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The games put you into the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat (or one of two other possible ships in later games). You fly down at high speed destroying waves of enemies with your guns and missiles.
The arcade games are well known for their cabinets. Earlier games in the series can come in standard upright cabinets, but can also come in sit-down motion cabinets in which the seat moves around to correspond to your ship's motions. In the late 80's and early 90's, After Burner cabinets were quite the eye candy.
The series spans five games:
- After Burner (Arcade, 1987)
The original game, released only in Japan.
- After Burner II (Arcade, 1987)
More of an upgrade to the original rather than a sequel, After Burner II introduces throttle control for faster gameplay, improved weapon firing, new stages, and revamped music. First AB game to be released outside of Japan.
- After Burner III (Sega CD, 1992)
- After Burner Climax (Arcade, 2006)
Released nearly 20 years after After Burner II, Climax offers brand new graphics, a "Climax Mode" that lets you slow down time to lock on to many enemies at once, two new fighters to choose from, and special "Emergency Order" missions. Later ported in 2010 to Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.
- After Burner: Black Falcon (Play Station Portable, 2007)
There's also a much lesser-known spinoff called G-LOC: Air Battle, in 1992. It is slower paced than After Burner and puts more emphasis on destroying enemies. Perhaps the only thing anyone remembers about it is that it had a special version designed for the R-360 cabinet, a motion cabinet capable of rolling upside-down.
The After Burner series contains examples of:
- Airstrike Impossible: Two or three times in Climax, you fly into a bunker.
- Always Close / Foregone Victory: In Climax's last stage, if you don't destroy the missiles in time, the mission is still counted as complete, because your carrier shoots the missiles and only sustains light damage. However, you don't get the best ending.
- Anti-Frustration Features: a good half of the EX Options of the Console version of Climax fall under this, running the gambit from additional lives to invulnerability to enemy fire.
- Combos: In Climax.
- Cool Plane: The F-14 in the first few games; the F-14D, F/A-18E, and F-15E in Climax. And yes, they are all based on actual planes.
- Deadly Walls: In the first two games, there are occasional levels that swap out enemies in favor of walls. Touch one and you lose a life. In Climax, depending on your speed and angle with the wall, damage will range from Scratch Damage to an instant life loss.
- Death Is a Slap on The Wrist: For the most part, dying and continuing do not affect your score. However, in Arcades, this eats money.
- Excuse Plot: II apparently has you rescuing a Distressed Damsel; it's only mentioned in text at two refuel stops and the ending. Climax has you take on a terrorist organization attempting to go nuclear.
- Get Back Here Boss: Every boss in Climax; you are, after all, still tearing up the skies at supersonic speeds.
- Hyperspace Arsenal: Your ship starts off with 50 missiles. And in Climax, you regenerate them over time.
- Life Meter: Climax offers one. You still take heavy damage from a missile though (50% or 70%).
- Macross Missile Massacre: Considering the main method of attacking is missiles, inevitable. Climax's...erm..."Climax" mode causes you to go into Bullet Time while chain-firing missiles.
- The twelfth stage, Sleepless Sanctuary, deploys a ton of these with much gusto. Be prepared to dodge a whole hell of a lot, and expect to see your ship go down a couple of times if you're not prepared for it.
- Nintendo Hard
- No Export for You: The first game.
- Sequel First: After Burner II.
- No Fair Cheating: Averted in the console ports of Climax with the EX Options. You can give yourself unlimited missiles and health, have your Climax gauge always maxed out, have a giant aiming reticule, and disable enemy fire, and STILL rank in on your Arcade Mode leaderboard. And there is no way to differentiate between scores obtained legitimately and scores obtained with options that make the game easier.
- One-Hit-Point Wonder: One hit in After Burner or After Burner II and you lose a life. In Climax, the "Armor: 1%" option reduces your armor to 1%, so even the tiniest gunfire or wall scrape = *PEWWWWWWWWWW* "JAGUAR LEADER'S HIT!" *BOOM*
- Point Defenseless: Subverted with the Carrier taking out the missiles with minimal effort and taking only minimal damage to the carrier
- Self-Imposed Challenge: A handful of the EX Options in Climax bring up red text when selected, and their description always begins with "Caution". Among these include turning you back into a One-Hit-Point Wonder and removing your missile recovery, restricting your missile spams to Climax Mode.
- Shout-Out: When landing to refuel you land on a runway that looks suspiciously like a road. When you take off again, the chase car is a red Ferrari Testarosa convertible with a hot blonde in the passenger seat.
- Spiritual Successor: Sky Target.
- The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: Stages 14 and 15 in Climax, which can only be unlocked by clearing all of the Emergency Orders.
- Where It All Began: The final stages of II and Climax are set over the ocean to the tune of "Final Takeoff" (the first stage BGM of II). Heck, in Climax, the first and final stages are both called "Boundless Ocean".
- World of Ham: The voice acting in Climax