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February 14, 2007 - One of the many franchises that SEGA is working on rejuvenating on the PSP is its air combat classic After Burner. Scheduled for release at the end of March, [Register or Login to view links] is a return to the arcade series of yesteryear with controls, speed and visuals that perfectly match the original that we sunk hundreds of quarters to play back in the good ol' days. We covered the game's single-player portion in our [Register or Login to view links], but we recently had a chance to spend some time with the game's multiplayer modes.

Black Falcon will feature both cooperative and competitive multiplayer for play over an Ad-Hoc local network. With support for up to four players in the competitive Mad Cow mode (and two for the co-op), SEGA is aiming to provide gamers with a brand-new way to experience its classic franchise.

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Though we were only able to play through a single mission, our initial take is that the cooperative play is a great deal of fun. Seeing your buddy boost ahead of you, perform a barrel roll and then take out a line of enemy jets is a pretty cool sight to see, almost as rewarding as when you're the one pulling off the Maverick-inspired stunts.

The host's game dictates which missions will be available to the players, and the host will be able to save any progress you make, enabling you to play through the entire story cooperatively. For points and cash, the host is able to set whether everything is split evenly between the two players or whether all of the winnings will go to the host - useful if the host is a new player and needs some quick cash to get up to speed.

Both players will share a total of six lives per level. That is, if one player dies five times but the other manages to survive the entire mission, you'll be able to finish. Black Falcon also uses rubber banding to keep both players reasonably close together so that the action stays hectic.

The competitive Mad Cow mode is something like the Oddball mode from Halo. One player will start in possession of the cow, which is actually tethered to the bottom of his or her jet and looks rather silly (in a good way). Points are racked up for every second someone can keep the cow, while the other players attempt to take out the carrier. Doing so will earn the cow for the player, and that person will start racking up points.

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The person carrying the cow will regenerate health over time, helping them keep it longer, and they're able to fire off an EMP charge behind their jet in order to take out people behind them. This takes the place of the roll maneuver, so they need to manually dodge missiles as they come in.

Mad Cow seems like an okay bit of fun, but we're not sure how much strategy is involved here so it may wind up getting old pretty quickly. When we snagged the cow we just kept boosting forward while moving from side to side and dropping EMP charges. Being as you can't see what's going on behind you, this is really your best option. You can throw on the brakes and let your opponents fly right by and then attempt to take them out from behind, but this seems more risky than anything else. Still, we only had time for one round of Mad Cow so we'll see if it's more fun when we can sit down and really dig into it.

After Burner: Black Falcon is currently slated for release on March 20th, so get your thrusters warmed up.

Thanks to [Register or Login to view links] for sharing the news with us!