As always, a friendly warning, this post will contain spoilers.
Many a day were spent playing Turtles in Time with my older brother. I wouldn’t even see the final boss half of the time I played, but that wouldn’t stop us from trying. As was common with SNES co-op games, my older sibling and I would play through them and he’d always be the one leading the charge. He always got to be Donatello, and to this day I still pick Donatello as long as I’m Player One. Before I delve into the music, I should talk about the SNES port of Turtles in Time, which I grew up thinking was the definitive (and only) version.
Despite the number in the title of the SNES version, Turtles in Time was the 2nd in the series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles beat-em-ups released to the arcade that were made by Konami. It was released on September 18th, 1991 and would be ported to the SNES a year later to be part of the numbered games that were getting released on Nintendo systems. There were many changes that were made (in addition to the sound/animations/voices and other things that couldn’t be replicated by the SNES) and a few things added.
Sewer Surfin’ changed from a bonus stage that lead right into the time portal to a bonus stage with The Rat King as a boss at the end. After Sewer Surfin’, the game lead into an SNES exclusive level for Turtles in Time: The Technodrome. This featured 3 bosses: Tokka and Rahzar (An ooze infused snapping turtle and a gray fox) and a battle with Shredder where you threw continually spawning enemies at his control panel which was seated right in front of the screen. In addition, Prehistoric Turtlesaurus has Slash as a boss instead of Cement Man and the boss of Skull and Crossbones became Bebop and Rocksteady (with Tokka and Rahzar moved to the newly created Technodrome) Neon Night Riders took advantage of the SNES mode-7 and had the turtles riding forward on the level instead of side scrolling. The last (and most notable to me) change comes at the end, but I’ll get to that soon.
Enough of the history lesson, I’m itching to delve into my childhood and remember some of my favorite songs from Turtles in Time. I love just about all of these songs and can sing just as many of them on cue, but here are a couple that stand out. Obviously, I’ll be using the SNES versions of the songs.
Big Apple: 3 AM
This is the first song you hear when you jump into the game. To be honest, when I was a kid I had no idea ‘The Big Apple’ was just a nickname for New York and the name always confused me. I don’t even think my brain could comprehend the time of 3:00 AM either, since staying up until midnight was a pipe dream at that point. The way the guy said ‘Three AM’ always caught my ear, but I was never sure why.
Along with the jazzy beat, this song also contains the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle theme from the TV show that we were so familiar with. You can hear it real early in the song, say about 10-11 seconds in. It does a good job of telling you, “Don’t worry about it, this is a TMNT game, so enjoy the ride.” I still snap my fingers to the beat, even though I couldn’t even really snap my fingers until about 3 years ago. This song sure as hell always inspired me to try.
This is probably the one song that everyone who remembers Turtles in Time will point to as THE song of the game. It encompasses all of the ‘dude’ and ‘extreme’ stuff that was going on in the 90s. Konami did a great job of capturing that surfer-dude mentality with this song.
Sewer Surfin’ represents the Turtles on their home turf and the music takes you along without a care in the world. Hanging out with your buddies and surfing sounded like a sweet deal, man. I’ve literally never tried it, but I have no problem believing this song will bring the surfer out in you, brah. Better move on before the sick waves of the tunes wash me up.
Bury My Shell at Wounded Knee
Using a play on the book title ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’, this track always got to me like few other songs in the game did. The level takes place aboard a train in the Wild West where you are attacked by the horse mounted Foot Clan and giant stone men with girders. You moved forward until you run into Leatherhead, a mutated alligator from the Florida Everglades, who I’m pretty sure had a Cajun accent. I don’t remember completely, but I know for sure that as a boss he was a big pain in the ass with his crawling across the floor and knives and… argh.
The song draws a lot of influence from spaghetti westerns and various other cowboy movies. Ennio Morricone, who composed some of the most popular songs for those films, clearly is an inspiration for the game music (minus the use of synthesizer of course). You can hear a bit of this song in the theme of “For a Few Dollars More”.
I can’t say for certain why this song draws me in. It’s possible that the lawless nature of the spaghetti western influences draws me in. Maybe it’s because I’m a lone wolf who longs for the feel of dust in the wind… or possibly it’s the strong melody that grabs me, like other older game songs. Some of the greatest composers of all time made the scores to those wild west films, so Konami was right to draw influences here.
As an added note, I also hear a lot of similarities between this song and Fei Long’s theme from Street Fighter 2. But, you be the judge.
Technodrome: The Final Shellshock
You travel back into the past after fighting Krang in the future so that you can recover the stolen Statue of Liberty. You arrive back at the Technodrome for a final encounter with Shredder. He rises up into the air and slowly transforms into the muscle and spike bound Super Shredder. This was that game change that I was talking about earlier, as the arcade version had a battle with Shredder who was just carrying a Katana and doing Kung Fu moves. I’m not totally sure why they chose to put Super Shredder into the game, but oh man does it make me appreciate this song so much more.
Super Shredder was introduced in the 2nd live action 1992 TMNT film, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze” (which also included the debut of Tokka and Rahzar). Super Shredder (portrayed by pro-wrestler Kevin Nash) was a huge hulking version of Shredder who took some of the Ooze to mutate himself, but was too huge and powerful for the pier he and the turtles were fighting on, and collapsed it (presumably drowning). As an impressionable 6 year old, I thought Super Shredder was the coolest thing since sliced bread. Hell, cooler than the sliced bread that my mom used to make my lunch sandwiches. I’m really into sandwiches, so my apologies. When I saw that I was fighting Super Shredder in Turtles in Time, I was in awe.
Shredder in general is considered more skilled than the turtles, an adversary that requires teamwork to beat (or whenever Leonardo has to prove he is the leader and tries to play THE main character in a series with 4 main characters). This song aptly sets the stage for the battle that would follow. The guitar shredding (pun most certainly intended) amped up how much this battle would mean and how serious I was about it. I love many many MANY final boss themes, but this song presented Super Shredder as someone that would require the culmination of the skills that Player 2 (or 1) and I would bring to the table.
Like I mentioned before, co-op defines almost all of my early gaming, and when I think of a co-op game, one of the first ones I will jump to is Turtles in Time. Eventually, they would release a remake of Turtles in time called Turtles in Time: Reshelled, but it would be a remake of the arcade version, much to my displeasure, and would use an entirely new and not nearly as good soundtrack (much to the displeasure of basically everyone else who wasn’t feeling the displeasure I already was). Regardless, I’ll always have the memories.
I hope you enjoyed this trip back in time with me, and you can bet there’s more where that came from.
I’ll see you again soon, dude!