This week, ININ Games, Factor 5 and Ratalaika are bringing back a beloved franchise from the home computer era: Turrican. Turrican Flashback is a compilation of four games and is being released for the Nintendo Switch and the PlayStation 4 in both digital and physical form. We’re reviewing the PlayStation 4 version here, which is also compatible with the PS5.
For those who grew up with Commodore Amiga and/or Atari ST, the name Turrican is a true hallmark of excellence from the early 90s. Turrican Flashback pays homage to that by including four games from the franchise in a single package. Turrican and Turrican II: The Final Fight are included, as are the console titles Mega Turrican (for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive) and Super Turrican (the SNES version – there was also an NES one).
Mega Turrican was also ported back to home computers and released as Turrican III there, so essentially you’ve got a trilogy here that also includes a reimagined version of the console release in Super Turrican. Unfortunately there’s not a lot of background information in the compilation itself apart from a brief description for each game, so those looking for a ‘museum’-like treatment might feel disappointed on that front.
The games themselves return in all their former glory though, with plenty of modern enhancements. Those mainly translate to visual options, which for instance lets you scale the display to modern widescreen TVs, select a background image or change the display filter. The controls have also been tweaked to feature a more ‘modern’ approach, though purists might feel they make things more complicated than they were before.
Back in the day, I remember controlling Turrican and Turrican II with a single button controller. This wasn’t enough for everything that your intergalactic action hero could do, but when combined with the space bar you had a bunch of attacks and moves available to you. Pressing the fire button would fire your current gun, holding it down would trigger a power beam weapon. The space bar would fire off a ‘blast wall’ as a special weapon, but when crouching it would turn you into a rolling ball of spikes – one that could also lay down little mines with the regular fire button.
It sounds complex and maybe even convoluted on paper, but it absolutely worked as a two-button approach. In Turrican Flashback, nearly every single one of those actions is mapped to a different gamepad button – which certainly trigged a few “how do I do this again?” moments that you don’t want when things get hectic. I ended up remapping the controls a bit and eased into it after an hour or so, but I would certainly have enjoyed a two-button approach as an option as someone coming from the home computer era.
Luckily, that’s just nitpicking, because the games themselves are as brilliant as ever. I believe that all four games are emulated from the originals based on seeing people like Steve Snake in the credits, but rather than a simple emulator to make these games work on modern consoles ININ and the developers have made sure all kinds of modern conveniences have been included. Besides the aforementioned display options and controls, this also means there’s a rewind button now – so in case you make a mistake you can rewind the action and try again.
The point of that? Overcoming what is a series of very challenging games and seeing everything they have to offer. This disables trophies, but does allow you to enjoy all of the brilliant smooth scrolling, the diversity in gameplay (from action platformer to shoot ’em up) and of course the masterful soundtracks from Chris Huelsback – I consider the one for Turrican II to be an all-time great in videogaming history.
These games aren’t the technical marvels they were back in the day, but because they were so well programmed they’ve all stood the test of time. This is a must-have for Turrican fans and those interested in a piece of gaming history. It’s not perfect because a two-button control scheme to mimic the original and some more museum-like content would have been nice, and it’s missing Super Turrican 2. And if we’re allowed to dream then I would have loved to see a build of the canceled Turrican 3D in there as well. And while we’re on the topic…. can we ask for a new entry in the series? It’s great to have Turrican back.