Apidya (Chris Huelsbeck)November 5, 2010
Apidya is quite an oddball shmup with design inspired by R-Type and art inspired by Parodius. Instead of fighting with spaceships, the player fights with a lazer-shooting bee against other insects (there aren’t too many other games like this, such as Kolibri for the 32X). The story is, a jealous and evil wizard sent poisonous bees after your wife and now you have to transform into a bee (!) to avenge her death (the game’s title refers to apidae, the scientific name for the bee genus). The game uses a Japanese animation style for the cutscenes, which was due to art director Frank Matzke’s Japanophilia (of course, it also jived well with Chris Huelsbeck’s mix of Japanese and European composition). It even featured the title in katakana. At the same time, the soundtrack sounds as if it could easily fit into a space battle. Finally, it is notable that the studio was originally called AUDIOS for Art Under Design, Imaginations of Sound, which fits perfectly with the philosophy of mixing Huelsbeck’s musical style with the art and design.
In 1992, Chris Huelsbeck released an arrange album of Apidya, the first of his many complete game soundtrack arranges – and again, while the first half is amazing, the second half of arranges is mostly not so good. My favorite piece is “Game Over” with a touching flute that transitions into a march with striking snares, and brass that moves quickly to a grand section of strings and xylophone. At every beat, it seems a memorial for the fallen soldiers (it is from the High Scores table rather than a game over screen), with touching taken for each grand, sweeping note (I once showed this to a friend who, upon hearing the title, responded, “Oh, how sad!”). Halfway through, there is a dramatic break with swooping strings and a bold statements from the trumpet before sinking to tense drums and discord – a flashback of horror, death, and despair. This dark shadow makes the third movement of “Game Over” all the more powerful, with bright flutes resurrected from the abyss and the sweetly triumphant strings and trumpets that march in honor-guard procession to the cemetery with a sense of finality, of entombment in memorial, through the quick ending.
“Game Over” was originally called “Heroes Save the Planet“, the high score screen, and seems more triumphant in its approach. Opening with a trumpet solo, then integrating strings, the piece is more honoring and reflective of the scores – say, “Look what I accomplished!” – rather than on perhaps what those scores stand for. “Heroes Save the Planet” also integrates bongoes (and it sounds similar to those from Turrican II). A rather short piece in comparison to the other tracks, and honestly not as good as many of the other tracks (“End Credits” is amazing), it really achieves full realization through the album. More of the Amiga soundtrack is available from the Apidya fanpage, though you’ll likely have problems getting the original TFMX files (a codec created by Mr. Huelsbeck) to run.
Apidya also saw an arrange of the “Apidya Suite” in Symphonic Shades. It is an absolutely wonderful, dramatic arrangement by Takenobu Mitsuyoshi (Virtua Fighter 2, Bayonetta). The piece is incredibly dramatic, but you have to wonder if this isn’t simply being facetious once you finally realize that what is going on here is not an alien invasion but an army of bees attacking a hut in the woods (and the game’s title screen stating Apidya II seems to indicate this humor). In fact, the entire game has a sense of humor through the ridiculousness of the situation, which makes Mr. Huelsbeck’s soundtrack all the more brilliant – there is nothing serious about blasting away at a mole miniboss peeking out of a hill, fighting a giant fish instead of a giant battleship, or a mutant doll in the sewers.