Turrican Anthology Vol. I (NS) - ReviewEvan Norris , posted on 01 August 2022 / 1,868 Views
For a series that hasn't been active since 1995, Turrican has enjoyed a lot of attention lately. Last year saw the release of Turrican Flashback, a compilation of four Turrican titles enhanced with some quality of life fixes and customization options, and earlier this year witnessed the long-awaited arrival of the physical version of Turrican Anthology, split into two volumes. That two-part anthology arrived on Switch and PS4 in digital format last week, and covers five mainline games, several "director's cuts" and score attack modes, and customization options that go beyond the already impressive assortment in the Flashback anthology.
Read on to learn more about Turrican Anthology Vol. I, or click here to read our review forTurrican Anthology Vol. II.
The first volume of Turrican Anthology brings with it an undeniable sense of déjà vu. Anyone who invested in 2021's Turrican Flashback will already own three of the five games on offer here: Turrican, Turrican II, and the SNES pseudo-sequel Super Turrican. The remaining two titles — Super Turrican Director's Cut (SNES) and Mega Turrican Score Attack (Genesis/Mega Drive) — are unique to Vol. I.
Turrican, the game that started it all, remains a rock-solid run-and-gun game with great music and engrossing maze-like levels. Turrican II: The Final Fight is generally considered the finest of the franchise, and for good reason. It streamlined the weapons systems, introduced more interesting and varied levels, invented new scrolling shoot-'em-up stages, and delivered a synth soundtrack for the ages. Super Turrican, which pulls in elements from the first three games but adds some mechanics and stages all its own, is the weakest of the series, but still worth playing for side-scrolling shooter fans.
That brings us to the exclusives: Super Turrican Director's Cut and Mega Turrican Score Attack. As mentioned above, Super Turrican is a relatively weak link in the series. This is due in no small part to its troubled development history. Developed by Factor 5 as a 6MB game, the SNES title was ultimately cut down by 33 percent to accommodate the publisher's desire for a cheaper 4MB cartridge. The end result was an uneven, anti-climactic game that skipped over the final boss encounter altogether. The Director's Cut of Super Turrican aims to fix this.
Regrettably, the Director's Cut is only partially successful. The good news is that it adds some brand new content. The tail end of one of the snow levels is extended, with some interesting robotic monsters that must be thawed out before you can damage them, and there's a completely new airship level, which is a lot of fun. The bad news is that the game doesn't get a true final boss; it still ends rather abruptly with the alien creature that serves as the penultimate boss in Mega Turrican. It also has a few visual or audio quirks, like missing sound effects or absent hit animations with the alien boss.
Ultimately, the term "director's cut" in the context of Super Turrican is a bit of a misnomer. It's really more of an early, unfinished build that has unreleased content but lacks the polish of the official 1993 version. Still, it's a fascinating piece of gaming history.
The final part to Turrican Anthology Vol. I is Mega Turrican Score Attack, which deploys the moves, enemies, and power-ups of the Genesis game Mega Turrican in a single expansive level, remixed from elements of the original game. The purpose here is to collect the most items possible and then get to the exit as quickly as you can, in order to get a high score and rank. It doesn't make up for the omission of the original Mega Turrican, but it's a surprisingly addictive score-chasing mode that smartly leverages that game's grappling hook mechanic.
So, in summary, in Vol. I you get three Turrican games — one good, one great, one decent — a prototype version of Super Turrican with a new level, and a score attack mode based on Mega Turrican. In last year's Flashback collection, you get the same three Turrican games, plus Mega Turrican.
While the Flashback compendium has more full games, it's missing some of the special features available in this new anthology. Indeed, developer Ratalaika Games has gone above and beyond with the quality-of-life fixes and customization options here. You'll find many of the same visual features from last year's collection, including scanlines, shaders, and CRT filters, plus mappable controls and save states. But you'll find even more that's exclusive to this anthology, including an upgraded rewind feature, and the option to swap between 50Hz and 60Hz for the two Amiga games, Turrican and Turrican II. You can also modify the logic of several commands, and pick among several control schemes: console, modern, or, if you're a purist or masochist, Amiga.
That's just the start, though. In my review of Turrican Flashback, I lamented the absence of concept art and digitized manuals. Well, no longer. Ratalaika scanned in manuals from several regions, and added a section in the main menu for unlockable concept art (I haven't been able to determine the unlock criteria yet). The developer also fixed one of the biggest gaps in Flashback by adding a jukebox for each game. What's more, players can now select their soundtrack of choice for each game from the following options: emulated, original remastered by Chris Huelsbeck, or studio remix.
The biggest bonus feature, though, might be the new map functionality. At any time, in any game, you can press the R3 button to bring up a map that shows you exactly where you are in a given level. On this map, you can choose everything you want to see: secrets, power-ups, diamonds, enemies, hazards, or none of the above. If you wish, you can even activate a map in the borders of the screen that scrolls in real time with the game. This is a huge quality-of-life boost, particularly for the two Amiga Turrican titles, which feature the most labyrinthine levels.
Finally, in terms of performance, each game seems perfectly emulated, without any framerate hitches or bugs.
Turrican Anthology Vol. I, which retails for $34.99, has several enjoyable games, some nice bonus content, multiple quality-of-life features, and an overwhelming list of visual, audio, and mechanical options. That said, it's missing Mega Turrican, which already showed up in Turrican Flashback and now appears in Turrican Anthology Vol. II. While this collection has more individual experiences and many more customization options, the line-up is arguably inferior to Flashback. As a result, last year's collection would be easier to recommend to general players, while this first volume would be better suited for collectors and Turrican super fans.
This review is based on a digital copy of Turrican Anthology Vol. I for the NS, provided by the publisher.