Turrican Anthology: Vol I (PS4)- Review

Title: Turrican Anthology: Vol I
System: PS4
Price: $39.99
Release Date: May 2022 (Physical)


Story

Over a year ago, we looked at Turrican Flashback, a compilation that seemed to be the testing ground for this compilation and its followup, both announced and put up for preorder in 2020. After a long, long, long wait that honestly got a little absurd, these compilations have finally finished up and made it out the door, so just how does this compare to Flashback, and does this volume manage to stand out on its own?

Presentation

Back when Turrican Flashback came out, it was the first major showpiece of Ratalaika’s soon to be common Emulation Engine, which was applied to plenty of fun obscure titles and I always get hyped whenever I hear of a new product with this tech in action. Overtime, it went from basic features like display options and an impressive CRT mode, to improving the CRT mode further, adding even more options to mess with, and more and more QOL stuff adding with each compilation and retro release. So, how did that all culminate in the Turrican Anthologies?

To be honest, this compilation feels like what the whole engine was building toward, as nearly every single aspect of Ratalaika’s work here feels like mastery. You have the screen display options from before, excellently scaled and implemented, along with the option to swap between 50Hz and 60Hz for the Amiga games. You also have the returning CRT mode, better than before and still one of the top CRT filters I’ve seen in a commercial product, and here in the Anthology, a new visual option has been added, one that was arguably the source of this compilation taking so damn long to ship in the first place: a realtime map.

What is this map needed for, you may ask? Well, some of the Turrican games, especially the ones in this volume are rather maze-heavy, so ININ probably figured this would be a handy QOL feature to throw in to guide newcomers to the secrets and alternate pathways the franchise is known for, and it does so by using your selected display resolution and having what would usually be the black border replaced by a map of the current level you’re in, that draws and forms out the further you progress, leading to a faux 16:9 display of sorts. With the press of the R3/L3 buttons, you can even adjust what shows up on these map elements, such as fake walls, where enemies will spawn, item pickups, outlines, and so much more options that to list them all would still understate just how in-depth this mapping tool is.

This was honestly way more feature rich than I expected and made revisiting these games much easier than my original playthroughs in Flashback. Yeah, the HUD can clash with it at times, especially on awkward stages that aren’t so spacious, but believe it or not, the devs accounted for that too, by allowing you to mess with the opacity of the HUD, or hide it altogether to make it even more seamless. It’s still not perfect mind you, but definitely helps to enhance the look and feel of the games significantly.

Those visual improvements weren’t all ININ added, oh no, as the music options get a nice boost as well! You can stick with the original, excellent scores, or choose between varying remix albums to play in a manner akin to Redbook Audio, as if these four games became PC Engine CD titles! Definitely a lovely surprise, and it even seems to support the hyper ambitious Surround Sound option that the SNES titles incorporated, a lovely touch. There’s also a sound test in the collection menus for you to toy around with, so you can sample the albums available and pick the ones that you deem appropriate for the games of your choice.

That’s not even the end of what these Anthologies offer, as each game comes with manual scans of the varying regional versions of each title: the Score Attack and Director Cut versions sadly don’t get anything unique (mainly because their actual physical manual was a lame one page fold-out leaflet) but the six different titles available in these compilations each include the regional variants of their manuals, with the only exceptions appearing to be other computer versions that aren’t included here at all. (so no C64 manuals for you) There’s even a bonus gallery that I assume is a general collection of key art from the franchise, but unfortunately it requires some sort of unlock criteria I haven’t been able to meet yet.

Gameplay

Since I’ve covered 3 of the 5 included titles here in the Flashback review, I’ll mainly note how the additional QOL features impacted my experiences playing them in this volume, with the bigger focus here being on the two “exclusives” that Flashback did not get. Whichever the case, they still use the same Ratalaika emulator as before, only improved with better rewind support, improved quality of life elements, cheats upon beating the game, and all the visual stuff with the Map I noted in the prior section. You even have a ridiculous amount of control options, from enabling the painful Amiga-style jumping controls of the original computer games, adjusting how the wheel/rope items get used, and more, so you can tune these games to your liking with ease!


Turrican (Amiga)- The game that kinda started it all: I noted in the Flashback review that this game definitely feels a bit weird due to being the first entry in the series, and this still applies here. The Map feature absolutely gives the original a huge boost, as now you can find all the secrets and know just where the branching paths lead to so you don’t end up going in circles like I used to on my first playthrough. These levels are rather spacious after all, so every little bit of QOL in this compilation helps significantly… Good luck to those in Challenge Mode!

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Turrican II: THE FINAL FIGHT (Amiga)- The most famous of the franchise! Still just as great of a sequel as it was last time, alternating between normal action levels and space shooter stages. Map helps here quite a lot as well, and the studio remixes for this game in particular are just stellar. No real complaints here, it plays like a dream.

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Super Turrican (SNES)- The home console sequel to the computer games, and still just as weird and incomplete as last time. Map helps, but not nearly as much as the prior two games, and is mostly just for getting extra powerups and 1up items. Still a very fun and polished game however, but also not what the game was originally envisioned as, unlike…

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Super Turrican: Director’s Cut (SNES)- This was a bit of a holy grail for a long while. I mentioned in the last review that Super Turrican was infamous for being rushed, with the game ending abruptly with no proper final battle against the main antagonist from the introduction, a bit of clunky jank here and there, and stages that were outright missing from the original design. Planned for a Wii VC release before Nintendo rejected it, this finally saw the light of day on the Analogue Super NT, and is now available in a wider format in this volume! So, how does it stack up to the OG version?

Sadly, not all that well, to be blunt. Yes, you do get a missing level restored, and yes, with said level restored, the adventure feels more streamlined and complete, yet there are still some stuff that shows this was blatantly a prototype in this stage: some missing effects, different placements, and most importantly, still no true final boss encounter. While it’s more complete than the original Super Turrican, and arguably the best to play in terms of content… I find the polish of the original to still edge out in the end, and the lack of finality is still a frustrating situation with this one. A great time either way, but don’t think of this as the ultimate end-all version that fixes every single problem from the final game.

Mega Turrican: Score Attack (Genesis)- Now this one was a pleasant surprise. Revealed when the compilations were, (along with a similar Score Attack in Vol 2 for Super Turrican) this one didn’t seem to make much sense. Yeah, the Amiga Turrican games had local leaderboards and some semblance of score chasing, but in general the games were more or less meant to be beaten rather than replayed for points, so I was struggling to think as to why this was the sole representation of Mega Turrican here, and what it even was.

Well, it turns out this is a special remix version with a unique stage, where the main goal is to clear it as fast as possible, with as many items as possible, to get the highest rank. (For comparison, the special editions that some PC Engine games like Soldier Blade would get for competitions.) This is a one-stage game, with it using the background music of the first level from Mega Turrican, but being a huge, expansive square to roam around in, with plenty of the exploration the series was known for shining in this special stage. You got your access to your grapple arm, since this is Mega Turrican after all, and that leads to a ton of clever shortcuts and routing, leading me to attempt this course more times than I’d like to admit, hoping to get a higher rank each time.

It definitely feels like a mode that would have been hidden as an unlockable in the actual game, and while it doesn’t make up for the lack of the actual Mega Turrican here, this is an excellent showcase of the mechanics, and was the surprise favorite of the set for me. Kinda makes me bummed there’s no way to save replays in this collection, since this mode would have been a perfect showpiece for such a feature. Still worth testing your grapple skills with, though!

Conclusion

In conclusion, this first volume of Turrican Anthology is pretty Deja-Vu inducing for those who picked up the flashback compilation: 3/4 of the games from that are included here, along with a remixed version of the missing title, and a prototype of Super Turrican. However, it also serves as a shockingly good example of just how far Ratalaika have improved their emulation engine in a year: all the QOL additions, some of which were no doubt nightmarish to program in, lots of extras to toggle, and a pure amount of love for the versions included here are very evident that this Anthology was worth the long wait. (even though I still feel preorders shouldn’t have gone up as early as they did)

Really, when the only gripe here is the fact that these are split into two volumes, I still found revisiting the Turrican games in this collection to be a whole lot of fun, with Mega Turrican Score Attack being the surprise winner of the bundle: definitely a great remix, and a glimmer that shows that perhaps a brand new Turrican game could be worth a shot in this modern age. For those who bought Flashback and don’t really care about the additions here, the second volume is the one to get for sure, but for retro fans who’ve waited so long, I’m happy to say this first volume is an excellent starting point for the franchise, or even as a way to resist some old classics.

I give Turrican Anthology Vol I an 8 out of 10.

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