“Welcome to Turrican, ahahahaaa!”
I was already familiar with the Turrican series. I had played the Sega and SNES entries back when I was a kid, but I never had the chance to play the originals since I never got my hands on an Amiga. Decades later ININ Games allowed me a chance to rectify that by dropping two separate compilations at the same time: Turrican Anthology Vol. I and Vol. II. There are five titles in each anthology so we’re going to start with the five on Vol. I, which are Turrican and Turrican II: Final Fight on Amiga, Super Turrican and Super Turrican Director’s Cut on SNES, and Mega Turrican Score Attack from the Genesis/Mega Drive.
Before I do that, I want to go over the new additions and enhancements you’ll see in both anthologies. One of my favorites is the map function. Some of the Turrican maps can get a bit complex, so being able to click the right stick and bring up a detailed map showing the areas you visited already is great for getting you back on track should you get turned around looking for secrets. You can also choose what you want to display, such as enemy positions and hidden powerups. Save states and a rewind feature are great accessibility options and go a long way to ensure that even the most unskilled of us can get through the game. While some retro games are known for being a challenge because of their gameplay, others are challenging because of poor game design. Turrican is a bit of both so it’s nice to be able to rewind some of the cheap shots.
Another nice tidbit is being able to view instruction manual scans for each game, plus use the jukebox to listen to the original and remastered soundtracks. It’s a good bonus because the whole franchise has some great tracks, Super Turrican especially. You can also choose whether you want to hear the studio versions of the remastered tracks or the originals as you play. For retro tech enthusiasts always craving CRT visuals, there are all the obligatory options found in the menu to tinker around with that. If you play with borders instead of being fit to fullscreen, you can add on an option to increase the size of the main screen’s view, letting you see more of the map in place of borders. I think it’s a weird option because even though it extends the view of the map, your bullets don’t reach that far and you still can’t see monsters until they get to the original screen, making it look like they are appearing out of thin air. Or regular air. Or air of any consistency, really. Who knows what these Martian environments are made of? Anyways, I thought it to be a cool idea but odd in practice.
The next batch of extras includes a bonus jukebox, cheats, a map atlas, and a gallery full of cool behind-the-scenes stuff. The problem is, you can’t use any of them until you’ve beaten the game in Challenge Mode. Challenge Mode takes away helpful tools like rewind and save states, making you play the games as they were released back in the day. Challenge Mode also allows you to earn accomplishments for each game, which are a series of challenges basically. Each game has a handful of them and they mostly fall along the same lines as ‘beat the game’ or ‘find x amount of diamonds. Needing to unlock cheats makes sense, but the gallery especially bothers me. These games can be unfair and difficult at the best of times, so I feel like a good chunk of gamers aren’t going to get to see some of the cooler stuff they already paid for. They should have taken a leaf out of the Disney Afternoon Collection’s book and made it available from the start, in my humble opinion.
Loading up Turrican Anthology Vol. I
For my first time playing the Turrican and Turrican II: Final Fight on Amiga, I was pleasantly surprised! I thought it would feel like a dated experience but I was wrong (and gladly so). The graphics hold up pretty well for a 32-year-old game and it runs smooth as butter. Turrican games follow the same gameplay mechanics more or less, so I’ll only explain it once here. Turrican is a 2D sidescrolling shooter that allows you to (in most cases) explore a large level and backtrack at will, instead of forcing you into a linear progression like a Mario game, for example. This gives the player a lot of freedom to backtrack and fully explore the levels to flush out all their secrets and collect various powerups, one-ups, and diamonds that grant you a continue when you find enough. Turrican can only fire straight and jump, but to hit enemies at all the different angles you can rotate the right stick to send out an attack beam in any direction you point. This is incredibly useful but the tradeoff is that you cannot move while using it. Collecting powerups changes your basic weapon into a spread shot, laser, or a bouncing bullet depending on the icon you pick up. The bouncing bullet only comes into play in Turrican II and up, though. Collecting the same one over and over upgrades it to a more powerful version. Our metal monstrosity has some special, limited-use moves that you can use to shake things up a bit, such as laying mines, using a full-screen attack called the powerline, and turning into a ball, Samus Aran style. The gyroscope (the name changes slightly each game) allows you to damage enemies on contact while rendering you invincible, plus it lets you squeeze through small tunnels. In the later Turricans, you can also drop mines and bombs when you’re in the air, turning you into a little spinny wheel of death. It’s really useful but they usually put a limit on how often you can use it. Most of the bosses in the first Turrican are lame, they will often move slowly towards you until they touch you and you die. The fish boss was especially unfair, as you would have no other option but to let him kill you once he makes it to the end of the screen. You can’t jump him and if you have no gyroscope energy left, you were out of luck. Thankfully this doesn’t seem to be the case in the rest of the franchise.
Turrican II changes up the formula in a few ways. My favorite move (and one you don’t see often) is the super special attack where Turrican just flips out; spinning all across the screen in his ball mode while unleashing every type of attack he can, dealing big damage to everyone on screen. It is quite the flashy move, shame they didn’t use it in more games. While most levels are open and non-linear like the first, there are a few levels where the player is floating through a vertically scrolling level while fending off attacks from all directions. This can be a real pain since Turrican can only fire left or right, leaving him defenseless from most angles. You cannot use your multi-directional beam there either. Your death will most likely come from banging into obstacles while trying to dodge enemy fire and get a line of sight on them. Closer to the end of the game is another linear level with forced scrolling, but this time you are controlling a spacefighter. It doesn’t offer much in new gameplay mechanics but it is a nice change of pace.
Super Turrican is my favorite entry in Vol. I, but maybe I’m biased because I enjoyed it on SNES as a child. It makes fantastic use of the SNES’s VFX capabilities so it looks (and sounds great). I love the special environmental effects you come across, like leaves blowing in the wind that serves as visual aids to show you which direction the strong gusts of wind will blow you when you jump, or the lighting strikes that threaten to blast you out of the air as you jump across deadly drops. It also rehashes a lot of content from the original Turricans, with bosses like the giant gauntlet returning for another round of five-finger deathpunch. One alteration that bothered me was the change in the beam functionality. Instead of being a 360-degree laser of death, it simply stuns the enemies for a second. Over the course of the last two Turrican games, I had gotten used to having it as an option to deal with enemies attacking at awkward angles, so this forced me to adapt new strategies for hitting enemies in bad positions. One of the coolest and most questionable levels is the alien hive at the end of the game. It is clearly based on the iconic Alien movie, with facehuggers, eggs, and a huge Xenomorph-looking queen for the final boss. The whole level is one of my personal highlights but I’m surprised they got away with using such an obvious likeness.
The Super Turrican Director’s Cut is not much different than the original Super Turrican and in most cases, it is worse. When we think of Director’s Cuts, we like to think that it would the superior version of what was originally released but in actuality, this version seems buggier. The DC arranged some of the enemy placement and altered a few of the graphics and sounds but you would have to be really familiar (or watch a Youtube side-by-side comparison) with both versions to see the difference. The only reason to try out this version would be to play the extra level that was cut from the original release when they had to downsize to fit the cartridge. You battle through an enemy airship as it flies through the air and it explodes once you reach the end: no boss fight included. It’s cool but nothing that you would miss if you never played it. I honestly don’t see much need to play both versions of Super Turrican but I suppose it is nice to have them in one place, if not simply for historical preservation.
The last title on Vol. I is there for no other reason than to pad out the number of games. Mega Turrican Score Attack is essentially one giant, labyrinthine level chock-full of enemies and items. Since the gameplay mechanics come from Mega Turrican, you have a grappling hook beam that replaces the old 360-degree attack beam, allowing you to swing to hard-to-reach places. It was a cool idea back in the day but it really is a pain in the ass to use. You need to be standing perfectly still to use it and the reach is not great, while even the process of aiming to hit the intended spot is a hassle. The goal is to get through the level as fast as you can with the highest score possible. It only contains one level, so unless you’re a player who values chasing after high scores there isn’t much reason to even load this one up.
With that out of the way, we can now move on to the titles in Turrican Anthology Vol. II
Vol. II contains another five games; Turrican 3, Mega Turrican, Mega Turrican Director’s Cut, Super Turrican 2, and Super Turrican Score Attack. My biggest issue with this volume is that Turrican 3, Mega Turrican, and the Mega Turrican Director’s Cut are more or less the same game. Mega Turrican was the Sega version of Amiga’s Turrican 3, while the Director’s Cut was the unpolished prototype that never saw the light of day. If you are a hardcore Turrican fan or a person who values the historical preservation of videogame history, then you may be interested in having all these versions, but for a casual gamer, there is no real reason to play all three. Hell, the Director’s Cut doesn’t even have any accomplishments tied to it. In my opinion, Mega Turrican is the (only slightly) best version of Turrican 3. It features a wider color palette than the Amiga, plus the level backgrounds are much more fleshed out and lively.
The gameplay for Turrican 3 falls in line with every other entry but with a few differences. Once again, the wheel ability can only be used for a limited amount of time per level but it makes you near invincible. Your powerline special is now replaced with a screen-clearing smartbomb. Your weapon still functions the same way in regards to the function-changing powerups such as spread shot, but now you can also find a homing missile that works in tandem with your current weapon. The biggest change though comes by way of changing out the right stick’s 360-degree laser beam with a grappling hook. As I mentioned previously, I know it was a cool idea back in the day to be able to swing around to reach higher places, but in practice I found it to be a pain in the butt to use.
Mega Turrican may just be my favorite Turrican. It has some cool level gimmicks, like the underwater stage for example. First, you are fighting your way through a sewer while the water starts filling up the screen, then the next thing you know, the Turrican is completely submerged. You get to float weightlessly around and fight a variety of underwater monsters without worrying about drowning (stupid Ninja Turtles). The boss of the area is a four-armed –or legged, maybe?!?- mutant octopus that charges around as you blast off each leg during the battle. Another cool level begins with the player high in the sky above a ruined city of scrap. There are flying cars with beams attached to them by a chain and they tend to fall out of the air, so you find yourself jumping from beam to beam while fighting flying enemies until you finally land. I liked the bosses in this entry, too. They tend to be more varied and interesting. The scrap city has a few bosses in it, including our dear old friend, the flying robot-fist. The alien hive level is back and better than ever! In addition to the facehuggers and roaming Xenomorphs found in the Super Turrican version, there is a new Xeno to be found that flies around and spews killer goop. The level even finishes with the same alien queen boss fights. Seems Factor 5 lives by the motto “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The final level is a bit disappointing after the hive, but it does end with a big bang. Before you can fight the last boss, you need to go through what seems to be a gigantic T-700 robot from the Terminator movies. What I think is cool about this fight is the way it was presented. The boss is behind a massive shutter with only his fingers sticking out from the underside, which it then promptly wrenches open and exposes his metallic skull and glowing red eyes in a real “Here’s Johnny!’ moment. Once you deal with that, you move right into the final boss battle with the machine master. You may remember him as the Galactus-looking dude from the Turrican II intro. Once you beat his giant floating head, he comes down and gets personal, teleporting around the screen and bouncing his balls. Once you put him to bed, you get a nice little cutscene with Bren (Yes, Turrican Guy has a name now) and the girl he rescued staring into the sunset. I thought it was a nice way to cap off a trilogy full of large-scale alien murder.
Super Turrican 2 is insane. It is almost like Factor 5 knew this would be the last Turrican game ever and they threw every bat-shit crazy idea they could into it. From the get-go the game has you running through the Dune World, jumping radioactive barrels on your dune buggy, fighting off enemies through ruined buildings, and jumping around with the new robot arm that replaces the grappling beam. It is much more useful since you can launch it while jumping and moving, which lets you scale the highest walls by repeatedly jumping and latching on. It can also be used to snatch powerups out of the air. Then you’ll be dangling from a ship roaring across the sky as you blast enemies while hanging on for dear life. As you drop from the sky and land on massive desert worms you won’t have time to think as you’re scrambling across their backs trying to make the jump to the next one before you fall off the screen and die. Once you get past that, you won’t even have a chance to regain your composure because you will find yourself fighting the final boss of the Dune World: a worm that is so big that the fight takes place in his gaping maw as it spins around like a madman, threatening to throw you to your doom. Now is a good time to mention that Super Turrican 2 is the hardest of the bunch and makes for a hell of a stress test. It favors a much more streamlined and linear approach to level design than the original Turricans, though there are a few exceptions, such as the Water World. In one section, you find yourself in control of a missile-launching underwater vehicle as you explore the maze-like waterway for power cores that need to be disabled so you can pass through a laser barricade. There are other instances where the gameplay changes up, like a Battletoads-style jet bike section where you speed down the corridor, moving left to right to dodge oncoming obstacles. The segments are a good way to show off how great the visual effects can be thanks to the hardware capabilities of the SNES and its Mode 7-style graphics. Combine that with crazy memorable boss fights and this is easily one of the best Turrican games.
Super Turrican Score Attack is exactly like its ugly Vol. I cousin: one gigantic level to blast through and earn a score at the end. It takes a few minutes to beat and then you’re done unless you want to keep chasing a higher score. The only difference is that the gameplay and visuals are taken from Super Turrican as opposed to the Mega, which means no goofy grapple beam. Move along, nothing to see here.
So in short, The Turrican Anthologies are solid collections that also contain a lot of padding thanks to all the rehashed content, with Vol.II suffering from this more than the first volume. I’m also not a fan of locking all that cool extra content behind the accomplishment system but that aside, it’s nice to have the whole Turrican collection in (almost) one place.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 6.5/10
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