Nothing like the first game. That's a good thing!
Top Gun: The Second Mission is the sequel to the abysmal Top Gun by Konami. This game seems to exist almost as an apology for the prequel, and changes up almost everything about it.
Presentation (Visual/Audio Aesthetic, Enjoyment and Effectiveness)
In terms of static graphics and sound, the original presentation is mostly retained here. Things like the instrument panel are more colorful. The more subtle changes are what greatly improve on the previous game. Everything is a little more animated. The quiet hiss of your engines is now accompanied by fast paced background music that better sets the mood of heart-pounding air combat. You can hear as enemies zip past you. There's an all around deeper sense of speed and action in everything.
Some may be put off by the addition of two-toned stripes used for the ground coloring. It's pretty standard practice in games of this era to give a sense of 3D space and speed. I don't deduct points for them, but it can give some people headaches over time.
The soundtrack still doesn't bring anything recognizable from the movie, which is always a mark off when working with a licensed product with as memorable a soundtrack as Top Gun. What is there, however, jams appropriately hard with a distinctive Konami sound that sets the mood extremely well.
Interaction (Controls, Menus, Intuitiveness and Responsiveness)
Second Mission mixes up the playstyle quite a bit from the original. Play takes place in a 3D space now, as opposed flying down a linear path with enemies flying in front of you. Enemies can get behind you and will often do so, forcing you to spin around and deal with them. Ground targets are especially deadly in this respect, and will fill your underside with missiles very quickly if not dealt with. The game is kind enough to provide a radar and warning sound, so be ready for death from any angle.
Control inputs have changed too. Your machine gun and missiles now share the B button (worth noting, since most NES flight sticks used A as the fire trigger). Hold B to unload your gun, or double tap B to loose a missile. It's different, but not too hard to adjust to. The A button now engages your afterburners for a burst of speed. Managing your speed is vital to your strategy and survival, especially in one-on-one dogfights. Plus, who doesn't love going fast? You also have a barrel roll, by double-tapping left or right, that can evade some missiles that you may have failed to shoot down.
Landing on the carrier is no longer an issue. It is still a task that must be done after a mission, but is no longer the exercise in frustration it once was. Just line up with the runway and bring her in. Refueling is, thankfully, done away with entirely.
User Narrative (How design and challenges shape the experience)
Second Mission is very much an arcade experience, a design choice in which I find no fault. There are only three reasonably lengthy missions, played through in order with a quick but smooth increase in difficulty. The challenges within those missions keep the experience mixed between them. You'll encounter waves of air targets, ground targets with air support, environmental hazards, one-on-one dogfights with significantly tougher opponents, and each mission ends with a large boss fight. The bosses are presented well, but are not overly challenging compared to the levels. They're not so easy that they'll ruin the climactic feeling, but they don't escalate the challenge any. They're mostly just a nice change of pace.
Overall, you're looking at a reasonably difficult game, if only because you have very few lives to work with. It only takes a single slip up or a stray shot to cost you a life, so the tension is always high. Despite that, the frustration factor is relatively low. The rare environmental hazards found in the late game can be a headache until you figure out a method for taking them on. It's a game of skill more than luck.
Once you have the skill and practice to complete the game, it's a short experience, completable in maybe 20 minutes. The first game had a tendency to overstay its welcome and grow redundant fast, so I prefer the change.
There is also a 2 player versus dogfight mode and a 1 player versus the CPU dogfight mode in which you take on single opponents in escalating difficulty.
Top Gun: The Second Mission is a good, fun, arcade experience with a steep but fair challenge. It doesn't actually offer anything to brand itself distinctly Top Gun, but all I could really ask of it is to be a great air combat experience. I am honestly satisfied at the absence of a volley ball minigame. Given that it was 1990, it didn't do anything new that either flight sims or arcade shooters hadn't already done, but it did mesh the two together very nicely. If only this game could've somehow eliminated the first Top Gun game from space and time, it might even be remembered for these merits, instead of being avoided for looking too much like its reject older brother.
Top Gun: The Second Mission review