Is there something I'm supposed to say here? Hop in a jet, take to the skies, and destroy hundreds of enemy ships in a ten minute romp that assaults all of your senses at once. Afterburner Climax is definitely a Sega game and AM2 put together a helluva port.
The main game is 13 stages and they run the gamut of open skies, canyons, enemy fortifications, city skylines, and well hardly any of that actually matters. Your only concerns are going to be everything trying to blow you up. Missiles are the biggest threat since they key in on wherever you are. If you stop for a second you'll get blown up, head in one direction for too long and you'll get blown up, just coming out of a barrel roll is a good time to get blown up as well. The first priority in surviving is avoiding those missiles and it's part reflexes and part knowing what's coming. There's other things to avoid as well like walls and enemy machineguns.
You gotta fight back eventually and this game makes it simple. There's the machinegun which is always handy since for the most part you can just hold the button down and forget about it. There's also a stock of rapidly replenishing missiles and you'll go through hundreds of those in the 10 minutes it takes to get through this game. These are of the "fire and forget" variety so just put your cursor on something, hit the fire button, and then get out of the way because you won't get the chance to admire your kill.
Frankly I don't even know why I bother explaining all this. Climax is a ten-minute game and you'll learn everything there is to know in the first thirty seconds. The real question is how can one justify paying $10 for a ten-minute game? Well the easy answer is that most players won't spend just ten minutes on the game. Though I bet in the arcades people ended up spending more than $10 just to reach the end of it. It's an arcade title first and fore-most so there's the whole scoring dealie. Some people aren't into high-scores and that's alright there are other games to play.
Yeah I said it. If you're not interested in playing again and again for a higher score don't bother with this game. There's a handful of optional paths and secret stages to access if you're good enough but they don't provide any insight into the army of "Z" or why there's a nuclear threat. Jaguar Leader and Jaguar 2 aren't going to explain their romantic relationship either no matter what ending you manage to get. Dump the better graphics and the "Climax mode" and you have something straight out of 1987 or in other words you have Afterburner 2.
Even for a ten-minute game Sega puts forth the effort to keep gamers playing for hours. There's the regular arcade mode which is fine and all but players would do well to stick with Score-Attack. The thing about arcade mode is that's the mode for people who like to unlock stuff, not for people who want to get better at the game. Through the arcade mode you'll eventually unlock most of the achievements and a ton of EX options. These allow various changes to arcade mode that well...okay they're all cheats. Extra lives and continues are obvious but they also go as far as to include the ability to enlarge the cursor size so that everything in the general area can be hit by a missile. By the time you finish unlocking all of these options you can play a game of Climax that's impossible to do badly in let alone lose. You stick with that mode and before you know it your ten minute game has turned into a few hours game.
So my advice is if you want to love this game you gotta stick with score-attack. Some purists out there will cry and start blubbering about "oh but that mode gives infinite lives how can I work on my survival skills?" Again there's an easy answer to this because survival ties directly to your score. Afterburner Climax is always moving whether your ship is in one piece or several. Enemies fly in, unleash their payload, and fly off in seconds. Any second where you aren't there to shoot them down is wasted and with about 50 to 100 targets per stage you can easily miss a third of them every time you die. Okay you'll likely miss half of them anyway due to how fast everything is moving but hey you'll get them next time right? That's what replay value is all about. Dying also has the nasty habit of killing whatever combo you've managed to build up and obviously we don't want to die and not losing combos just happens to be a bonus. So all I can say is that maybe the survival-purists should just shut up and stick to score-attack. Oh and I nearly forgot score-attack offers unlockables in the form of medals. Alright maybe they won't give you achievements and they certainly won't make your ship near invincible but if you manage to get them all maybe you yourself will feel a little bit invincible.
Cause to me at least arcade games are about pushing beyond limits. Far too often when I sit down with a console game I find that odds are not impossible and that every situation as a solution that is handed to the player like a glowing lever or a shiny weapon that screams "use me and you win!" As far as those games are concerned since you bought it it's yours and hardly anything is going to keep you from seeing the ending because it's your right as a consumer. With that idea one might as well buy a toaster, it takes about the same effort but at least its more rewarding cause toast is good any time of the day. I don't know about you but if played these console games all the time I'd wake up one morning with the reflexes of a corpse and the brain activity to match. I wouldn't be lacking for stuff to talk about on message-boards at least.
When I manage to beat an arcade game -- that is completing the game without continuing -- I feel that I've actually accomplished something. I managed to beat a game that was designed to be up-front about taking as much money as possible from a player. Maybe my experience wasn't as rich and there's no memorable characters but there's not enough time for that. Improving at an arcade game is one of the few real thrills I get out of videogames. This is something that is unmatched as far as I'm concerned. I don't feel anything from fumbling through checkpoint-fest modern games where the only reason I managed to get to the next stage is because I knew where to move and where to shoot. I certainly don't feel anything (or at least not any longer) from multiplayer games where I spend the majority of my time waiting to respawn because I didn't put forth the three to five hours a day necessary to compete. It's different strokes and all but considering the time investment if I want to get better at games I usually stick with the arcades and sleepwalk through everything else.
So in the end Climax is an arcade game for arcade gamers. If you don't care for unlockables or arcade games don't even consider this game for a second. You'll hate the game, call it "shallow" or something and annoy the piss out of whatever "defense force" in whatever forum you post at. If you like unlockables but hate arcade games well I guess this isn't a bad deal. Heck there's even a couple items to "pimp out your avatar" and last I checked those usually go for like $1 to $4 a pop. You'll at least get a few hours out of this one. For fans of arcade games I think this is a definite recommendation. It's an arcade game by Sega after all and when they put forth the effort they can deliver something quite excellent. Those ten minutes could stretch into however many hours as fans will be trying and trying again to achieve some high-score that'll fill them with pride.
Then again it's all very possible that you might just not like the game. I can understand why and there's nothing I can say to convince anyone otherwise. On the bright side there's always the demo and considering the length of the game it's a very safe bet that if you didn't care for the demo the full game will not change your opinion in the slightest. While I can recognize quality when I see it I don't see myself as a big fan of this game. It is Afterburner 2 in the end and I was never really fond of that game. This one is a bit more approachable and quite a bit more fun but I may as well say that I feel like I bought this more out of support for Sega's arcade ports than for the actual game. I was always a bit more of a Space Harrier fan but Sega has yet to do a good update to that one. Yeah there was Planet Harriers but it's not really the same thing and well it's pretty damn terrible to boot.