Two new releases, Turrican Anthology Vol. I and Turrican Anthology Vol. II, on the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 showcase the classic Turrican series, from its PC roots to its SNES and Sega heyday.
- Title: Turrican Anthology Vol. I and Turrican Anthology Vol. II
- Release Date: July 29, 2022
- Price: $34.99 Each
- Suggested Audience Age: Rated Everyone 10+ by the ESRB
- Availability: Switch, PlayStation 4
- Recommended for fans of: Contra, Metroid, and the lost art of Instruction Manuals
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of these titles.
I never really played many PC games when I was a kid. Sure, growing up in Oregon meant that Oregon Trail was a required activity in my elementary school’s computer lab, and I hung out with Reading Rabbit and visited Treasure Mountain from time to time, but for real video games, my older brother and I always played games on his NES. Later on, we got a SNES, then an N64, and so on. PC games always felt like an oddity to me. A strange world with weird graphics and obtuse gameplay mechanics. Even all these years later, I still feel a bit of aversion when I look at a game with “PC” style pixel art, like What Happens in the Multiverse.
Then, I got a chance to sit down with Turrican Anthology Vol. 1 and 2, and my eyes were opened. Turrican is a classic PC platform shooter series that I had never touched before, and I had such a blast with the first two games in the package that I was ready to admit that I had unfairly maligned PC games… until I started up the SNES Turrican game that’s also in the package.
The Turrican franchise kicked off in 1990 with a game developed for the Commodore 64 and other contemporary computer systems, and somehow I had never heard of it despite it being heavily praised.
At a glance, I was expecting a pretty Contra-like run-and-gun shooter. According to the story in the manual, you are a bio-engineered super-soldier in a super-powered suit of armor called a Turrican. You are basically Captain America wearing a Gundam cosplay designed by Tony Stark.
By default, the Turrican suit has a forward shooting, rapid-fire weapon, and some sort of weapon they can swing around in an arc. In the first game, this seemed like a flamethrower, but it changes in both design and function throughout the series.
There are also ammo-based special abilities like a wave that can shoot left and right taking out everything on screen. The Turrican suit also allows the wearer to roll up into a tiny ball to access hidden areas and drop bombs, like so much Samus. Unlike Ms. Metroid, however, the Turrican morph ball is covered in spikes.
Levels for Days
The level design is really where the Turrican games set themselves apart from other games where you play as an alien slaughtering badass with a gun. Instead of a simple run across the screen or up a cliffside, Turrican‘s levels are huge and labyrinthian. Tons of enemies spread throughout caves, high-tech towers, forests, and underground lakes. Within each level, there are multiple routes to explore, with extra lives, Contra-style alternate weapons, and straight-up points for high-score chasers hidden throughout.
The levels actually reminded me of the huge labyrinths in Cursed to Golf.
Exploring these big levels mostly feels fantastic, for the most part. I ran into a lot of dead ends, but that just made finding my way out even more rewarding. Unfortunately, like a lot of 8-bit games, there’s a clock in Turrican, counting down how long you’ve got left to live. Unlike Super Mario Bros., however, the levels are convoluted enough that you are likely to have that clock run out.
Between that countdown, the large levels, and incredibly lethal enemies, Turrican is a really difficult series. So far, I’ve only actually beat the first game in the series, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that without the rewind feature built into the Anthology collection.
Turrican Anthology Features
The most recent releases of the Turrican franchise are Turrican Anthology Vol. I and Turrican Anthology Vol. II. Each of these bundles includes 3 games, plus a “Director’s Cut” of one of those games and a “Score Attack” of one of the games in the other package. Volume 1 includes the first two Amiga games while Volume 2 has the third. Volume 1 has the first Super Nintendo Turrican game, while its sequel and the Sega game are in Volume 2.
Each game has some bonus features, including scans of manuals from all sorts of regions. For older games like these, the manuals can be super helpful for understanding both the story and gameplay mechanics. On top of that, it’s pretty neat to look at how different the manuals are between regions.
There is also a “cheats” menu that gives you all sorts of ways to make the difficult games easier. Unfortunately, you have to actually beat one of the games in order to unlock that menu. I really wish some of those options could be enabled from the beginning, especially the infinite lives option. However, save states and a rewind function are there, and liberal use of them will help even new players get through the games.
It’s hard not to feel a bit salty about the way the games are divided between these collections, but otherwise, the package is nice. The inclusion of extra features and some emulation functionality is great. You can also click on the analog stick on any level in any game to get a super zoomed-out view of what you’ve uncovered in a level, which helps you find your way back when you get lost.
Oddities about the split collection aside, I am glad I got the opportunity to check out Turrican Anthology Vol. 1. I’d always written off early PC games as a lesser tier than their console counterparts, but I had a blast playing through Turrican. Right after I finished it, I started up Turrican 2 and loved the slight tweaks to the UI, sound design, and weapons.
After a few levels of the second game, I was ready to come to write this review, giving it a big recommendation to both nostalgic fans and newcomers like me. But I figured it’d be a disservice not to check out the whole package, so after that, I booted up Super Turrican: Director’s Cut.
Oh, friends. Turrican and Turrican 2 are a lot of fun, but it turns out I’ll always be a console gamer. Super Turrican takes the unique level design ideas of those first two games and covers it in a high gloss coat of glorious 16-bit Super Nintendo paint and I just… I can’t look back. I’m still going to try to play the PC games, but now I’m mostly looking forward to cracking into Super Turrican 2 and Mega Turrican in the second volume!