Monday 22 August 2022

Turrican Anthology Vol 1 and 2 Review (Switch)


“Retro gaming” has almost become a redundant title in recent years. The restoration and archiving of old titles have become common practice; with classic games being reissued, forgotten titles being treated to widespread release on new hardware, previously region-locked gems getting lovingly crafted remasters, and even canned titles finally get to see the light of day. The Turrican series falls into the much-loved at the time yet forgotten catagory, the series starting out as a showcase for the then-aging C64 as a technical marvel. Better versions followed, of course, but it’s odd that the original has been omitted from both volumes of the Turrican Anthology.

With the word “anthology” in the title I’d have expected a comprehensive selection of games, at the very least the original version of the first game should show its face, but not here. Each anthology includes three titles (four if you include one director’s cut in each) and what is effectively a demo version of a game from the other collection. The first volume has the Amiga Versions of Turrican and Turrican 2, and Super Turrican and its Director’s Cut from the SNES, and while volume two has Super Turrican 2, the Amiga’s Turrican 3 and its Mega Drive equivalent, Mega Turrican, also with a Director’s cut. While the games are the best the series has to offer, the price of admission (£29.99 each) feels a little steep, but with the rights to the series being spread over so many parties it’s understandable that costs need to be recovered.

The series has its roots in the platforming/shooting genre and may look like a Metroid homage on first glance. The levels – while large - are linear, so the similarities only go as deep as Turrican’s morph ball. The first game’s primary influence was obscure Data East title Psycho-Nics Oscar, and it really does fall into the run-and-gun genre; blast stuff, power ups aplenty, and big bosses. The games really throw enemies and hazards at you, but the use of a health bar rather than a one-hit kill gives the player a bit of breathing room compared to something like Contra. The pace is slower overall, but things can get frantic at times.

All the games stand up as well now as they did back in the 90s. The first two Turricans offer a decent 16-bit shooting through some cavernous levels. The SNES titles combine elements of the first two and slap more colours and some Mode 7 trickery over the top to offer a prettier experience. The real star of the show however is Mega Turrican. While it’s essentially the same game as the Amiga’s Turrican 3 in terms of graphics and levels, it plays much better. I often felt the two were inseparable, but having compared them side-by-side, the Mega Drive’s blast processor really allowed the game to run at a brisk pace, and the Amiga game seems to stutter in comparison.

The games themselves have been given a lot of attention, with perfect ports and a plethora of features to please the time starved and hardcore, through the ability to enable or disable features such as rewind, save states and the like. There’s also a lovely CRT filter if you really want to relive the halcyon days of playing on a 14-inch TV. Each title runs like a dream, and it’s a joy to be able to play Amiga games without faffing with emulation (Factor 5 host files for the Amiga game on their site for free legal download) or original hardware.

The price is the only real downer, as you’re still paying £60 for a handful of 16-bit games, but you could still justify it as a saving on buying the originals. As it stands, these anthologies offer the most reasonably priced way to play these titles (just check out the prices for Super Turrican 2 on eBay), and the emulation is top-notch as always. It’s nice to see Amiga titles making an appearance here (more of this, please), and the addition of modern conveniences is always appreciated, even though it’s pretty much a given these days.

Aside from the pricing, my other minor complaint is the omission of other versions of the first two games. While I’m sure even getting this many games together was a herculean feat of rights-wrangling and publisher schmoozing, it would have been great to have the option of playing the home computer or console ports of the first two games. Having the option of playing the reskinned Turrican 2 in the form of Universal Soldier would have been the cherry on the cake, but this would’ve been a big ask just to satisfy this old obsessive-compulsive collector.

If you’re only going to pick up one of these collections, I’d say Volume 2 is the one to go for, as Mega Turrican is the pinnacle of the series. Of course, you can also pick up the previously released Turrican Flashback, as this includes the first two games, Super Turrican and Mega Turrican. Whichever you choose will provide plenty of solid run-and-gun action, whether you’re a grizzled 90s gamer or a newcomer to the series. And if this is your first time playing, “welcome to Turrican. Hahahahahahaha!”.


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