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Turrican II: The Final Fight – “Title” (Chris Hülsbeck)

March 3, 2010

Today (March 2) is Chris Hülsbeck’s birthday. He is now 42 years old. I hope he can compose music for at least another 42 years. This is because he is one of the great game music composers of our time. Hülsbeck’s career began in 1986 when his composition “Shades” won first place in the German 64’er Magazine. This was during the roaring beginnings of game music, after Monty on the Run and Super Mario Bros. had been composed and Metroid and Zelda were making their debut. While Mr. Hülsbeck has created dozens of amazing soundtracks, including his latest, Symphonic Shades (2008; a five-star album if there ever was one), the soundtrack that sticks in my mind is the Turrican series. While the Title Theme to Turrican II: The Final Fight (1991) appears in remixed format within the Turrican Original Video Game Soundtrack (1993) inside a medley of other Turrican 1 and 2 music, as well as an amazingly masterful version on In the Mix (2000), the original Amiga MOD version still sounds really cool almost 20 years after its composition. Doesn’t this title screen just make you want to go out and buy the game? (too bad it is out of print!) You can get the Turrican II soundtrack (as part of Turrican Evolution) along with a lot of other goodies from the Turrican SETA.

Turrican II: The Final Fight – “Title” (Chris Hülsbeck)

The Turrican II “Title Theme” has an amazing beginning – I’ve included here a video to show the piece in context. From the opening notes to the finish, you know you are in for an amazing treat as the Turrican soldier emerges from outer space, leaving fire and destruction behind him. The main theme (beginning at 0:30) has the strong, bold notes we’ve come to associate with hero and action music, inspiring while simultaneously giving to the player the powers of confidence associated with the music: you are not simply watching the hero, you are the hero. And if that weren’t enough, the driving beat of the snare recalls not only gunfire (done exceptionally well in the title theme to the original Turrican), but also builds intensity and tension, urging the player to hop in already and play this game. As the main theme develops, every instrument seems to get a solo from the drums (2:16) to the marimba (5:49). As such, the theme covers all the bases of an action game, providing the feel not only of rising into battle and intense combat but also exploring exotic environments (something that was done very well in the orchestral remix from Symphonic Shades).

The Turrican II “Title Theme” is an excellent example of how Amiga music was composed. The song runs at 7:07 in length, but it takes up a small space on the disk because the song is broken down into smaller bits that are repeated and mixed. Just like multiple notes are repeated in a piece of music, so too are individual sections mixed together. Because of this, you can hear multiple refrains of the main theme (six all together) throughout the piece in unique variations.

Turrican Original Video Game Soundtrack (1993) was the first game music album I ever owned, having been referred to it by some Metroid fans back in 1999; I’ve probably listened to it a hundred times since then. Incidentally, when I purchased a copy of the Symphonic Shades soundtrack from Thomas Böcker (Merregnon, Light at the End of the Tunnel), he told me that Turrican II was one of the best game soundtracks of all time. While I appreciate the orchestral arrangement from Symphonic Shades, I still think we missed out quite a bit from the 2004 Leipzig orchestration, which was more traditional. Sadly, the only version of this that is known to exist is so low quality, it sounds like it was recorded underwater a block away!

In any event, if you haven’t picked up a copy of Turrican OVGS already, it’s available on iTunes, along with the masterful Symphonic Shades. I’ve been planning to run some reviews of these for Gametunes.net, and March seems as good a month as any – stay tuned for updates!

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One comment

  1. wow great article, this is my fav vg song and my fav composer, u summerised the music theme brillently.



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