Approximate Release Month: May 1993
Developer: Factor 5
Publisher: Seika Corporation
Super Turrican is a wonderful surprise in the Super Nintendo’s action game library.
I went into Super Turrican expecting a traditional run-and-gun like Contra III: The Alien War. There are similarities, and fans of one will like the other, but Contra III is more linear and combat-focused. Super Turrican has extremely large and expansive stages that encourage exploration through platforming challenges. There are hundreds of gems to collect in every world and literal dozens of extra lives scattered about. Some levels have verticality and alternate pathways to the end that gives me some Sonic the Hedgehog vibes.
One of the tricks the game uses for its secrets are invisible power-up boxes that double as platforms. You reveal these platforms by shooting them, but shoot them too much and you might lose access to a shortcut or extra life. There are areas where you need to hop on several of these hidden platforms to get to better rewards. I like this because it tries to discourage the player from holding down the fire button all the time. Unsuccessfully, in my case.
There’s a problem with the power-ups, however. These hidden boxes barf out so many goodies and are so plentiful that you can go from zero to maxed out in a few moments. Even when you die you don’t restart from scratch. You can only hold one of Super Turrican’s three weapons — spread gun, laser, and ricochet — at a time; you swap them out when you touch a weapon orb of the corresponding color. Each is situationally more effective in some spots over the others, but all three are extremely powerful and can get you through any situation. I never prioritized nabbing one weapon over the others and the massive number of pick-ups would have made that difficult if I tried. They’re all very fun to play with and the controls are responsive. I would have liked to see more player power progression or strategy, though.
Super Turrican also equips the player with a freeze gun on the X button. Striking an enemy with this weapon will cause them to stop moving for a few ticks, perfect for the tankier baddies that take more than a few bullets to defeat. Those enemies aren’t as common as the easily vanquished cannon fodder enemies that just run around. No enemy, or boss for that matter, is very difficult.
The most dangerous enemies are stage hazards. Super Turrican is a short game of four worlds with three stages in each. World 2 is set in an industrial factory fill of conveyor belts that don’t let you stand still. There are pistons coming out of the ground, missiles falling from the ceiling, and flamethrowers going off all over the place. World 3 is a slippery land of ice with falling stalactites and rolling snowballs interspersed with bottomless pits. These overused obstacles chip away at your health and waste your time. Fortunately, checkpoints are common, and you are never more than a few moments away from where you faltered.
I am coming across as a little negative here, but I had an extremely good time playing this game. A few balance tweaks and some level design changes would have made Super Turrican a legendary game rather than a very good game. I hope the 1995 sequel gets closer to the former of the two.
Next time: The Looney Tunes games have had a decent run so far on the SNES. Will Taz-Mania keep that streak alive?