This short message from one of the Turbo Force developers was found at the Video System homepage. Video System was also responsible for Sonic Wings, and the core of the team that made Turbo Force and Sonic Wings 1 later went on to form Psikyo.

Turbo Force feels very much like a proto-Psikyo game in both aesthetic and gameplay. One interesting feature is a sort of conservative ammo mechanic, where firing your shot causes it to decrease in power. Many recent shmups focus almost entirely on dodging at the expense of shot mechanics, so its an interesting (albeit somewhat frustrating) change of pace.

Psikyo Developer Interviews
Turbo Force @ shmupsforum
Video System (archived)

Turbo Force 1997 Developer Interview

From the Video System homepage

Soukou Junyoukan (armored cruiser): Graphic Designer

Turbo Force… it was so long ago. And, as is so often the case in this industry, almost everyone from the development team has moved on from Video System. The Turbo Force staff consisted of a single game designer (who also did graphics) and three graphic designers. The programming and the music were subcontracted out.

The development period for Turbo Force was extremely long, and I don’t think I’ll ever have another chance to work on something at such a leisurely pace (although it did get frantic at the end). How relaxed was it? Well, we spent an entire month just drawing one boss… we revised the desert stage backgrounds three times… basically, we just kept tinkering and fussing with the graphics until we were satisfied. Ah, those were the days! We must have spent a full year just on graphics work. It was like a dream… (or a nightmare??)

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An original flyer used for advertising.

One reason it took so long was that we had the most meagre of development tools, with no animation functionality whatsoever. We had no way of knowing whether the ship and explosion animations looked good until we saw it in-game. It amazes me that we were able to get things looking as good as we did in spite of that.

The story is that an American Air Force pilot, while racing his car on a public road, wanders into another mysterious dimension and gets caught up in a war there. Oops! Anyway, that’s what it says, but there’s really no consistency among any of the enemies. Conventional tanks and planes, mysterious giants, and then the last boss who’s a giant car… aside from Xexex, has there ever been a STG where each stage feels like a completely different world?

We decided to say it was all because of the different dimensions, but the truth is the stage designer was just doing whatever he felt like with each stage. The designer was the same person who did Rabio Lepus (which was similarly whacky), so perhaps that spurred him on.

He wasn’t the only one though: from the explosions of the zako tanks, to the minute detailing of the shell casings ejected from cannons, the robot arms’ way-too-detailed firing animation, and the enemy destruction animations (which, in the end, were obscured by the explosions anyway)… we all did things just as we wanted. I think all our individual hobbyhorses somehow gave this game a special appeal… right? right!?

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The last boss.

Turbo Force was actually the start of our hidden rule, also seen in Sonic Wings, that “enemy tanks will only attack you if they are anti-aircraft tanks.” There are three kinds of zako tanks in Turbo Force, and it was my ardent wish that normal, non-anti-aircraft tanks should not fire at the flying player ship. This was one of my own little particularities.

Turbo Force was the work of a team that had no prior experience developing a vertical STG. Everything was a series of trial and error, and I can’t deny that the finished product has a very ramshackle feel. Moreover, we didn’t spend enough time adjusting the difficulty so it was extremely hard. All in all, Turbo Force was not a big hit.

But we reflected on our missteps, and Sonic Wings, our next game, became a hit above and beyond our expectations. It’s just as they say: the road to success is paved with failure.