Super Turrican
by Vanor Orion

I've noticed that there is only one review on this site for Super Nintendo games. This needs to be rectified.

Turrican originally started out for the Commodore 64 and was created by a guy named Manfred Trenz, and the music was programmed by Chris Huelsbeck (which is Jesus Christ spelled backwards, in case you didn't know). To sum up what Turrican is all about, I'll simply describe it as such: Imagine for a moment that Contra and Metroid did the fusion dance, and Turrican was the result. Turrican was very much Run 'n' Gun in the same vein of games like Contra (albeit with a more forgiving difficulty curve) with big bosses, broken up into huge maze-like stages that were very reminscient of Metroid.

It's the Fist of NOD! Wait, wrong game...
The charm in any given Turrican was blasting your way through each stage, while at the same time exploring the levels (sometimes under the constraint of a timer, depending on the game) for hidden goodies like 1-Ups, and upgrades for your weapons, among other things. And the main character even seemed to be an amalgam of the character attributes of Contra and Metroid. The hero wore an armored suit, was armed to the teeth, and could (in the later games) turn into a spinning wheel that rendered him invulnerable to damage for a limited duration.

And let's not omit the music, because if there's one thing that stands out as being totally original from this game, it's the fucking music. Save your Contras, and your Metroids, and your Mega Mans, because you haven't lived till you've heard Chris Huelsbeck rock the video game arena with his tunes.

Anyway, I'm not gonna delve much deeper into all things Turrican, because one, the truth is, I've only played Super Turrican, everything else I know came from Hardcore Gaming 101. Definitely check out their article for the series, it's quite entertaining.

As for Super Turrican, I rented it a lot as a child. The game is just fun as hell. Just forget the plot, it doesn't matter. All it (and for almost every other 8/16-bit era game) is there for is to justify blowing shit up while going from point A to point B. End of Story, not much different from many other games back then, right? Well, a lot of what sets this game apart is in the details. For starters, when you start the game, you have a puny rifle, but you're also equipped with a freeze beam that can be aimed while shooting for almost 360 degree coverage for your character. Another deviation is in the platforming, in that you can find invisible blocks floating around in midair. Not only can they be used to find hidden paths and power-ups, but you can also shoot them to yield power-ups on their own.

Among the many powerups in the game are three seperate beam types your guy can pick up. Each beam icon can be collected multiple times to increase the potency of their attacks. One is a simple spread shot (ala Contra and very useful), another is a bouncy beam that literally ricochets off of walls and ceilings to hit multiple enemies. Finally you have the laser, which is more or less the best of the beams, since it's pretty damn strong and fires quickly. And put images of any lasers from Contra out of your mind, because this thing makes those look like abortions from the Star Wars Program.

Among other Turrican staples that make an appearance are the line bombs, or beams, or whatever the hell they're called. You start out with 3 of them, but despite (for some region that defies logic) the fact that your stock of icons never goes past three, you can still stock more than 3 lines at a time. So while this is cool, at the same time, you aren't really sure at times of how many you've got. Oh, anyway, what they do is you use one and it detonates, sending two lines of energy in opposite directions from you, hitting anything in its path, which is useful for clearing out lots of fodder enemies in one fell swoop.

Then you got the shield, which protects you from injury temporarily, which is good because you can die fast in this game if you aren't paying attention. You have a health bar, but enemies (and environmental hazards) can deplete it fast. Fortunately, the game dispenses a healthy amount of recovery items throughout the levels and can even be found in the hidden platforms/inventory-containers-of happy-fun-times.

Then you got the spinning wheel. Unlike Metroid, this thing renders you inpervious to injury and let's you move incredibly fast, and you can lay down mines to boot! However, the duration that this lasts is limited, as there's a gauge that depletes as you stay in wheel form, and once it runs out, it can't be recovered unless you die (or proceed to the next level....I think). This thing can be very useful for getting through certain parts of levels very quickly without getting scratched, and adds another level of freedom the player can utilize in getting past each stage. Though, there are a few parts of the game where it's ill-advised to go speeding around as a ball, because though it protects from attack, it doesn't protect from falling into pits.

The Spinning Wheel

Oh yeah, what platformer would be complete without PITFALLS! As much as I love this game, and I love shooting stuff to bits, and dodging environmental hazards, the pitfalls usually send me into a flurry of swear words and covulsive twitching that would make any passerby that didn't know any better think I was having epylectic seizures--just like that chick from The Andromeda Strain. Seriously, this game can have some cheap moments, and they usually involve pitfalls. But more on those shortly.

As far as the stages go, they're pretty varied, and usually pretty big. Each level is broke up into several parts, and you will usually fight several minibosses before fighting a major boss, which is then followed by a progress screen showing off how well you did before moving on to the next level. The first level starts off in some ruins, then moves on into some volcanic subterranean place with a shitload of what appear to skulls being used as building material. The next level is in a huge factory or something, and there's environmental hazards up the ass. There are these rods that come up and down out of the ground that are barely visible that can injure you. There is gas venting from pipes that can randomly turn to fire that can burn your ass. There's treadmills that can unwittingly send you down a pitfall or any of the other aforementioned hazards; it's easy as fuck to get lost, and hard as hell to perform some of the platforming bits.

Said treadmills of death

Then you got an ice stage, which doesn't even have a boss, unless you consider all the GOD DAMN FUCKING PITFALLS AS A FUCKING BOSS! SHIT!!! Seriously, we're not talking just accidentally falling into a hole here. We're talking going up and down sloping terrain whilst wooly-mammoth-looking fuckers send huge snowboulders of death your way, which you have to jump over or else they send you careening to your demise. Then there's the platforms over water that sink a split-second after you've stepped on them. I mean, we're not even factoring in the falling icicles, and the part of the level where you have to ride air currents up a huge tree, or the fact that you slide on some of the terrain. Aside from that, I really like the music in this stage.

After that is the alien lair, and if you can't tell that this level was all totally inspired from Alien(s), well, go watch those movies, dammit! Anyway, the rockin' music to this point gives way to more ambient tones. Which is fine, because you want to watch out for facehuggers coming out of eggs to face-rape you, among other things. Halfway through this level, you progress to a....train, that's what it is, I guess. This is the part of the game I love the most, but also revile. I love it because it plays Air Combat in the background while you hop from car to car while dodging fireballs and enemies. The hopping from car-to-car bit is what I don't like.

Much like the ice level, this stage has pitfalls, but takes it to a whole other level of bullshit. You literally have to be clairvoyant (or simply die a shitload of times in the time-honored tradition of trial and error) because you jump on these little tiny fucking plaforms, and you have to leapfrog from each one just so, at just the right time or you fucking fall to your god damn death! You see, as you hop from each platform, you don't see the next one you have to hop onto next. By the time it's appeared on screen, it's too late, you can jump, but the likelihood that you'll actually land the jump is infintismal. You literally have to Indiana Jones that shit and make a leap of faith and jump and land right as the next platform comes into existence on the screen.

Thank god the game is liberal with the 1-Ups.

Fuck you and your flaming phallic train!

Finally, after that lame nonsense is over, the rest of the game is really cake in comparison. You just (carefully!) navigate another alien maze, and kill the alien queen thing, and win the game. The end.

The game is fairly short, and could easily be finished in one go. Despite that, the game has high replay from trying to find all the hidden things in each level, and simply doing better each time. The game is fun as hell on its own, but it is now high time I go into what elevates this game above a lot of the other SNES games like it at the time:

The music is fucking great. Several songs on this game were reproduced from Mega Turrican for the Sega Genesis. Now don't get me wrong, I never even had a Genesis growing up, so I didn't know how pitiful the sound processing was on those games. However, it's no shock that despite this limitation, Chris Huelsbeck (Sound Mixer of the Gods), churned out some incredible tunes from that game. So when it finally came time to make Super Turrican for the SNES and utilize its superior sound processing, they fucking knocked the ball into escape velocity all the way into deep space and past the Voyager and it's puny-ass gold record of wimpy bullshit sound recordings from Earth. Trust me, if we used SETI to fire Chris Huelsbeck's music into space, not only would the aliens come down here, they'd probably be armed with glowrods and Powerthirst to fuel sweet rave parties. The only way it could have been better was if they'd played Climb to Survive during the last stage.

So as we can see, I love this game, and I really love the soundtrack (in case you haven't caught on to that by now), but there are things I hate about it, most noteably the Pitfalls of Eternal Developer Damnation. Despite that, this game definitely stands proudly in my mind next to Mega Man X and Super Metroid, two of the best SNES games, and two of the best video games I've ever played.


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