(TG-16 / TurboGrafx-16)

SimEarth: The Living Planet (TG-16 / TurboGrafx-16)

Game Review

SimEarth: The Living Planet Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Brody Olimar

Put the weight of the world in your hands...

The simulation genre has come a long way - maybe not so much in the area of depth, as that's always been there. Where it has really progressed is in presentation: nowadays it’s no longer up to the player to have enough imagination to fill in the gaps left by technical limitations. Unfortunately, those gaps are in abundant supply within SimEarth: The Living Planet. The challenge now is to get those imaginative juices flowing once again: you’re going to need them.

SimEarth is a game with a large scale. Unlike SimCity or The Sims, you’re tasked not with the progression of a small geographic area or a single person, but rather the construction of an entire planet. The idea is daunting in theory and in practice, and first impressions of the game and interface may leave you scratching your head. There is a noticeable lack of tutorials or in game instructions aside from a chatty planet that fills you in on the goings-on now and then. If you do not consult the manual for this one, you’ll be in for a wild ride.

Progression through the game is essentially determined by the natural changes of the planet, and events that you trigger yourself. To succeed you will want to create subtle changes in the environment to keep the planet moving. Doing so is not as complicated a task as it might seem once you get the hang of it, but the archaic graphics definitely lead to some confusion in regards to what is actually taking place. It's hard to knock a game more than ten years old for dated graphics, but the visuals definitely present some confusion now and then.

Keeping tight maintenance on your planet can be a satisfactory experience, but the results are a long time in coming. The game moves along fairly slowly, which makes experimentation difficult as the results can take time to appear. This all has to be taken with a grain of salt of course; if you’re expecting a simulation game up to snuff with the current bigwigs, you’ll likely be disappointed. SimEarth has all the contents that you would want from a game of this sort, but the packaging is definitely showing its age.

Continuing on that note is a few other troubles with the game. The controls have a slight lag to them which can be annoying, and although precision isn’t key since you’re merely controlling a cursor over a grid, it still can be frustrating. The same is true of the load times in the game: while not excessively long, they can drag the experience down even more. This is a game that requires patience, as without it you will likely get frustrated before long.

Yet another downer is the music, which occasionally pleases but mostly grinds on the ears. SimEarth progresses slowly, and the music loops quickly. That combination will likely lead anyone to turn off the sound; an option that is thankfully available. It’s a bit of a shame really, since the silence lends a bit more to the overall monotony of much of what’s taking place in the game world.

Needless to say, there are many things to complain about in SimEarth. Despite the gripes though there is a decent game in here. What it really comes down to is whether or not you will want to play this instead of a more recent, and possibly better iteration of what SimEarth is putting on the table. Without feelings of nostalgia it seems unlikely that this one will really hit the nail of the head with someone.


If you’re a veteran of the genre, then you may find enjoyment to be had in SimEarth. Everyone else would be well advised to think twice about delving into the game, as its overwhelming options and dated visuals can present a difficult to enjoy experience in the wrong hands. SimEarth is not a bad game, it just hasn’t aged very well. If you can get past that barrier then you may very well enjoy the unique ride provided.

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User Comments (32)



WolfRamHeart said:

This was a good and informative review, thanks Brody! I was considering getting this but now I think I'll pass. I'm sure its a good game but I just don't think I have the patience to struggle with this one.



Olimar_91 said:


I hear they're pretty much the same. Although the SNES version would likely require a gamecube/classic controller, while this one can be used with only the remote. Which is a plus.

Basically, don't pass because the of the platform, I don't think it should matter ultimately.



LinktotheFuture said:

@ Olimar_91--I am going to pass because of the game, actually. I was just curious because my brother had the SNES version, and that was the only version I knew existed, until today.



warioswoods said:

As much as I loved the original Sim City, and spent ages building up my various metropolitan projects, this looks about as much fun as a stack of bureaucratic paperwork. Perhaps I'd change my tune if I had plenty of time and only this game to toy with. Either that, or I'd shoot myself.



astarisborn94 said:

Sigh. I was hoping this would be a good game. But it's not, leaving us with a medicoric week for the Virtual Console.



cyrus_zuo said:

I love my TG and still have it...SimEarth isn't one of the games I still have though...I was so disappointed by it when it came out that I quickly sold it. Not nearly as good as SimCity on the SNES.
I was really disappointed again when I heard the game was coming to VC. Why not Dungeon Explorer 2? Y's III? Somer Assault?

All those are NEC published...and not just a dream to come to the VC like the following list: Beyond Shadowgate (one of my all-time favorites), Cadash, Exile II, Legendary Axe, Lords of the Rising Sun, or one of the many Nihon Telenet games (Last Alert, Cosmic Fantasy 2, Final Zone 2).



jhuhn said:

For some reason the Wii Shop Channel in the NA region titled it SimEarth: The Living Earth.



Knux said:

I'm surprised by the score.
I have already bought this game though and I might give my impressions out in the future.



SmaMan said:

I played this on my old 386 when I was like 7 or so. I didn't understand it much back then, so I'd like to give it another try.
btw, is this the TurboGrafx-CD version? The box you posted up looks like it.



BrazCanaMan said:

If it was 600pts like a regular Tg-16 game I'd be all over it, but since it's TG-16 CD and priced at 800 I'm not sold. Too bad.



WarioFan63 said:

Sigh. I was hoping this would be a good game. But it's not, leaving us with a medicoric week for the Virtual Console.

Uh...6/10 is still a pretty good game....



Olimar_91 said:


Surprised by how high, or by how low it is? I had a tough time concluding on this one, because I was actually kind of getting into it (even though it dragged along). But it was hard to get sucked in with the visuals in their current state. I'm curious to see a different opinion though, higher or lower.



Adamant said:

@Super Smash Bros. Fan1999: "Sigh. I was hoping this would be a good game. But it's not, leaving us with a medicoric week for the Virtual Console."

It IS a good game. Read the review, not the score.

Read the scoring policy too, while you're at it - 6/10 is described as "This game is not good enough to rush out and buy without doing your homework. Whilst you should approach with a degree of caution you might still really enjoy this game", which is a pretty damn accurate description of SimEarth. It doesn't have the kind of instant mainstream appeal like SimCity and The Sims did, but it's still a good game in it's own right. If the concept sounds intriguing, I pretty much guarantee you'll enjoy this game.



SKTTR said:

Unfortunately the review doesn't provide much helpful information. No words on the gameplay: Nothing about the 8 different scenarios, the 4 different eras of evolution, the depth and vast amount of options and the things you can do.

If you want a good insight go here: http://vc-pce.com , then choose your country and click on SimEarth.



Sabrewing said:

I seriously think I was born right at the best time to be a gamer (that would be back in 1981). I got to experience the largest cusp -- maybe not starting at Computer Space like some people, but still back towards the medium's infancy/toddler years certainly -- so I'm a lot more patient with games like this than today's crop of "Instant Gratification or Bust" players. Will definitely be snagging this come next paycheck.



Betagam7 said:

@11 "Sigh. I was hoping this would be a good game. But it's not, leaving us with a medicoric week for the Virtual Console."

Just because one person says they don't like it doesn't mean you won't. Don't go through your life only doing what other people tell you.




They should do an improved modern wii title for this. Or maybe even a ds title. The whole idea has promise



Adamant said:

@KnucklesSonic8: "Guys, Super Smash Bros. Fan1999 usually only considers a game if it gets an 8."

I take it he'll complain when the 7/10-rated game SSB is released too, then. Can't wait.



Chunky_Droid said:

Not for me, but glad they're rolling out more Sim titles

Fingers crossed for SimCity 2000 some day!



Olimar_91 said:

@Legend Mariod

The premise is kinda-sorta similar to Spore - also a Maxis/Will Wright game. The big difference is that you're seeing a whole planet progress in this game, while Spore is about seeing a species progress. And of course, the gameplay is quite different.... Well, maybe they aren't that similar, but it's a passable spiritual successor I guess.



Sabrewing said:

@28: If they do, it'll be the horribly botched SNES version... I wouldn't hold my breath.



LittleIrves said:

I imagine few people will be looking at this page in the coming days... but does anyone remember the Creator game demo showcased for N64? Or maybe it was the 64DD? Anyway, it reminds me somewhat of this. I agree with Legend Marioid that an updated version would be swell.

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