Fans of run and gun action platformers like Contra that don’t know what “Turrican” is are about to have their worlds blown apart thanks to the upcoming release of Turrican Flashback. Available on the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch on January 29th, 2021, Turrican Flashback is a four-game compilation that features Turrican, Turrican 2: The Final Fight, Mega Turrican, and Super Turrican.
Initially released in 1990 on the Commodore 64 and Amiga, Turrican shocked many fans worldwide with its incredible level design, excellent animated graphics, and superb music soundtrack by Chris Huelsbeck. After the first game found decent success, Factor 5 developed several sequels and ports for various game platforms, including the NES, Super Nintendo, and Sega Genesis.
The Turrican Flashback collection represents a nice middle-ground for the variety of releases that the Turrican saga has had. Turrican 1 and 2 are the original releases from the Commodore Amiga computer. Mega Turrican represents the series launch on the Sega Genesis or Mega Drive. Finally, Super Turrican represents the 16-bit Nintendo console release on the Super Nintendo. Factor 5 and ININ Games have included several new features to enhance each of these games featured in the compilation. Several graphics options exist to display the games, including a pixel perfect scaling option, pixel smoothing, and various backgrounds to replace the black borders if you want to add some substance to what would typically be black space. Save States are also a welcome addition, allowing you to stop and pick up your game again whenever you can. My favorite new feature takes place in-game, and it will enable you to rewind the action at any time. Fell into a pit? Rewind! Did you just get ripped to shreds by a boss because you forgot to roll into a ball? Rewind. Turrican purists might find it as a cheap way to beat the games, but for new fans, it’s a great way to continue to explore the games and see what they offer if things get too frustrating.
Do the Turrican games still hold up after 30 years? As someone who only briefly played Super Turrican on the Super Nintendo, I probably would have told you no; but this collection has shown me just how wrong I was. The first two Turrican games are an absolute tour de force that showcases just how powerful the Commodore Amiga could be in the hands of great programmers, and both games shine in every detail. Turrican 2: the Final Fight takes the nod as my favorite game in the series. It takes everything that made the first game great, like the excellent level design and variety of power-ups, and enhances them. I found the stages in the second game to be more enjoyable than the first. That certainly doesn’t mean the first one isn’t worth playing, because it is. While I appreciated Mega Turrican’s look and the action is non-stop, the new grappling hook that Turrican can utilize ended up slowing things down for me, mostly because I forgot that the grappling hook existed in the first place. I died many times because I tried making impossible jumps instead of utilizing that grappling hook, so I made great use of the rewind feature in the game.
Super Turrican was my least favorite out of the collection. While it seems to be the most graphically superior version of the four, it felt more like a greatest hits version of the original Turrican and didn’t move the needle much for me. I should also note that the Super Turrican featured in this version is the original Super Nintendo version and not the Director’s Cut that appeared on the Super NT Analogue system a few years ago.
You can’t review or talk about a Turrican game without gushing over how incredible Chris Huelsbeck’s music compositions are on the Turrican series. Huelsbeck’s music brings these games to another level with how melodic they are and how they enhance gameplay. Take one listen to the title screen music of Turrican 2, and you’ll be blown away by what you hear. Just being able to listen to this music after all these years is probably my biggest disappointment. Why? Because I know I would have cherished the music and enjoyed it 30 years ago, and the tracks would have made it over to my video game soundtrack mixtapes without question.
Turrican Flashback is an excellent look into the history of an incredible game franchise that, despite its fantastic reputation, still doesn’t get the acclaim it deserves. If you’ve ever played and enjoyed a run and gun platformer, you need to give this collection a try.