Lesser-known Video Game Soundtracks: SimEarth: The Living Planet (SFC/SNES)

Every once in a while, you stumble upon a soundtrack by accident that triggers incredible amounts of nostalgia.  Such a moment occurred today when I rediscovered the OST for Maxis’s SimEarth for SNES.  Let’s take a listen!

I was looking up and down the complete works of Noriyuki Iwadare (the Lunar-series guy) and saw that SimEarth (1993) was listed.  I became immediately excited!  I didn’t know Iwadare did the music for SimEarth!  So, I went over to YouTube and started trying to find examples.  There were plenty of examples for the SNES version of the game… but all of them were listed as being done by some person named Takane Okubo, a composer of which I was not familiar.  Weird.

The internet does not list a composer for ANY of the versions of the game… except the SNES version.  SNESmusic.org lists the true info on SimEarth for SNES and it lists Okubo as the composer.

With a little further research, I also discovered that Iwadare did in fact do the soundtrack to SimEarth… but for Sega-CD (according to Iwadare’s own website).  So naturally, I went and amended Iwadare’s wiki.  Let’s see how long that sits before someone challenges it.

After about 45 minutes of flailing around YouTube, I also discovered examples of the PC and Turbografx-16 CD versions.  If I could find the whole Turbo-CD version, I’d love to hear it.  This snippet is amazing!

Since I could only find the mostly complete soundtrack to the SNES version and couldn’t find composer credits for the other versions, I’ll just highlight Okubo’s work today.  And it’s not that I don’t I think Okubo’s soundtrack work is amazing- because it is.

Here’s an Okubo track.  While you’re listening, I’ll explain a bit about Okubo:

(credit:  mstop4)

Actually, uh…. there’s very little to explain.  It would seem that SimEarth and SimAnt are his two major works.  There’s a couple of sound credits for him in some PS1 games manufactured by NAMCO but I can’t find any other information.  Perhaps he uses a fake name on some other games.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the music for SimEarth is the word “haunting”.  This music really feels deep and epic.  And also kind of like late 80s, early 90s rock.  And also kind of like the soundtrack to Lemmings.  Still, there’s something overwhelmingly orchestral about it.  There’s clearly a french horn part.

(credit:  mstop4)

I love how meandering the music is.  I feel like it’s also very thoughtful.  There’s some has some pretty heavy dissonances starting around 1:30 or so.  It starts out pretty happy but you can also sense darkness, especially right before it repeats.  I can’t think of the word to describe it but I feel like it would be “empty”.

Here’s a bunch more interesting tracks:

(That track is kind of awesomely metal.)

(credit: mstop4)

These tracks all remind me of David Bowie and his album Low.  This particular track could just be slipped into the game soundtrack and you probably wouldn’t notice (Bowie, David.  Low – “Subterraneans”):

(credit:  FallingDown08 and of course, David Bowie)

There’s a lot of comparisons that can be drawn between music of this type and the soundtrack to SimEarth.  I feel like that’s where the composer was aiming.

At any rate, I hope you enjoyed listening.  Comments are ALWAYS welcome.  Here’s a somewhat complete playlist for SimEarth, too.  Enjoy!

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About Classical Gaming

Steve Lakawicz holds an MM in Music Performance from Temple University as well as a BM in Tuba Performance from Rutgers University . His teachers include Paul Scott, Scott Mendoker, and Jay Krush. His love of video game music has lead him to form a blog, Classical Gaming, to promote discussion both casual and academic about the music of video games. He is the co-founder of the video game/nerd music chamber ensemble, Beta Test Music and regularly composes/performs chiptune music as Ap0c. He currently resides in Philadelphia where he teaches college statistics at Temple University. View all posts by Classical Gaming

3 responses to “Lesser-known Video Game Soundtracks: SimEarth: The Living Planet (SFC/SNES)

  • Muuurgh

    Interesting comparison with the Bowie track. I haven’t listened to any more from the album, but I see where you’re coming from. It’s funny–I’m not particularly bothered by the Bowie, but the first SimEarth tune makes me feel very empty… the others have a similar quality, too, even under the brighter parts.

    • classicalgaming

      I think it makes me feel small… or I guess smaller than the whole world… and I think maybe in a game like this that was the point. Very strange music but very thoughtful, for sure.

  • Joe

    I have a track from this game written by Iwadare if you’re interested still.

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