Turrican Flashback – Nintendo Switch Review

Overview – developed by Factor 5 and Ratalaika Games, with publishing handled by ININ Games, Turrican Flashback is a collection of four platform action titles in the legendary franchise. This compilation covers titles released for the Amiga, Mega Drive/Genesis and Super NES with enhancements and features added to create the ultimate classic Turrican experience. Turrican Flashback is available for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4, links to both versions of this release will be available at the bottom of this review.

Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank PR Hound for providing the copy of Turrican Flashback that was used for this piece. The provision of this title has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.

Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review. I will be covering this collection in a different format compared to the usual structure of my reviews, with segmented coverage for the gameplay of each title before discussing the other aspects of the bundle.

Gameplay – to start this off, I will be giving a brief background of the Turrican franchise before I delve into the games themselves. Turrican was released in 1990 for the Commodore Amiga during the peak of the systems popularity, leading to the game becoming one of the most successful German exports of its time. The success of Turrican was due to the open ended approach to non-linear level exploration, combined with the tight action platforming gameplay.

The positive critical reception for Turrican led to sequels, ports and a devoted fan base that still go back and play the games to this day. This has led us to the release of Turrican Flashback, a compilation of four games that span three consoles during the series heyday. These games are;

Turrican: released in 1990 for Commodore home computers, the game was so popular that it led to the Turrican being ported to other systems during 1990 and 1991. The plot is simple, armed with an arsenal of high tech weaponry, the bio-engineered warrior Turrican, must travel through the five multi-level worlds in order to eliminate the higher intelligence MORGUL. The Multiple Organism Unit Link is a being of warped intellect and murderous intent, which has warped the native life of Alterra to fit its destructive purposes.

The player is tasked with clearing the large open ended levels, exploring their environment and battling the bio engineered enemies that stalk the lost colony of Alterra. This run and gun title stood out from many other games of its time, featuring non-linear level progression, a focus on exploration and many secrets to be discovered in each stage. Introduced in the first game are many of the mechanics that would be carried over to subsequent releases, including upgradable weaponry, hidden items and a special limited use wheel skill to aid exploration.

The weaponry available to the player is a beam, spread and standard shot that can be upgraded by collecting power-ups dropped by enemies and in hidden blocks. These attacks are consistent and can be changed by picking up different in game items, mixing up the attacks that the player can use. There is a second type of weapon available which are limited in use (but more can be collected), explosives that deal immense damage to enemies. The attacks are the Line, which covers all open spaces, the grenade that causes huge explosive damage and the mine that can be used in a tactical form.  

Each of the stages has an open exploration style to it, with hidden paths and objects scattered throughout, there is even a dedicated laser weapon to aid in finding the many secrets. At some points in the levels, the player can encounter strong enemies which block progression or have treasures behind them, along with boss battles to end each world of the game. This game also features two different gameplay styles, with scrolling shooter sections that turn the game from being a Metroid style platform action game to a linear shooter, changing things up at these points.

Turrican II: in 1991, the first sequel to Turrican was released for the Commodore Amiga. Much like the first game, Turrican II was ported to other platforms and even MS-DOS computers. The year is 3025, peace has been attained in the Cobra 2 galaxy through the power of the United Planets Freedom Forces. The United Planets Ship, the Avalon 1 is travelling through the outer reaches of the known universe when it is suddenly attacked by the Cyborg emperor The Machine. After a long battle, the only one left alive is Bren McGuire, a soldier that dons the suit of the Turrican and embarks on a quest for revenge.

The core gameplay mechanics are the same as its predecessor for the most part, the game is made up of five multi-level worlds that each have their own theme. The exploration, hidden objects and upgradable weaponry returns in this title, with some distinct changes being made to other aspects of the game. First the wheel skill is now freely accessible, rather than being limited use which gives greater flexibility to the ability. The selection of explosive weapons has been altered and a new smart bomb attack has been implemented, filling the screen with attacks and destroying all enemies on screen.

The scrolling shooter sections return in a different format, rather than being only vertical scrolling sections these stages go on both axis directions, giving more depth to these challenging sequences. The large scale bosses also return, with difficult challenges that can take the player out quickly in both platforming and scrolling shooter style battles. These changes that are made to this release give more depth to the overall gameplay that is on offer, along with the other quality of life changes in the sequel that make for a better complete experience over the original.

Mega Turrican: this title was the first Turrican game developed with consoles in mind after the gradual decline of the Amiga. Due to this, the game was moved to the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis with development completed in 1993 but publishing delayed until 94. The plot follows Bren McGuire, the hero from Turrican II, who must go into battle again after the unexpected return of The Machine, the villain that he battled before. Following the return of his enemy, Bren must don his Turrican assault suit again and go into battle again.

Due to the change in hardware, the gameplay changes are brief yet noticeable but they do provide a refreshing change of pace compared to the previous titles. First, the sprawling level designs return, featuring many secrets and perilous traps that can lead to certain doom. Each of the five worlds is split into stages that are filled with challenging enemies and obstacles to overcome, each world culminates with a boss battle and some stages have smaller sub boss encounters for player to battle. The weapon upgrades also return, with three types of attack that players can use in game denoted by color.

What is different is the removal of the laser, which has been replaced with a grappling hook that allows the player to swing to areas that appear out of reach. The wheel has been altered to have a proprietary energy meter that depletes as it is used, being locked off when all energy is gone but the player can drop explosives while the skill is active. The last change and the most significant one is the removal of the scrolling shooter sections, which are replaced auto scrolling platform action sequences that mix the gameplay up enough to make it feel like it fits.  

Super Turrican: being originally released in 1993, Super Turrican is the first of two games that were developed for the Super Nintendo in the Turrican franchise. The story focuses on the peaceful world of Katakis, which has been targeted by the mechanical monster The Machine, who has frozen the inhabitants to reconstruct the world in its own twisted vision. A cry for help was sent out and the Avalon-1, piloted by the Freedom Forces warrior picks this up and after hearing a million voices suddenly silenced he sets off to Katakis on a mission to destroy The Machine.

The look on the Super Nintendo is similar to that of Mega Drive/Genesis but closer follows the gameplay style of the Amiga titles, using mechanics that are borrowed from the three previously discussed games. The attack upgrades, wheel and line explosive attacks return in this title, although the laser/grapple have been removed and replaced with a freeze beam attack that stuns enemies for a moment. The game is made up of only four worlds this time, but each world is still made up of several stages with the final level being taken directly from Mega Turrican.

The boss battles are still impressive, with occasional use of sprite transformations that allow enemies to move from the background into the screen. Unfortunately this is the biggest use of the graphical power that the Super Nintendo was capable of. The hidden objects, exploration and secrets are still included which are a welcome inclusion given the more linear approach that the game takes with this release. Super Turrican is a fun and exciting title, but is sadly lacking in the depth of gameplay that the other games in the series have, with little to make it stand out aside from some simple gimmicks.

Now with the gameplay aspect of each game covered briefly, I will be moving onto the other aspects of the game. I will also be adding a new section to discuss the features that have been added exclusively to this collection, so let’s get started with that.

Special Features – as a compilation of ported titles, rather than just an emulation of the hardware each game is tied to, there are some special features that this game has added to make the experience fresh for new and old players. New color filters have been added to the Amiga releases to give the player more graphical options, with a rewind feature that allows players to fix mistakes and even save/load states to give more flexibility to the player. These improvements make the individual games more fun and give them additional longevity.

Difficulty – the challenges present in all four Turrican games are tough, with enemies attacking from all sides and deadly traps that can take the player out easily. The use of the rewind feature, save/load states and even cheats can help to reduce the challenge for players who may not be used to the level of difficulty. The Amiga games don’t have a selectable difficulty, but the Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive/Genesis games do have selectable challenge settings, so players can manually adjust the level of difficulty.

Controls – Turrican on the Amiga would use a keyboard as the system was a home computer at the time, using several different keys for different attacks. The home console games use a mix of button combinations and dedicated inputs to use all skills. In this compilation, the button inputs are spread across the controller, allowing for quick use and even remapping of the controls for all types of players. There are no input issues and the reactions are great, with the controls being comfortable with both pro controllers and the Joy-Cons in all play styles.

Presentation – the visual style of all Turrican titles is vibrant and was cutting edge for the time, with large sprites, colorful backgrounds and crisp pixel art. All of the animations, transitions and effects are outstanding with little lag or slowdown given the graphical limitations of the time for the each systems hardware. There is also a suite of options for players to alter the visual presentation of the game, including screen sizes, graphical filters, pixel filters and even CRT settings that attempt to emulate the look of a monitor from the 90’s.

The sound on average is quite good, using a combination of brooding synth and bright melodies for the Amiga soundtracks that give the worlds a lot of atmosphere, bringing the environments to life. The Mega Drive and Super Nintendo soundtracks are in stark contrast to the Amiga, with both titles having their own strengths and weaknesses. The Super Nintendo has a softer sound to it, giving the bass more chance to stand out but lacking any real punch. On the other side, the Mega Drive has more of a kick to it, which gives the drum beat and melodies a chance to really shine during play.

Final Thoughts – when I first saw that Turrican was having a compilation released, I was excited since the only exposure I had to the games was the unfortunately downgraded ports for the Mega Drive and Game Boy of Turrican II as a movie tie in. The opportunity to play the originals in as close to how they released was a real treat, causing me to lose countless hours in both enjoyment and frustration during my time playing. That complex balance between getting annoyed by a cheap death and the sheer joy of succeeding against a tough boss was all part of the experience.

This is an excellent collection of games, showcasing the quality of a franchise that deserves more than it unfortunately got during its prime. I just hope that more games in the Turrican franchise (including the directors cuts) will get the chance to be released in the future, possibly even new games getting released in the future. With everything I experienced during my time playing, I can happily recommend this game to fans of platform action games and those who want to try something new (and old at the same time).

In the end, I give Turrican Flashback a final score of 5/5. The games in the bundle are a lot of fun, causing me to lose many, many hours trying to clear each game for this review. The presentation and quality of life improvements are a great thing as it gives the games a chance to be appreciated by a new audience. If you want to check the collection out for yourself, you will find links to each version below.

Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)

Link to PlayStation 4 version (HERE)

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