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.