Insert Disk collects the Turrican series. Part 2 of 3.
Today’s retro game review is part 2 of a 3 part mini-series looking at the Turrican series. This classic retro game series will look at Turrican, Turrican 2 and Turrican 3 (Mega Turrican / Payment Day). These three games represent the main canon trilogy of the Turrican series. In Turrican Manfred Trenz created one of the most iconic run and gun series of all time. Join me this week as I reminisce over three of the major outings in the Turrican series.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. Welcome back to part 2 of this retrospective of the Turrican series. In the previous episode we looked back at the original release of Turrican. In summary, it was good, if anything too good. How could Turrican 2 possibly live up to the hype? The original was a masterpiece, releasing a sequel surely couldn’t match it, or could it?
To this day Turrican 2 remains a monumental achievement. The development team balanced the fine line of innovation and progression against the need to not stray too far from the main mechanics and concepts.
So, how did it turn out? Quite frankly, Turrican 2 is one of the best games of all time. The development team took everything we loved from the original and injected the formula with an overwhelming dose of pixelated steroids. The weapons, more explosive than ever… The graphics, smoother than ever… The open worlds, larger than ever… The enemies, more cunning than ever… And the music, perhaps the best video game soundtrack of all time.
Before we get in to this I have to say that if you’ve never played Turrican 2 it is an absolute must for you to as soon as possible. Hopefully straight after this mini series. When presented with such perfection in a sequel it’s genuinely difficult to know where to start. In terms of the weaponry you’ll now be treated to more weapons than ever with smoother execution. Tearing through the hordes of alien life forms has never been so much fun. There’s just something in the execution that makes Turrican 2 bigger and brighter than its predecessor. The mechanics are the same in terms of weapon upgrades. In general it’s a case of find a weapon tile and let rip in to it for a bonanza of goodies. The graphics on the ammo are brighter than before and weapons such as the bounce shot really show off the capabilities of the 16-bit systems. You’ll find that the levels are supremely enjoyable your blast your way through. Small details such as the animated backgrounds or the colour gradient shifts depending on height all add to the sense of depth. As you might expect Turrican 2 does take many of its cues from the original. Enemies have been recycled in places but only their concept. Everything has been redrawn and movement paths and shot behaviour re-written.
When you play Turrican 2 you know that you’re playing an extension of the original game rather than an attempt to reinvent the wheel. Certain aspects of the game are new. Updated powerups give a super screen clearing ability. It’s always a special moment when you get to release this on the enemy. Perhaps the most notable element of Turrican 2 is its soundtrack. Chris Hülsbeck made his triumphant return to the series with a soundtrack that live on to this day. Tracks such as “The Final Fight” and “the Dessert Rocks” represent some of the best retro gaming compositions of all time. Type in “Turrican 2 Music” in to YouTube and you’ll be treated to over 80,000 videos. Everything from modern remixes to footage of the “Chris Hülsbeck symphonic shades” concert. Turrican 2 broke down barriers in what it meant to include a game soundtrack. Compositions so phenomenal that their influence reached far outside the regular channels of mainstream gamers.
Turrican 2s winning formula lies deep within its coding. The key is that when you play Turrican 2, other than a very 90’s colour pallet you’re not going to see the general game play experience out of step with more modern games. The controls are surprisingly intuitive but it’s the smooth scrolling and relentless action that sums up the experience. The level sizes are very generous yet there is no slowdown of in level loading times. After all these years you can boot up Turrican 2 and be safe in the knowledge that you will be playing a very smooth and well-polished run and gun with strong elements of platforming and exploration.
As well as the original captured this collection of attributes, Turrican 2 really took all of this to the next level. In essence, it’s well thought out game design and execution that makes Turrican 2 standout as a retro gaming classic. In terms of a physical release the designers went with a familiar theme. Ah, Turrican 2: The Final Fig. It’s a brave collector that tries to remove that price sticker. The box is as iconic as the first game but even more dramatic, as far as box art goes this is top notch stuff. Inside the box you’ll receive the familiar game cassette and also the game manual. The manual imagery covers 1 image split across the front and back cover, cleverly incorporating the Rainbow arts logo in to the hero’s belt region. The manual content itself is really clear and easy to understand. Not too long but enough to cover everything you need to know from controls to item pickups. I’m also really happy to report that the hand drawn cartoons are back. They really aren’t needed for any purpose other than to tell the gamer that the team that made this game care about the final product. These final personal touches are what are missing from many mass released games of later years in my opinion.
It’s clear to anyone that’s played Turrican 2 that the game is a masterpiece, technically and in terms of end user enjoyment. The original Turrican set the bar high, Turrican 2 sailed past it in every department. Both games are excellent and both equally playable. I favour Turrican 2 only because it is essentially an enhanced version of the original. The original will always be the yard stick that the rest of the games are measured against though. To this day Turrican 2 is a must play go to game for retro gaming collectors and younger gamers looking to understand the history of gaming.
On a personal recommendation, Turrican 2 certainly makes it very high on my list of all time most influential and great games to play. As a footnote in history the game design was also licenced out to Accolade to be release as a Universal Soldier movie tie in. With some edits to the character sprites and some needless level design changes the game was released. Many mainstream Turrican fans have disowned this entry in the series though. It is worth investigating though if you are a completionist collector. With Turrican 1 and Turrican 2 being a technical and commercial success there was much talk of a trilogy on the cards.
Turrican 3 did happen but its route to market wasn’t so simple. The game became Turrican 3: Payment Day on the Amiga but released under the title Mega Turrican on the Sega Mega Drive and Sega Genesis. Turrican 3 represents the end of the mainstream cannon Turrican releases. Join me in the next episode as we wrap up the trilogy and take a brief look at the second tier Turrican entries in the series.