Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My Gaming Audio History: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989)

Today's My Gaming Audio History entry is on the last arcade game that I played as a kid.  Well, really, the last arcade game I played period.  Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I suppose I've been to an arcade a few times, but not really like I did when I was young.  This game was a favorite, a game I truly loved and couldn't wait to play.  The best time for me to play it was at the local Putt-Putt for birthday parties.  You used to get armbands that allowed free, endless tokens.  So the employees would come over and give you and three of your friends thirty lives or so (and more if you needed as you went along) and you just played this game from start to finish, which probably took about half and hour.

I should also explain that for me and many of my friends, TMNT was a way of life.  We pretended to be various characters from the show at school, on the playground, everywhere.  I did a great Krang voice!  I had action figures, We were required to journal in third grade for a few minutes daily and if I pull out my journal the entries are mostly about TMNT, Mega Man II, and how much I hated PE.  One of my most vivid memories about the TMNT cartoon was that the time it aired on TV changed by a half hour or so, so I called my piano teacher to reschedule my lessons because they conflicted with the show.  Granted, I was just a little kid at the time, but if you consider how much I obviously liked piano since I got a doctorate in it, you can see that I loved TMNT a lot too.  If I were going to pretend to be a turtle, I was  always Donatello-- nerdy, smart.  I even took an old shovel handle and put a lot of tape around the center of it to look like a bo.  I own the complete cartoon series on DVD.

All of this is to say that TMNT was the first game I played that really was a part of the cross marketing process.  TV shows, toys, movies, video games... was a soundtrack ever released of this game?  All of this is a classic combo these days, and had been ten years earlier with Pac-Man, but TMNT was the game where I first experienced the cross marketing phenomenon.

I remember loving the sound and music of this arcade.  Unlike watching the video of gameplay today at my apartment, where the sound of a fountain is rolling in lightly from the window, the arcade aural ambience was crazy.! Most of the times I played this game, it was at a party with friends.  This particular arcade wasn't all that large, games were packed in, kids were everywhere, yelling, cheering; it was LOUD!  Usually people stood around and watched as you played as well, so it was quite an event.  Compared with the NES sounds I was used to at home, this game was amazingly more advanced.  The spoken samples were clear and intelligible; compare them with hearing Glass Joe's "Mrph, mrph, mrph" in the NES Punch-Out release!  The game started out with the same visual look and music as the TMNT cartoon.  The NES simply couldn't match the audio of a contemporary arcade game.  I was thrilled hearing the music, sound effects, and spoken catch phrases so loud and up close with this game.  In this video you can see the arcade cabinet and hear that the game played the theme song when no one was playing (he turns the sound on at 1:02).  

Wonder who did the vocal samples?  (<-----  I can't believe this exists!)  I can't find actor names anywhere, but some of them sound very similar to the cartoon characters and others sound completely different.  More info is needed.

Dennis Brown and Chuck Lorre wrote the theme song for the cartoon and Brown also made the soundtrack for the cartoon series, so any music directly from the cartoon, like the intro, deserves their credit.  Mutsuhiko Izumi and Miki Higashino (another female game composer!) are the composers of the game music and it fits well with the style of the music in the cartoon.  The game music often uses motives from the main musical theme in the cartoon, very similar to the techniques used in the tv show! This is most noticeable in the first couple of game levels, and then the music becomes more unique.  Probably with just a few quarters, most people only heard the music in the first few levels anyway.

I read more about the game, the music, including a hidden track, and the various ported versions at a hardcoregaming101 page.  The arcade game is the first material on the page.  I'd say the overall key of the game is C major.  This game has nearly 10 minutes of music which is by far the most of any game I've encountered.  I know Pac-Man to TMNT was a long span and that home consoles weren't able to match contemporary arcades, but include the spoken phrases as well and that's probably around 11 minutes of audio that this game delivered.  Impressive!

Here's a link to the soundtrack and my breakdown of the tracks and any notes:

-Opening: C major.  12 sec.  This sounds like a sample straight from the cartoon audio.
-Player profiles:  C major.  10 sec.  I-II-IV-V-bIV-bVII.  Similar to cartoon theme.
-Insert Coin: C major.  9 sec.  Basically more cartoon theme music.
-Fire: C minor.  49 sec.  Intro-A-B-B'-C-C'.  Intro doesn't repeat.  Uses the "heros in a half shell, turtle power!" motive between the B and C sections.
-Sidewalk: C major.  45 sec.  Intro- A-A'-B(4)-C.  Intro doesn't repeat.  Uses the cartoon motives liberally.
-Sewer: E minor.  57 sec.  First track not to really use much of the cartoon music as a motive.  Chromatic!  Very short drum beat intro.
-Factory: Db major.  45 sec.  plus 2 sec intro that doesn't repeat.  This sounds exactly like the music from the climax of the cartoon where the Turtles start to save the day.
-Freeway: C major.  40 sec.  Very short intro of a drum beat similar to the previous track.  Uses "hey!" in the composition.
-Skateboards: F# minor.  31 sec.  This track doesn't seem to use any of the cartoon music.
-Boss battle: A minor.  32 sec.  Very short intro, percussion and V.  This is the only track to reuse the intro with the loop.
-Technodrome sited: E.  (Can't decide maj/min)  6 sec.  Underscoring to a short in game cutscene.  "There it is" is a part of the audio at this point too.
-Technodrome: E minor.  47 sec.  Intro repeats.  Uses the "Heros in a half shell" motive.
-Krang Battle: F major (shifts to Ab).  38 sec.  I-bVII-bVI-V.  This is a motive used in the TV show as well.  Likely the music is modulated to create a bit longer of a loop and save space.
-Shredder Battle: E minor. 39 sec (plus 5 sec intro of him appearing and splitting up).  Chromatic.  Flight of the Bumblebee-esque at times.
-Victory fanfare: Db major.  4 sec.  Uses motives from the cartoon music.
-Epilogue:  Db major.  32 sec.  My favorite part of this is the bVI-bVII-I motion.  I'm starting to gather that this is a pretty common celebratory cadence in game music.
-Credits: E major.  37 sec.  2 sec intro, half of which repeats in the loop.  Bluesy.
-Continue: C major.  27 sec.  Love the descending minor thirds intro for the "no-home base" feel.  Use the TMNT motive in the bass.  Starts with a 4 sec intro.  The a loop that speeds up as it goes, 8 sec for the first loop, 7 for the second, the third time it doesn't finish and the game over music plays.  Love that this speeds up.  I'm sure I screamed frantically for more quarters while I heard this many times and this music perfectly matched my panic of having to start back at the beginning if I couldn't find one somewhere in my pocket.
-Game over: C major.  4 sec.  Very dramatic last note!
-High score: E major.  9 sec.  Uses the TMNT motive.  There's a slight variation with an added two seconds of music that plays if you beat the game on this screen.

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