Developer: Sega AM2
After Burner stands as one of Sega's most successful arcade games, building on the momentum started earlier in the decade with Hang-On, Space Harrier and OutRun. It was one of the earliest games (if not the earliest game) to utilise Sega X Board technology, allowing for the easy scaling and rotation of in-game sprites, producing pseudo-3D graphics. It is also remembered for its then-revolutionary sit-down cabinet design, complete with a horizontally rotating seat and a vertically rotating cockpit, controlled (like the game) by the integrated analog flight stick, with the cabinet's motion corresponding to the joystick's movement. Upright cabinets were also available.
The game itself was released in three variations: a standard upright cabinet, and two cockpit versions, one that tilts left and right, and one a rotating cockpit version.
In After Burner, the player pilots an F-14 Tomcat-inspired jet through 18 levels, destroying enemies with machine gun fire and a limited supply of missiles. Similar to Space Harrier, it is an "on-the-rails" shooter - the plane will travel continuously into the screen, with players only able to adjust its X and Y coordinates.
The objective in After Burner is to survive through each of the 18 stages, usually by avoiding enemy missile fire, however "bonus" stages, which occur every six levels, require the player to dodge scenery and not crash. Shooting down enemies is technically optional, although alleviates the risk of being destroyed. The player has a limited supply of missiles which are refueled at various intervals throughout the game.
After Burner was originally designed to have melodies play over the "After Burner/Red Out" and "Final Take Off" music tracks, but these were taken out of the final game, potentially through fears that they'd be drowned out in a busy arcade environment. Though these versions were never heard in the arcades, they adapted for the album Sega Game Music Vol. 3 After Burner in 1987 (appearing in other albums since), and have been brought back as options in later games (for example, 3D After Burner II).
The original After Burner was released exclusively in Japan, however the western world would receive an updated version of the game, After Burner II in the months which followed. After Burner II is extremely similar in design, bar a few minor tweaks (such as a throttle control, extra levels and slight changes to the missile system), so much so that people often consider it to be a more "complete" version of After Burner than a direct sequel. Due to the similarities and shared cabinet designs and artwork, After Burner II is frequently confused for the original After Burner. A similar relationship would develop with Galaxy Force and Galaxy Force II, also produced by Sega AM2.
In its original form, After Burner was only ported to the Sega Master System, however many ports of After Burner II were released under the name of After Burner for home consoles and computers, including the Amiga (twice), Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, FM Towns, MSX, PC Engine, Sharp X68000 and ZX Spectrum.
In Japan, the arcade game was well received. The 1987 Gamest Awards gave the arcade version the award for Best Graphics. It was also the runner-up for Gamest's overall Game of the Year award, and also came eighth place for the Best Speech Synthesis award and sixth place for the Best Ending award.
In Europe, the arcade game was also well received. Clare Edgeley gave it a positive review in the November 1987 issue of Computer and Video Games magazine, where she stated it is a "fabulous game" that is "Stuffed full of electronics" and "flings you in four directions to simulate the movement of your jet aircraft." She stated, "Words can't do After Burner justice" and "you'll have to give it a shot." She concluded that, although the price of £1 per continue (equivalent to £2.45 or $3.88 in 2014) "is a real pain, stake a couple of quid on it and go for the flight of your life." In the 1987 Christmas Special issue of Crash, Julian Rignall and Daniel Gilbert gave it a more mixed review. They stated, "Sega, maker of Super Hang-On and Out Run, has just released its most impressive-looking game" yet, "an aerial-combat simulation" with "colourful and incredibly fast graphics" that is "possibly the fastest 3-D yet" seen. They also praised the rotating cockpit cabinet which "rocks and rolls as the plane banks and moves" as "very impressive" but criticized the playability, specifically the plane handling and joystick feedback, and the "overpriced" cost of 50p per go (equivalent to £1.23 or $1.94 in 2014). In the February 1988 issue of The Games Machine, Robin Hogg and Cameron Pound gave it a positive review, describing it as the "HOTTEST" Sega "release so far" and "an air combat coin-op of awesome proportions." They praised the "sheer speed" of the "extremely fast blasting action" as "the fastest and most violent to date" and "the layered graphics" as "extremely detailed" and "fantastic" but criticized the high price of up to £1 per play. They concluded it would "almost certainly repeat the success of" Out Run.
The ported home versions were also well received. In Japan, the Sharp X68000 computer game version won several awards from the Oh!X computer magazine, including the overall Game of the Year award as well as awards for Best Game Design, Best Video Game Port, and Best Shooter.
Computer Gaming World's later review of the PC version in 1992 was much more critical, giving it one star out of five and stating that it was inferior to the arcade version. They concluded that it was "far superior in the coin-op cockpit than it is on the personal computer."
While reviewing the 32X version, GamePro praised the game's graphics, sound and gameplay.
The arcade version of After Burner II has no detailed credits screen, instead aliases of the developers are seen on the backs of clothing in the ending sequence:
|80||Sega Retro Average|
|Based on 1 review|
|69||Sega Retro Average|
|Based on 11 reviews|
|Master System, KR|
|Games in the After Burner Series|
|After Burner (1987) | After Burner II (1987) | G-LOC: Air Battle (1990) | Strike Fighter (1991) | Sky Target (1995) | Sega Strike Fighter (2000) | After Burner Climax (2006)|
|After Burner III (1992)|
|After Burner Complete (1995)|
|Sega Ages After Burner II (1996)|
|After Burner: Black Falcon (2007)|
|3D After Burner II (2013)|
|After Burner Albums|
|Sega Game Music Vol. 3 After Burner (1987) | After Burner (1990) | Strike Fighter (1991) | Yu Suzuki Produce After Burner II (1997) | After Burner Climax Sound Track (2006) | Retro Game Anthology #5 -AFTER BURNER in DREAM- (2007) | After Burner 20th Anniversary Box (2007)|