I must admit that I wasn't a turrican fan in my youth. The whole of my experiences with the series prior to this involves one weekend with Mega Turrican where I spent more time swinging on the grappling beam than actually trying to advance through the game. So other than a replay here and there of Mega Turrican after its release on the Virtual Console and a little bit of message board chatter, I was pretty much going in blind for Super Turrican. I didn't have a manual for the game either as it was one of the first games I picked up at the Play N' Trade that had opened up nearby. Fortunately, I was prepared for this eventuality, having grown up in the time when rentals were popular and having or not having a manual was not a detriment as we expected to be able to figure a game out, at least enough to play, in five minutes.
And Super Turrican is no different. The buttons configurtion is simple. You can shoot, jump, fire off a green beam, and let loose with an explosive blast. Of course, there is more that you can do, but those are the moves one figures out by accident. Such as ducking and pressing jump turns our hero into an indestructible ball that rolls at high speeds and is cappable of laying mines or dropping bombs. The green beam can also be rotated to locate hidden platforms or stun enemies. The game plays like one part Metroid, one part Contra, one part shump, rolled into a ball of hell.
This game is definitive proof that a level designer can hate you. Sure, it starts off easily enough. The first level is pretty much a cake walk, but there are moments when the game shows signs of the evil that will soon befall you. In the first few minutes of game play, the player comes to a temple and a series of gaps, a storm begins to rage. In this storm, lightening can strike the player, and wind can blow hard enough to stop the player in their tracks. The player must contend with this, the enemies, and make the jumps required to advance.
Most of those that have played this are probably rolling your eyes right now. That trap might catch them once or twice, maybe more if you really weren't paying attention. But that is my point. Super Turrican does not need to surprise you to be difficult. It doesn't need random drop away floors or bullets that come from nowhere. No, every trap, every enemy, every bullet is clears placed in front of you. The signs for the traps are always there, but the elements of the level design make it so that does not matter. You will get hit; you will die.
But the game designers haven't hung you out to dry. The hero of Turrican isn't like the boys from Contra. He won't die in just one hit, he can roll into an invicible ball, and his weapons are useful. Taking a page from the book of shumps, our hero is able to collect different collored gems: Blue, Red, or yellow. These gems grant the hero the abilty to fire a powerful laser, a spread shot, or a richochet shot respectively. Each of these weapons powers up as the player collects more gems, and changing weapons does not reset the other weapons power levels to one. If you have a fully powered up spread shot and pick up the laser beam, it will still be a fully powered up spread shot when you go back.
Lives are also plentiful, but you could go the whole level and not find a single one. That's because the levels are built like a tree. Your ultimate goal is to climb the tree as fast as you can (yes, there is is a time limit), but if you take the time to go out on the branches and beat those challenges, the game rewards you with an extra life. In total, there are about tweleve extra lives in the first level alone. And you will need them, you will bo going through them like Rambo goes through bullets, especially your first time through.
Speeking of 80's action movies, that's what this game reminds me of, especially the music. The pumping, upbeat rhythms are drum heavy, and of the ones I survived to hear, many would fit as an action movie's theme. They're a bit more upbeat than one would expect to hear in the heat of the action, but they mesh well with the space theme and the vibrant colors of the game.
It took me a long time to actually get into Super Turrican. Many things are not obvious, but if you stick with the game, you will discover a shooter with a surprising amount of depth, challenge, and that zany fairness that all evil masterminds have because they want to prolong the suffering of their prey. But if you stick with it, and out wit that mastermind, you will find that it's definitely a worthy addition to any collection of Retro Treasures.
I'm the Retro Gamer, and I'm on the hunt.
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