To read a full review of the Nintendo 64 original, click HERE.
GoldenEye 007 gets all the credit for bringing console first-person shooters to the mainstream, but months before its release, Acclaim’s Turok: Dinosaur Hunter paved the way for the renaissance of the genre. Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was an early hit in the Nintendo 64’s life cycle, blending fast paced, shooting action with the exploration heavy design of early 3-D games. It was easily one of the biggest third-party exclusive franchises for Nintendo, and now over two decades later, Turok returns to Nintendo’s latest console, the Switch, courtesy of Nightdive Studios. Titled simply Turok, this remaster is essentially the fully realized vision of the original game and is what you think of when you feel warm, nostalgic memories for the foggy, awkwardly controlling game you once slammed into your N64’s cartridge slot. Whether you’re a long time lover of the series or missed it completely, Turok is a game that you’ll spend hours with if you just even casually like classic first-person adventures.
The original game was lite on story with most of it being told in the instruction manual. In Turok you play as Tal’Set, the latest in a long line of warriors to carry the Light Burden and the mantle of Turok, who’s charged with protecting a place existing outside of time and space called the Lost Land, a dangerous world filled with dinosaurs and aliens. When the villainous Campaigner threatens to destroy the barrier that separates the Lost Land with our world by assembling an ancient weapon called the Chronoscepter, it’s up to Tal’Set to obtain the pieces first to prevent that from happening. Despite being based on a decades old comic, the plot of Turok is as basic as it comes, but first-person shooters weren’t exactly known for their gripping narrative around that time either. The lore of the Turok series would become more dense as the series entered its second and third installments, but there’s something quaint about how bare bones the story of the original was, reminding you of the lone hero against an army trope that permeated throughout the genre’s hits like Doom and Quake.
First-person shooters were largely made up of a series of interconnected corridors, and what made Turok stand out, oddly so even today, is the large open areas you’re given to explore. You’re given plenty of target opportunities for target practice, but in many respects Turok feels far more in line with the 3-D platforming collect-a-thons that dominated the early 3-D video game era. Like in games such as Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, Turok features levels connected by a hub, eight in total, that house keys that allow access to later stages and the pieces that when assembled allow you to wield the Chronoscepter. Staff who worked on Turok went on to help create the Metroid Prime series, and you can really tell as this game very much feels like the basic template for the 3-D introduction of Nintendo’s flagship franchise.
Of course what people love and remember most about Turok is its creative arsenal. Starting out you’ll have access to staples like a pistol, shotgun, and assault rifle, but as you venture deeper into your quest to stop the Campaigner, you’ll collect pulse rifles, alien weapons, even a portable nuke gun that will fill the screen with a giant blast of energy. Every weapon is valuable, and you’ll need every bullet to take down standard grunts, raptors, alien soldiers and dinosaurs equipped with large caliber weapons and yes, you did read that right. Turok is rated M for mature, and it does feature blood, but it’s violence is more silly than gory. More often that not you’ll be laughing as opposed to wincing when soldiers scream after getting launched in the air because of an explosion.
Turok had its fans, but it also had its share of detractors who had problems with fog used to mask the horizon as well as its awkward and unconventional controls. Long before the days of dual-analog controllers, Turok required the player to move with the tiny C-button and aim with the analog stick. Neither of those issues affect this latest update of Turok whatsoever. The varied environments you explore from jungles, ancient ruins, caves and a spaceship look incredibly crisp, even when playing in handheld mode, and you can finally move with one stick and aim with another, though the aim assist is fairly generous which makes lining up shoots feel too easy at points. Nightdive also designed Turok to be highly customizable, allowing you to adjust the sensitivity of your aiming, add gyro controls, and adjust numerous graphical settings until everything looks exactly like you want it too. Whether docked to a TV or not, Turok also runs at a smooth and blisteringly fast frame rate
Nightdive went a long way to making this update of Turok far more playable than the original could ever be, but as this is a remaster and not complete remake, there are some problems with the game’s overall design that remain. Turok has a lot of platforming, which is never ideal in first-person, and while the game controls great, some of the platforms you have to jump onto are very small and lead to you losing a lot of health if you fall into a surrounding lava trap, or worse, death. Luckily reloading your game only takes seconds when you die, but something curiously missing from this game is a quick save feature. Turok’s levels are massive, and this version still requires you to save at specific points. The Switch has a sleep mode, but the extra level of security provided by a quick save, especially if your battery is low, would’ve been appreciated.
Turok was a beloved game on the Nintendo 64, especially for early adopters of the console, and thanks to Nightdive Studios it’s now better than ever. From the graphical face lift to the myriad of control and display options, the issues that kept many from enjoying Turok back in 1997 are no longer on obstacle. If you have fond memories of the original, or were curious about it, now’s as good a time as any to see why the Turok franchise was so important to Nintendo once upon a time. You can purchase Turok digitally on the eShop, but for those who like physical copies of games, Limited Run will be producing a cart for both Turok and the upcoming Switch port of the sequel, Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, later this year.