VGM Entry 20: The Great Giana Sisters
(Thanks to Tish at FFShrine for the banner)
A number of video games released in 1987 would go on to become major generation-spanning series. The Great Giana Sisters was not one of them. In fact, if was probably one of the worst ideas in gaming history. It was apparently developed for release on the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, and MSX2 all at the same time, with a ZX Spectrum version to shortly follow. It was intended to be Rainbow Arts’ major commercial rival to the smash hit Super Mario Bros. But what was it exactly?
Well, one version of the box art depicts an attractive, perky-breasted woman in a miniskirt flying through a bizarre montage of giant lobsters, magical mushrooms, UFOs, and deadly dragons guarding foreboding castles on grim, icy mountain peaks.
Another depicts two trailer trash meth addicts sporting peace signs and an “I’m Cool” nametag, along with the suggestive comment that “The brothers are history!” A bit contradictory? Well, look right here! Zzap!64 says it’s “the greatest platform game of all time”, so it must be true!
The music, too, might lead you to believe this. It was also one of the first soundtracks composed by the now legendary Chris Huelsbeck (more often spelled Hülsbeck, though the artist himself uses Anglicized adaptation. For the sake of consistency I’ll stick to the latter in the future). The game’s title screen theme is pretty intriguing, bearing a sense of foreboding that aptly reflects the degree of strife and diversity which at least some versions of the cover art promise to bring.
Are you excited? Or at least curious? Good or bad, all signs point to a game that will in the very least be extraordinarily unique. Well, let’s take a look at the gameplay. Brace yourselves.
Needless to say, they got their pants sued off and pulled every version of the game from the shelves within weeks of its release, never again to see the light of day until Nintendo, perhaps for pure comedy value, allowed publisher Destineer to release it on the DS last year.
Rainbow Arts was a German publisher, and perhaps copyright laws are different there, but one has to imagine that a good many staff members were flipping burgers after this brilliant idea. Chris Hülsbeck would not be among them. He would go on to compose for many Rainbow Arts games to come, including the highly acclaimed Turrican series for which he is best known.
But before we brush The Great Giana Sisters off, really, what is going on with the music here? The main gameplay song is quite catchy and appropriate, but the title screen and underground theme (see Stage 4 in the video, 3:24) have about as much in common with the game as the box art. It would be interesting to find out why he chose these songs in particular. Perhaps they were some unaffiliated demos he had lying around in a dusty desk drawer, or perhaps he took advantage of a terrible game to write what he wanted to with no concern for relativity.
Whatever the case, the staff at Rainbow Arts heard his work even if no consumers did, and his future game assignments seem to reflect his personal style, not the reverse. The title theme and Stage 4 of The Great Giana Sisters examplify precisely the sound he would become famous for.