Ok, so what’s one of the coolest soundtracks from the early 90s? That would be Earthworm Jim (1994). Now, the original was composed by Mark Miller (ToeJam and Earl, Dark Side of the Moon), but Tommy Tallarico gets credit for arranging the soundtrack (and picking up the reins for the series) with Earthworm Jim: Special Edition on the Sega CD and PC. Earthworm Jim is one of the neatest characters ever put in a game – he’s a giant earthworm inside a super suit, and he fires a giant laser pistol that shoots about a bajillion rounds a minute (I am not making that up). The game had AMAZING animation as well as good gameplay and a great soundtrack. Anyway, you can buy a soundtrack compilation of a whole anthology of Earthworm Jim music from Video Games Live for $15. There’s some pretty zany stuff on there, but also a few good pieces like “Junkit” and “Subterranean”, but the Special Edition version of “What the Heck” was far better. The Sega CD version sells for about $50, which is completely nuts, but thankfully you can just play it on a Sega CD emulator instead of shelling out another $150 to play it on the actual hardware (or just buy the PC version for about $10 used). Umm yeah, you can also buy action figures.
The theme is quite earthy, which is kind of what you’d expect from a junkyard – all that low, grungy bass. But the theme also wants to climb to the heights with a wide range of notes played on flute and trumpet (which makes sense, as this level has a LOT of climbing as well as upward and downward movement!). The beat is groovy and the high quality synths add quite a bit. Oh yeah, and you of course have to love that guitar! This really is vgm at its best – great action music to game to (and sounds great on the stereo!).
In contrast, the original Genesis version has a pretty cool gritty feel. There’s a good drum track here (just check those high hats at 1:29!) that works well with the low bass line while the flute and lead synth are both high quality. And what’s up with that weird vortex sound in the intro!? See, you can really create some good stuff with the Genesis given good synth libraries. Honestly, this sounds like something you could find on the Amiga. While ultimately not as good as the arrange, overall, some of the better music on the system and a cool piece.
Oh yeah, another cool thing is the special ending music. Beat the game on super hard mode, and you’ll get this special message from Tommy Tallarico.