Turrican Flashback (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Albert Lichi 25.03.2021

Review for Turrican Flashback  on Nintendo Switch

The Turrican games are a series of action-platformers developed by Rainbow Arts and Factor 5. Any European gamer who was playing on an Amiga, Commodore 64, or the ZX Spectrum, was almost guaranteed to have played an entry or two. This series saw many ports to various home computers and consoles, where it could get confusing. Some would be remixed ports that had elements of other games, or in other instances, content would get cut altogether. The franchise is all over the place, and finding the best way to play these shooters has become a tremendous hassle due to the vast swath of platforms they are spread across. This is all about to change, thanks to the Turrican Flashback; a collection that aims to simplify the search and present the games in the best way possible.

Turrican Flashback includes the Amiga ports of the first two titles, which are the roughest in the compilation. Also included is the Mega Drive port of Turrican 3, Mega Turrican, which came with its own bespoke features. Lastly, Super Turrican; the Super Nintendo game that sits somewhere between remake and reboot that also might be a sequel. All four games are presented with a very slick and easy to navigate menu. The range of options for tweaking the presentation between all titles is surprisingly flexible and allows the player to customize the HUD for the first two titles to make them less intrusive, and to allow better use of the screen real estate. ININ Games took a lot of time to offer a lot of options to craft a wide range of wallpapers, CRT modifiers, and aspect ratios for those who wish for a more authentic retro experience.

Quality-o- life options, like save-states and the rewind function are present throughout all titles, and for the first two Turrican games they are utterly necessary for a fair chance at making any progress at all. There is even a section dedicated to archiving all the cheat inputs for anyone cheeky enough to want to level the playing field furthermore. There is some brief information included for each title, but there should also be scans of the manuals and a music player to allow fans to enjoy the shredding style of Chris Huelsbeck's score in one convenient menu.

Screenshot for Turrican Flashback  on Nintendo Switch

Turrican Flashback is an impressive porting of some very old titles, some of which were originally designed to run at 50 hertz. Through some kind of voodoo magic and programming trickery, the first two Turrican instalments are 60 hertz now. Modern game platforms and displays no longer support 50 hertz. This was a result of these older European games being formatted for the PAL format, which used to be the standard. Unless those who were intimately familiar with the original games on their original platforms, there is no way to notice how this has affected the games' timing or the speed of the gameplay.

Turrican is a very hard action-platformer shooter. It is absurdly unfair in most ways imaginable thanks to an in-game timer that is counter intuitive to the open ended level design that is meant to encourage exploration. Enemies move really fast, and rush on screen, and almost immediately drain all life from Turrican with no knock-back or i-frames. This is a huge issue through both of the first two, where certain death is just slightly off-screen, and will swiftly swat down anyone who thinks they can run and gun their way like Bill Rizer. This is why the timer is such a backwards mechanic in here, because playing fast will always lead to a quick termination from the insane enemy placement, and the unclear environmental threats. If it weren't for the save states and the rewind function, the first two in the compilation would take months to complete because they would demand perfect play sessions.

Screenshot for Turrican Flashback  on Nintendo Switch

Mega Turrican is where things get really interesting. While the first couple of titles in this compilation is interesting from a historical point of view, they are rotten with artificial difficulty and sloppy design that was common of its era. Mega Turrican is a very different kind of game compared to the first two, as it that tried to have vast and open levels to explore. Instead of throwing Turrican into a huge mazes that end up wasting precious seconds on the timer, Mega Turrican is a more traditionally linear platformer that introduces new mechanics, and has a greater focus on creative boss battles. At times this Euro-platformer feels like something a Japanese developer like Treasure would have developed. Robot and monster designs take on that wonderful H.R. Giger-esque body horror aesthetic that was so common in the '80s and early '90s.

Mega Turrican is easily the best of the bunch in this collection. The most notable feature that this entry brings to the formula is the grapple hook mechanic that is cleverly used for clearing unusual gaps and avoiding boss attacks where jumping becomes a liability. The focused level design makes it so the timer stops becoming a nuisance and charging enemies becomes more fair. Artistically, Mega Turrican looks the best, and the Mega Drive aesthetic really works well with the gritty heavy metal/sci-fi vibe that the series strives for. Even the music sounds more angry and metallic because of the system's sound chip.

Screenshot for Turrican Flashback  on Nintendo Switch

Super Turrican is an interesting case, since it is the one that got hacked up for release back in 1993. Sadly, Turrican Flashback does not include the "Director's Cut" of Super Turrican, which has a few levels that were cut, and some that would go on for much longer. Certain graphics got altered or simplified, and some effects got removed entirely. Vanilla Super Turrican was a more polished game, but this is probably due to it being the final release version that had the benefit of extra testing. Even though this is still the vanilla release version, it is still a righteous action title that manages a fair middle ground between the linear Mega Turrican, and wide-open courses from the first two.

Playability of Super Turrican is very responsive. Like always, Turrican can turn into a spikey ball and roll around, but now is less limited, and has even more weapons than ever. The only downside is how the beam attack is reworked into a freeze ray, which is not effective or fun to use on enemies, and the grappling hook from Mega Turrican is gone. The Alien film influences are strongly present in this one, where it laughingly borders on plagiarism. This was during a time when developers were extremely brazen and honest with their inspirations, and it couldn't be more obvious with some of the creature designs in Super Turrican.

Turrican Flashback is a great sampler compilation of what the franchise has to offer. Not everything is here unfortunately. Super Turrican 2 was a series highlight, and its absence is really hurtful. There were also many other alternate ports on other consoles that also had huge differences. There is a port of Super Turrican on NES which was really a remix of the first two games. The Gameboy and Mega Drive also saw their own versions of Turrican 2, which had big differences that weren't just visual. That is also not to mention all the other versions of the many home computer ports that were also unique. It might be too much of an undertaking to get some of these versions ported successfully, but it still is too bad that there is no Director's Cut or Super Turrican 2.

Screenshot for Turrican Flashback  on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

If it weren't for the helpful quality-of-life features added, the first two Turrican instalments would likely never be played by anyone today. This is less of an issue for the other two titles included in Turrican Flashback. Super Turrican and Mega Turrican are really exciting, and highly stimulating action games that hold up today. The only modern day indie equivalent would be Gunlord X, which cheekily mapped the beam weapon to the analogue stick for the fastest possible action. Turrican was where it began, and anyone who enjoys the likes of Contra or action games by Treasure should really give this a look.

Developer

Factor 5

Publisher

ININ Games

Genre

Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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