I really did not like Turrican on Genesis and I’m sure I’ve elaborated on why in my review. So the fact that I love Mega Turrican and its follow-ups so much is an absolute miracle. All it took were the developers abandoning a lot of what made the game unique in favor of a tighter focus on straight up action. That’s not to say that the series prior emphasis on exploring wide open levels was wrong but its execution left much to be desired. Mega Turrican still keeps some of that but its switch to Contra style action makes it a much better game in my opinion and one of the top run and gun shooters for the system.
Years have passed since Bren McGuire donned his Turrican suit and defeated the Machine to save the galaxy. But that peace is shattered as the Machine has returned with a vengeance, destroying numerous planets and enslaving thousands. Bren takes up the suit once again when he hears a distress call from a lone girl as her planet is being overtaken. I can’t believe they somehow found a way to shove a save the girl plot into the game. The game’s intro features anime style artwork that really looks out of place but you don’t play these games for the plot.
There are many radical changes to the typical series formula with all of them for the better. Most of these changes were also present in Super Turrican such as the segmented life bar and wheel mode that has its own separate meter. The three weapons are the same but look a bit different, especially the rebounding shot. Here it releases a burst of energy that travels along the ground and ceiling and despite appearances might be the strongest weapon. Temporary shields and a homing missile round out your offensive arsenal.
The lightning whip has been replaced with an energy based grappling beam for some Indiana Jones style swinging. It is a cool addition but unless you are taking the time to find hidden items throughout each level it doesn’t see much use until the final two worlds at which point it is mandatory for progress. Getting used to the swing mechanics is a bit tough as many of the tightly packed spaces where you’ll need it aren’t conducive to building up momentum. Luckily the few levels where it is necessary give you ample time to make up for your inevitable mistakes.
Most levels in the game are a set path with little deviation which might turn off fans of the series but is done extremely well. The action is much more focused and measured with a constant barrage of enemies in your path. Most levels have one or two mini boss encounters before the big finish against a multi-jointed monstrosity. It is very much in the mold of classic Japanese action games such as Contra except a notch lower. The few levels that are spacious try to recapture some of the old Turrican vibe but unless you enjoy collecting crystals for a higher score you won’t find much beyond more weapon upgrades and the occasional shield.
All of the base changes to the game make it a far more manageable experience this go round. The difficulty is about medium; in the game’s more chaotic moments it’s easy to lose one or two lives just trying to manage but this is backed up by more frequent extra lives and power-ups. I did the bare minimum when it came to exploration and still managed to rack up about 10 lives by the game’s midpoint. With that as a buffer you are free to make mistakes to identify boss patterns, such as they are. I will say that as cool as some of the bosses are (they blatantly rip off the Terminator and Alien in a few cases) they were easier than I expected. Not that I’m complaining of course.
Mega Turrican looks phenomenal but that is to be expected when the game is co-developed by Factor 5. While it lacks the sheer spectacle of a Gunstar Heroes or Alien Soldier it more than makes up for it with incredibly detailed artwork. The cold metal factories and ruined cities are a perfect complement for the Genesis’ darker color palette with the kinds of lavish detail you would expect from a title released later in the console’s lifespan. Both Mega and Super Turrican were in development in tandem and they both share a few design elements and even levels. While it lacks that game’s color palette in some respects I found this to be stronger visually, especially the bosses.
The music is generally excellent full of excellent tunes reminiscent of the Genesis’s best. The soft and melodic soundtrack manages to dodge the completely robotic sound of its peers but this is still FM synth so a bit of that rough guitar twang is still present. The sound effects oddly enough are a bit weak and lacking punch, something you can’t say about too many Genesis titles.
Mega Turrican is an excellent action game on a system with more than its fair share and yet it still manages to rise to the top. Those seeking more after spending time with Contra: Hard Corps and Alien Soldier should definitely apply.