough to make me want to fly through the ugly and hard to see tunnels in stage 2 that much!

Next Time:  Let's see if the other air arcade game is any good.  Let us go for After Burner!