Lesser-known Game Music Soundtracks: Over Horizon (FC)

Yet another game that most of us missed and should have heard, Over Horizon was released for Japanese/PAL audiences only.  It featured side-scrollin’ space-shootin’ action and the music of a composer known for dealing with ogres and how they battle and perhaps a Final Fantasy or two.  So, let’s see!

Over Horizon was published in 1991 by the now defunct game company Hot-B, makers of the ever popular The Black Bass series of games (Super Black Bass, Hyper Black Bass).

Perhaps if the series continued, we could have  experienced Marvel vs. Capcom vs. Super Black Bass

Not terribly exciting.  Anyhow, Over Horizon was slated for US release but scrapped.  No one is quite sure why (I’ve checked many sources).  I’ll speculate it may have had something to do with Hot-B going bankrupt just two years later (1993).

The composer for Over Horizon is the now legendary Masaharu Iwata (of the Ogre Battle series, Final Fantasy Tactics series, et al.).  So wow!  That’s great.

…except that well, this is 1991 Iwata.  We’re still 2 years away from his first soundtrack for an Ogre Battle game (Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen, 1993).   In fact, most of his work to this point was for PC88 H-games (Orange Metal, Starship Rendezvous, Witches of Barbatas– you get the picture).  Humble beginnings I suppose.  Flash forward about 6 years and you get this Iwata:

(credit:  iXyled)

Awesome!  What’s cool is we’re about to see how a composer who clearly understands how to write tracks with full score and polyphony use just three sounds!  Can he do it effectively?  Let’s listen:

I really like when all the tracks are set up in one Youtube video- makes it so much easier to post and talk about.  Couple things:

  • I could have sworn that Iwata was using DPCM samples for the drums on these tracks.  Upon further inspection inside the NSF file, there are NO sampled drums.  His technique is killer.  He uses the triangle wave on the 2a03 to both play a bassline AND provide drum kicks, a technique used by a lot of the more advanced NES composers.  So clearly, Iwata knew how to compose for the NES.
  • For all of the tracks, Iwata generally uses Pulse 1 for melody, Pulse 2 for echo and bass effects, and the triangle to create the main bassline/augment drums.  He uses the noise channel to create sound “cracks” that really sell the idea that there are multiple types of drums.
  • Skip to 11:50 – the music for level 3.  The NSF reveals some really cool techniques.  Iwata uses one pulse as a melody pulse and the second pulse for echo.  Big deal, a lot of composers do this, right?  Well, the only difference here is that Iwata uses octave jumps in the second pulse to create an awesome phasing effect inside the echo.  Listen very carefully- you can hear how the pitch drops in the echo before going back to the original pitch.  The result is very creepy and awesome.
  • Check out 14:54- this is the music for level 5.  The drums- that’s just triangle and noise channel.  They sound awesome.  This is just a great track- the soaring pulse is really clean.  The low and wandering pulse augments the bass for a bit and then helps with echo.  Iwata really used one pulse for melodies and the others for support- here’s more evidence of that!
  • It’s really hard to imagine that this is the same guy who did the music for Tactic Ogre or Final Fantasy Tactics.  It’s crazy to see how much many of these musicians grew when they were given extra hardware and better sound capability.  It’s very impressive to see a composer like Iwata write very very good NES music and survive to make the transition to today’s current gen.

Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed this soundtrack!  Thanks again for reading!


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

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