Mega Turrican has a troubled history – something that should eventually become a reoccurring theme for Turrican sequels. Factor 5 originally started developing a Turrican 3 for the Amiga right after the second game, but as the computer started to lose commercial relevance, the project was canned. Soon later, the developer decided it could only survive by moving to home consoles, and revived the sequel on the Sega Genesis. But others weren’t ready to watch the Amiga die just yet. The dev team Kaiko concluded a contract with Rainbow Arts for an independently-developed Amiga Turrican 3, without the knowledge of Factor 5. When they found out, they weren’t at all happy with the events, and eventually the contract was changed for to port Mega Turrican to the Amiga instead. But shortly after Kaiko broke apart, and only programmer Peter Thierolf remained to complete the port, now with more direct involvement by Factor 5. Due to the extra hurdles that have to be taken to get console games published, however, the Amiga version was once again the first to hit the market, with the long finished Genesis original following not before 1994.
For the first time, Turrican diverted greatly from the formula of previous episodes. The biggest innovation in Mega Turrican is the Plasma Rope, which adds a Bionic Commando style swinging mechanic to the mix. The rope is used to reach higher platforms, as Turrican now jumps noticeably shorter than before. In exchange for the rope, Turrican loses his Lightning Whip; the Power Lines, another series icon, are replaced by more standard-looking smart bombs. The three main weapons got a graphical overhaul, but work just as they did before (a spread gun, a powerful laser, a bouncer weapon). Perhaps thinking that the unlimited Energy Wheel in the last game made things too easy (it can’t be denied), Factor 5 introduced a time-bar for its use: once depleted, only losing a life could refill it. This system was later adopted in both SNES games. Finally, a more common energy bar was adopted, made out of separate blocks, and after a hit Turrican has a little invincibility time, like in most other console action games.
The most unwelcome change, however, comes with a new concept for the levels. Mega Turrican departs from huge maze-like structures in favor of much more console-typical, straightforward stages, where the player mostly walks from left to right. It may be just a change in level design, but it makes an huge difference for Turrican players, almost like passing from Metroid to Contra. The emphasis is a lot more on shooting action instead of exploration, and even the platforming itself feels different much different because of all the rope-climbing. That’s not to say it’s a bad game, quite the opposite. Factor 5 (programming it on their custom Mega Drive hardware, the Pegasus Mega Drive) really squeezed everything out of the Genesis hardware, and created a game that closes the trilogy in a very appropriate way, with a most epic battle against The Machine itself. The game is plenty of memorable moments, like a convoy of space ships that serve as platforms, or the very clever alien train. There’s even time for nostalgia: the junkyard world is literally covered with parts of previous bosses. And one of them refuses to stay dead… Mega Turrican also pays homages to many classic action movies – the ED-209 from Robocop 2 appears as a boss, as does the head of the Alien (similar to the one in Contra) and a big Terminator head.
Huelsbeck was among the few musicians that managed to really master the iffy Genesis sound architecture, and Mega Turrican produces some of the best sounds ever heard on the system, next to Yuzo Koshiro’s Streets of Rage 2. Yet the Amiga version still sounds much better, but the graphical capabilities of the machine had reached their limit: Many backgrounds are grossly simplified, and visual effects like morphing of background layers are missing completely. Peter Thierolf’s new team Neon (who programmed Mr. Nutz: Hoppin’ Mad for the Amiga as late as 1994) has later been talked about as possible developers for an Amiga Turrican 4, and it would have been interesting to see their vision for the series, but it remained but a rumor.