The Turrican 3 (1993) “Main Title” is one of my favorite Huelsbeck compositions. The track featured prominently on the Turrican Original Video Game Soundtrack (1993) as well as in Mega Turrican on the Genesis. The story of Turrican 3‘s development is rather complex. Development actually began on the Amiga version first, but was shelved due to the decline of the Amiga. Development of the Sega Genesis port, Mega Turrican, then went underway and was completed in 1993 – but due to publishing issues, was not released until 1994! At the same time, Chris Huelsbeck had been working on an arrange album of theTurrican series that was released in June 1993. Meanwhile, Kaiko and Rainbow Arts cooperated to finish Turrican 3 for the Amiga, this time porting it from the Genesis version and releasing it in the Autumn of 1993 (confusing, huh?). So let’s examine these in order of composition:
First up is Mega Turrican. Mr. Huelsbeck’s first (of only two) compositions on the Genesis, we can tell straight away that he has done some unique things with the FM sound chip. Mr. Huelsbeck’s familiarity with computer hardware and programming from his days on the Commodore 64 and Amiga made it very easy for him to create a high-quality soundtrack that goes beyond the fare of most titles of the time (matched only by Castlevania Bloodlines, as far as I am concerned). Pay special attention to the guitar, synth, and drums (particularly at 0:38), which produce a beat that sounds almost mechanical. The piece contains original notes that would find their way to the Turrican 3 “Main Title” on the Amiga, but the majority of the piece is actually more an arrange of the Turrican 2 intro, perhaps suggesting a short development time. Two great sequences are in the beginning at 0:16 where Mr. Huelsbeck smashes down on the bass for disaster following the short, peaceful interlude, and again the guitar at 1:14 where Bren McGuire dashes off to battle. This piece actually draws more from the SFX than the actual music, and the piece really does go better with the video, which is awesome-cheesy, full of nice anime-style artwork, melodrama, and Turrican-smashing-mutants action.
At the same time he was working on Turrican 3, Mr. Huelsbeck was arranging music from the entire series in the Turrican Soundtrack. One of the best albums of game music on the market, the Turrican Soundtrack featured mostly arranges from Turrican 3 – suggesting perhaps that the composition of the game on the Amiga was partially informed by the mixing process. In any event, the version of the “Main Title” found here is more polished and fully-realized with a cinematic narrative approach, making it an audio story moreso than in the original that I think ultimately makes it a better composition. The guitar here is also more strongly pronounced, and the drumbeat more fully realized with the synthesizer. Unfortunately, the “Main Title” from the album ends up lacking the nice call-and-response from the piano and strings in the original (see below).
If Mega Turrican was Chris Huelsbeck’s first composition for the Genesis, Turrican 3 was one his final scores for the Amiga (his final compositions were for Caribbean Disasterand Hatrick), and this shows through the skillful composition and sound quality, which is in many ways the culmination of his work on the platform. The soundtrack is actually a more fully-realized version of the original theme. The Turrican 3 “Title Theme” is dominated by a bright, free piano juxtaposed with dramatic, fleeting flourishes from the strings – a juxtaposition of the darkness of space with twinkling stars and heroes in cyber-armor. That dialogue between piano and strings is at the core of the song, and is spread about several times in the piece. There’s also nice use from the guitar which serves as the ticking clock (time is running out!) but also – if we compare it to the Turrican 1 theme – can serve as the rapid fire of laser bullets. The piano takes particular center stage at the half-way mark, where its hip jazz mixes with dancing strings and the bassy twang of the guitar. There’s even a nice shout-out to the Turrican II title (and these references Chris Huelsbeck is known for). It’s Mr. Huelsbeck’s style at the fullest, with elements of dance and sci-fi films. Sadly, the piece is far longer than the title video, which you would have to watch several times to witness in its entirety.