2021 is not the year I expected to be replaying Turrican, a Commodore classic I adored as a kid.
I still fondly remember the striking original cover art, the first time I put the cassette into my system, and the moment I heard that soundtrack like it was yesterday. In reality, it was 1990, and it’s been a long time since I’ve thought about the franchise. I’d genuinely started to believe that Turrican was going to be one of those games lost to time.
What Flashback immediately shows is that it absolutely doesn’t deserve to be. It’s a true testament to what Rainbow Arts and Factor 5 achieved all those years ago that the collection holds up on its own merits for the most part. All four games in this collection are still incredibly enjoyable, action-packed, and devilishly challenging in their own way.
While the console versions are certainly more up to date and will almost certainly resonate better with modern audiences, I found myself kept going back to The Final Fight, the game I spent most time with as a kid.
Undoubtedly, some of the mechanics are dated and the difficulty curve is going to be an instant turn-off for a lot of people. Turrican never wanted to be your friend, with the ease in which you lose your health and its menacing boss encounters. The distance you have to move across the screen for it to turn immediately puts you on the back foot, putting you right on the front lines and up close and personal with the enemy.
And yet, the weapons you have at your disposal are more than up to the task, there’s great variety in every regard, and a ton of powerups to help you cut through mobs of all shapes and sizes.
Turrican draws immediate comparisons to Metroid but this is absolutely not a Metroidvania. You’ll get bad-ass weapons to use from the off – from mini lasers to wild-fire spreads – and the aim is to get through waves of foes flying around the screen to then take on a series of mini bosses before you reach the level’s big bad.
This is just a good old fashioned side-scrolling shooter – for better and worse – To the point where I feel like the Turrican games have become slightly underrated as most people’s memories of them are of Chris Huelsbeck’s incredible score. And while that is one of the most iconic soundtracks the industry has ever heard, Turrican’s vivid aesthetic and compelling gameplay was way ahead of its time.
Flashback isn’t just about the great games in its collection, though, as they have been lovingly restored in a way that means they not only pop on the Switch’s small screen but can also look pretty authentic on your modern TV sets.
Each game has custom settings to let you tweak things such as display, scaling, shaders, and color. It is absolutely staggering just how much effort has gone into this to enable you to make these the games you remember playing.
True fans at ININ have worked on this collection, even to the point where you can adjust the Paula Stereo. I’ve seen a few of these collections now, but I’ve never felt quite so convinced that the development team working on Flashback wanted the best, most authentic experience possible. Restoring these has been a true labour of love.
But as I said earlier, some aspects of the game are pretty rough going these days, so there’s some features which will feel more comfortable for newcomers, to hopefully introduce new audiences to these iconic games. One, in particular, is rewind, which lets you go back during your playthrough to hopefuly improve on your original run, and they’re complemented by Save States.
You can also input old cheat codes and the controls have also been refined and remapped – particularly on the original Turrican games – so they feel more comfortable on modern joypads.
What you’re getting here are four incredible games which many had assumed were lost to time, never to be seen again. Now they’re playable on the latest hardware. Sure, nothing really beats playing the games as they were originally intended, but short of full remakes, Flashback is about as close to perfect as you’re going to get.
Turrican will always be memorable because of that soundtrack, but Flashback also proves that the games themselves hold up way better on their own merits than anyone could have dared imagine.
It’s even got me daring to dream that, maybe, just maybe, a new Turrican game could emerge all these years later. There’s definitely a gap in the market for it, in my opinion!
+ Lovingly restored in just about every way
+ Rewind and Save State really helps with the games trickier sections
+ Still looks, plays, and sounds as good as ever
+ Really suits the Switch
– Brutal difficulty is going to be a hard sell for new players
Turrican Flashback is now available on PlayStation 4 and Switch
Tested on Switch
Code kindly provided by PR Hound