I was not a fan of Turrican on the Genesis. I get that to Europeans it was a beloved classic but to me it was a game full of glaring flaws. It was clearly a case of you had to be there to appreciate it. Yet Super Turrican changed my mind about the series. All it took was stripping away a good deal of what made it unique. Although the large open levels are gone in favor of more straightforward action Super Turrican retains most of the same mechanics. It is also one of my favorite action games for the system after Contra III.
Despite the name this is not an enhanced port of the original. Super Turrican is a weird mish mash of both the original and Mega Turrican. It makes sense considering both games were in development simultaneously at Factor 5. The focus on action is a lot heavier although there are still plenty of open levels to explore. If the planned content had made it into the game in my opinion it would be one of the best titles for the system. That is strong praise and the game deserves it.
The most egregious flaws present in the original Turrican have been corrected. One of the most frustrating aspects of that game was the lack of invincibility when hit. The simplest enemy could drain your life bar in seconds without you noticing. Now taking a hit knocks you back and makes the game infinitely more playable. The difficulty has been bumped up as a result; you can only take four or five hits before death.
I like the way the primary weapons have been redesigned, remaining familiar while being more effective. The spread shot’s range has been increased to make up for its lack of power. The laser beam is my favorite. Instead of a single beam of light it produces a string of energy bullets fired in rapid succession. It is the most powerful and best weapon all around. The reflecting shot was never my favorite and despite its changes that hasn’t changed. It’s much bigger but is still far too annoying to use reliably. The laser whip has been changed to a freeze beam that doesn’t damage enemies while the morph ball can drop bombs like Samus. Unfortunately its use is limited as it is governed by a meter. Both of these signature elements did not need to be changed and as such see far less use.
Although those features have changed the level design offers a bit of the old and new. The first two worlds are reimagined versions of stages from Turrican 1 & 2. These are easily familiar to fans of the series as they contain the same open structure. There are plenty of power-ups and secrets to find and even the invisible item boxes return. The final area is a complete Alien rip off, to the point I wonder how they were not sued. This level is also present in Mega Turrican and while derivative is actually pretty strong.
It isn’t completely old content as there is a new volcanic area and the sole original stage, an ice themed world. This particular level stand outs as it linear but houses a few cool mechanics. You can utilize snowballs to help your platforming and one sequence involves using changing wind currents to climb up a mountain. These few original areas stand out for a few reasons. They are incredibly linear but house some interesting mechanics. If the game were solely composed of new stages like these Super Turrican would have been a much better title. This is evidenced by its superior sequel.
For such a small game cartridge wise Super Turrican houses insane production values. The art direction is incredibly strong with each world being visually distinct. The artists’ use of color is simply incredible, giving the game a vibrant that really makes the sprite work pop. Considering the developer’s pedigree the use of special effects such as Mode 7 is surprisingly kept to a minimum. The most impressive technical feat is the complete lack of slowdown. Simply magic. The game also houses an excellent soundtrack in Dolby Surround Sound. I wouldn’t fully appreciate that last point until many years later and it really is amazing.
The only serious flaw is the game’s length: I want more! There are only four main worlds and though each is comprised of multiple sub stages it doesn’t feel like enough. With one two more worlds this would have been a classic. The fault squarely lies on the game’s publisher: the game was originally planned for a larger cartridge. But the publisher forced Factor 5 to cut it down to 6, losing a world and an actual ending in the process. You don’t even get to fight the Machine! What a damn shame.
It’s a little bit short but excellent nonetheless. Super Turrican is an excellent action title with great graphics, a beautiful soundtrack, and cool mechanics to match. Somehow it has kept a low profile over the years but do not pass this up.