Song of the Day: Green and Blue from Halo 4 (by Neil Davidge)

The latest “Song of the Day” comes from the Halo 4 soundtrack. I have just finished playing the campaign and for a first-person shooter the story is what makes the game great. The song from the soundtrack I’ve ended up loving through my first listen through the album is track 15 with the simple title of “Green and Blue”.

The past Halo titles while it was under the development of it’s originators over at Bungie Studios had Martin O’Donnell composing all the music. His Halo theme as become one of the most iconic and recognizable piece of video game music. One doesn’t even have to be a fan of the series to recognize O’Donnell’s theme. When Bungie finally ended their work on the series and Microsoft’s in-house game studio created to take over with 343 Industries fans of the series were concerned that any future Halo titles wouldn’t be able to stand up to O’Donnell’s work under the original regime.

For Halo 4 a new composer was hired to create the appropriate score for the title. In comes Massive Attack’s Neil Davidge to follow in the huge foot steps of O’Donnell. The track I chose is just one piece of a huge orchestral score that Davidge (with assistance from Kazuma Jinnouichi) ended up creating for the title. It’s not just my favorite but also the one piece of music in the entire score that best describes the themes and emotional content of the narrative created for the campaign of Halo 4.

The song begins with a subtle opening that speaks of the revival of the game’s two leads in Master Chief and his A.I. companion, Cortana. They are the Green and Blue of the title. From their revival, to a ethereal lament that then moves moves into a growing, rousing section that best describes the two characters’ relationship and feelings for each other. These are two individuals who have been through hell and back and going into the breach once again and there’s a chance that one or both won’t be back.

As a fan of O’Donnell’s work on the series I was one of those who had concerns about whether Davidge could handle being the new musical caretaker for the Halo franchise. With this example from the game’s orchestral score my concerns have been alleviated and now have another Halo score to enjoy.

VGM Entry 64: Star Fox and Turrican

VGM Entry 64: Star Fox and Turrican
(Thanks to Tish at FFShrine for the banner)

Fantasy genre gaming alone did not define the Super Nintendo, and it’s time to look again at what was transpiring in more action-oriented fields. Star Fox was probably the most well-known action game of 1993. Super Turrican was perhaps one of the least.

Star Fox launched yet another major Nintendo series still being marketed today, and it was a novel game in many ways. It was the flagship title for Argonaut Games’ new Super FX chip, and as such featured a style of graphics never before seen on the system. It was the must have non-RPG of the year, and I can safely say the music had no factor in selling the game. It was just a wonderful added bonus.

Hajime Hirasawa is not a significant figure in game music composition generally. As best I can tell he only ever scored two games: Time Twist: Rekishi no Katasumi de… (Nintendo, 1991) for the Family Computer Disk System (FDS) peripheral to the Famicom, and Star Fox. (The former, as you might quickly notice, is pretty bad.) Hirasawa left Nintendo upon the completion of Star Fox and, a few small arrangement jobs aside, doesn’t seem to have had any further involvement in the gaming industry. He ranks alongside Yukihide Takekawa as one of the greatest one-hit wonders of the era.

Super Turrican (Seika, 1993) on the other hand marked the Super Nintendo debut (to the best of my knowledge) of a video game music legend. The Turrican series has a long and convoluted history, throughout which Chris Hülsbeck did the grand bulk of the composing, and it is for the first SNES installment that he is most remembered.

There were, as best I understand it, six distinct Turrican games in all, but many of these were ported to wildly different systems and must have underwent some drastic changes. Turrican (Rainbow Arts, 1990) and Turrican II (Rainbow Arts, 1991) were both designed for the Commodore 64 originally, by Manfred Trenz, that dubious developer of The Great Giana Sisters. In the span of about one year–to give you some idea of the wide variety of versions here–Turrican was ported to the Amiga 500 and Atari ST (by Factor 5), the Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum (by Probe Software), and the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, PC Engine, and Game Boy (by Code Monkeys and Accolade.) It would be nice to at least know which of them Chris Hülsbeck was directly involved in, because not all of their music is good. The Game Boy port is especially terrible.

Super Turrican was one of three installments of the series developed in 1993. The first, Mega Turrican, had to be shelved for year for lack of a publisher on the Mega Drive, but it did make it to the Amiga as Turrican 3: Payment Day, resulting in the odd consequence of a port of the game being released a year ahead of the original. The other two were, confusingly, both called Super Turrican. Manfred Trenz and Rainbow Arts developed the Nintendo Super Turrican, based loosely around the original two C64 titles, and got the game published through Imagineer. Factor 5 in the meantime developed the Super Nintendo Super Turrican on the model of the Sega Mega Drive version, which was published by Seika as well as, according to Wikipedia, Hudson Soft and Tonkin House. Whatever all confusion must have surrounded this game, they didn’t forget to bring back the series’ main composer, and Chris Hülsbeck’s Super Turrican stands among the best on the SNES today.