Friday, March 25, 2016

Isometric March Madness: R.C. (Rotten Cheater-computer) Pro-Am

Time to wrap up Isometric March Madness with one of the most memorable games on the NES, R.C. Pro-Am. The R.C. stands for "rotten cheater" and don't tell me that it stands for "remote control" because I remember the computer cars when I raced against them as the filthy cheaters they were. And when I played it again for this review...well, let's get down to reviewin', shall we?


R.C. Pro-Am has a fantastic concept that just doesn't pan out as well any of us would like--or at least as well as I'd like. I love remote control cars, and as a kid the idea of playing as one sounded great! Especially since you got the opportunity to grab power ups and weapons to zip by or blow up other racers. Yes, it may predate the SNES franchise-spawning classic Mario Kart, but it just didn't have the chops to make the game reach its full potential. Not to say that it wasn't a ton of fun to play, just that the game has issues that stood out then and stand out all the more today.

First and foremost, and lastmost, and everything in-between-most; the A.I. gets ridiculously hard and cheaty after only a few races. Let me be clear here, I don't just mean Nintendo-Hard. I mean the computer racers clearly are dumping gallons of nitro into hidden compartments because if you progress far enough in the game they go from merely difficult competitors to inhuman monster machines which not even a direct missile can stop. Yes, they are computer controlled, but it feels like straight up demon possession going on. There were several times when I found myself suddenly "out" of the top 3, and needing to use one of the three continues. No problem, just hop back in the rack, use one of the missile power ups to take some lead cars and secure a spot, right? Wrong! I found myself out again as one computer racer took a slight edge ahead of me, and the one in first place rocketed ahead, in a place where there were no speed boosts and snatched a win. I have no idea what the team at Rare was thinking, but clearly they were thinking of punishing all who dared to even think they'd ever see all 32 levels.

Aside from the insanely over-powered computer oppenents the rest of the game isn't half bad, but it isn't that great either. The map on the bottom of the screen offers a chance for you to glance and see where upcoming turns are, however, you have no idea where hazards like pop-up walls, water spots, and oil slicks are.  You can grab missiles to shoot racers ahead of you, or bombs to drop on those behind you--if you manage to get ahead.  Powering up your car with various upgrades would be cool, but whatever power up you get, the computer instantly gets as well. Grabbing power ups can get especially annoying on higher levels as you bump a wall nabbing a power up, only to see a computer racer going zooming ahead of you like it just stole your speed boost. If you grab the letters scattered on the track, you upgrade your r.c. to a faster, more sporty model, but so does the computer, and trust me, they have way more experience controlling the car than you ever will.

As far as the controls go, they aren't too bad for what they are. In fact, I'd say that it ties Marble Madness in terms of well designed control.  If you have the track and various traps memorized, maneuvering around them isn't too much of a problem, too bad there are all those stupid computer racers around. While you can enjoy the racing well enough, if you're like me you'll be wishing there was a time trial mode or something so you could get a bit more familiar with the tracks on the higher levels. As it stands, it's just you and the cheating computer driving R.C.'s


The style is fairly simple and straightforward. It's you and three other one color racers blazing around a relatively small track littered with obstacles. The simple colors work okay I guess. I know there were hardware limitations, and getting the games frame rate (if that's the right term for it) to move as well as it does probably takes a lot.  However, I selfishly admit I wish that the colors on screen or the vehicle designs were just a little more beefed up than they were.  But for what they had to work with, Rare's take on isometric angles wasn't half bad.


"Title Screen"

Shame that the music from the title screen is all you get really in terms of music.  Other than the title music and a nice, quick ditty before each race that gets you revved up and ready to play, there's no music to speak of.  It's too bad to because maybe a sweet soundtrack would have distracted from the fact that the computer was engaging in high-level cheaterness.

Sound design in the game never really impressed me as a kid, and as an adult I just find it annoying. Whatever satisfaction I get from launching a missile that temporarily stops one of the computer units
dead in its tracks quickly evaporates as I go squealing around a corner. I'll give this to R.C. Pro-Am though, that squealing tire sound is every bit as annoying as their real-world counter part.

Returning the Rental:

It's not hard to believe that this title was put out by Rare. The control was great, what little music there was matched the mood of the game alright, and for what the graphics were at time they weren't too bad. I played the game over and over and over again before doing this reflection. I kept say, "Just one more race and I'll get it." Some how I was able to fool myself into thinking that I'd get better and magically make it through all of the game.  I remember feeling like this back when I was a kid too. Thinking that winning the race was just around the corner, just one more try and I'd make it not only further than last time, but that I'd actually beat the game.  Well, despite getting it for Christmas as a kid, and trying and trying then and trying and trying as an adult, I never got as far as level 20.  But maybe, just maybe next time I will.

If it weren't for the cheaty computer.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Midweek Music Box: Tron Montage (Video Games Live)

Greetings Programs!

Sometimes you just want to escape into a world of video games--like actually, physically be there. I long for a certain level of escapism that no Occulus Rift nor any amount of red-screened Virtual Boy can bring.  When I want to unwind from a long day, I love popping in the original Super Mario Bros. or Splatoon or an occasional RPG so that I can have some down time. But the six year-old me still wonders what it would be like to be in there in a video game grabbing mushrooms, fighting with mythical swords, or freeing the land of Hyrule. I think part of the reason I liked Captain N so much as a kid was that it was about a guy transported to a video game world.   As cool as that was to me though (hey, I was a little kid at the time, gimmie a break) Captain N never took the place in my heart that had already been forged by a certain Disney classic. Lets talk about the game grid and what better way to talk about it than with an instrumental montage of music from one of my favorite movies.  Yes, it's time for some Tron music!

"Intro/Birth of Tron"

Now, let me say that I love Daft Punk's music, and I think they did an excellent job with Tron Legacy--But for me, when I think of Tron music, I think of the original.  What a great soundtrack for an incredible movie.  Yeah, there were so many people back when the movie was released who thought the concept was too campy, too ludicrous to take anything about the movie seriously.  What was that, a "Master Control Progam?" "He's stuck in the so-called 'Grid'?" "Give me a break."  But as a kid--heck, even as an adult--I love this movie. Yeah, it's more fantasy than sci-fi, but what did I care of genres?  Years later when I saw the sequel I realized how much a part of the movie the music was.  Here's one of the more iconic tracks from the movie, "The Light Sailer" scene:

"The Light Sailer"

Doesn't that take you right there into the action? Doesn't it make you feel like you're right there beside Flynn as he and Yori try to escape Sark?  Egad, did Wendy Carlos do a fantastic job or what? Her compositions didn't rely solely on digital keyboards and odd synthesizers to create the feeling that you were viewing an entirely different world, but when it did use them, it did merely have an "80's feel." In think that inclusion of ethereal voices was a brilliant stroke that makes the music have more weight to it.  It  melds synthetic and organic components in such a way that I can't imagine this soundtrack being improved on in any way.  It was movie about a video game world, not just another video game.  Not a Mario or Kombat world, but a world where life was a video game. I dunno, maybe it's just my nostalgia and tiredness talking.

When I talk about video game music, I don't just want to highlight the games that had fantastic soundtracks, but I want to also talk about those shows, artists, and composers that have done so much to help video game music not only merely "sound good," but bring it to life in a way that makes it feel like the world they are writing the music for actually exists.  It's not just about fast paced music with great beats (although that can be good too); it's about making that world feel real, and listening the soundtrack from the original Tron is a great reminder of how the world created in video games can come to life in a way that feels real to us all:

"End Titles"

When I listen to the music from Tron I'm reminded of my six year old self, and not just how I loved playing video games as a kid ( I still enjoy games now). But I feel like I did back then, and remember how I dreamed that one day, it might just be possible to visit a place I can only dream of. That just beyond sight and imagination lies another world; the world of the Grid.

End of line.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Isometric March Madness: Marble Madness

Ah the it...hate it...utter ambivalence...whatever your opinion of the strange device, you have to agree no game seems better suited to the task of controlling the small, blue marble of Marble Madness than the cue-ball shaped controller. I think it was one of the few times in the arcade where I really felt in control of my character when using the track ball. Other than that it was a hate/ intense dislike relationship that I had with it. Between ones that felt slimed with who knows what and countless pinched palms, it frustrated me time and time again. So when I picked up Marble Madness and took it home for the weekend, I thought, "Finally, finally I have a chance at beating the game since I don't have to deal with that STUPID white ball."  

Dang I missed that stupid ball when I rented Marble Madness and got it home.  I didn't realize the control I actually was getting from the trackball at the time, what a shock. Not only that, but it felt like you were actually controlling what was on screen. Not that the home port didn't control well, but well...well let's talk about the game.


Like some Kafka-esque nightmare, you are now a little blue marble. How and why you got this way are unimportant. All that matters to you now is the rolling. Ceaseless, relentless rolling to the goal at the bottom of some Escher-like nightmare. Along the way you race past black marbles, bent on knocking you off a ledge and into oblivion. Giant worms with equally giant mouths wish to devour you and suck you into their gaping maw. The only means of respite you have as you rolls is the hope a magical wand will appear and add a few precious seconds on to your life. Sometimes the floor is slippery or the path is too narrow and you find yourself plunging into the unknown, darkness engulfs you--but then it feels as if you are being torn apart in reverse as your body slowly, slowly pieces itself back together.

Okay, enough of the Kafkan-look at the game. Control for the game actually works quite well, even if it would be nice to have the trackball. Much like the arcade, your one and only goal is to...well, make it to the goal!  The faster you race to the bottom, the more of your leftover time was rolled (ha! puns!) over to the next level.  Speaking of levels, there aren't that many levels in the game, but each one gets successively harder, with the paths getting more complex and more narrow as you progress. There's even a "silly" level where you roll to the top of the screen rather than racing to the bottom. The levels don't alter after each play; so you'll find yourself trying over and over again as you learn the layout and figure out new strategies to get to the end. If you play with  two players, there's the added fun of trying to get to the end first, or even knock the other person off as you race to the goal. I remember playing in the day and getting in arguments with my older brother after he'd knock me off the various ledges (then pretend he was having a hard time controlling the ball.)


It's Isometric!  Okay, that goes without saying seeing as this game is in the middle of "Isometric March Madness," it's still worth noting here as it really effects gameplay in its own unique way.  Whereas in Solstice the gameplay feels unnecessarily challenging thanks to the occasional failure of a player's ability to tell where objects are placed--Here in Marble Madness, you get a genuine sense of depth while retaining the ability to quickly assess where things are on the screen. It's great as you need to take in the surroundings in an instant and make split-second decisions about which path to take.

As far as style goes, it really feels like a solid port of the arcade game. I think out of all the Isometric games on the NES, this one ranks as my favorite simply because you get a real sense of depth, the colors are bright without being too harsh, and the animation of the various enemies and your own little blue marble are cute and well done.


Music for the NES was halfway decent in my opinion. I always liked rolling along to the tune in the second level in particular. It conveyed a nice mix of peppy and upbeat feelings, while still making me feel that I need to get the ball roll--so to speak--and get to the end in as quick a manner as possible:

"Level Two Theme"

I have to say, the sound when the marble drops too far and hits something and cracks always sounded too scratchy to me.  Other than that, the sound design was minimal, but effective. The sound of the ball rolling on ice was neat, the warbling reverberations after you hit another marble was cool, and I still snicker when the little blue marble screamed as I flung it off the side of a drop to it's doom.

Reflection After the Rental:

When I played this as a kid, I remember trying over and over and over again beat the game, or at least get a little further each time and end each level with a bit more time to waste/use on the next level. There always seemed to be a point though where I'd go from actually doing well and getting faster times, to totally sucking and messing up countless times on the easier levels.  I hadn't realized, or wanted to admit that I'd hit a plateau and wasn't getting faster and needed to call it a night.  The game had a fast turn around time when it came to restarting, and it never felt like starting from the beginning was too big of a deal. Losing hours to this game was easy to do. After all, it was only about half a minute to play each level, right?  I was so excited when I got this game at a swap a while back, I played it over and over again, trying to get to the last level, and figuring my poor playing on later levels was just because I was impatient as a kid. I knew that eventually, things would click and I would do the perfect race with the shortest time.

Well...I still haven't gotten to the end of the game, I still get frustrated and start losing ground, and I still end up watching my marble take a death-dive on easier levels as I get more and more frustrated.

I guess some things just don't change. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Midweek Music Box: Twilight Princes "Twilit Battle"

Does music need to be pleasant in order for it to capture our imagination? Certainly not. In fact, I'd say the music for this particular Midweek Music Box is fairly far from pleasant. It won't make my iPod, I won't listen to it while I work, and I won't listen to it to unwind.  Not because it isn't well done, but because it sends chills up my spine every time I hear it. It unsettled me to the core the first time I heard it, and it still leaves me uneasy when I hear it to this day.

Twilight Princess, as I've mentioned in prior posts, is not a game I have beaten yet. I was wildly enthusiastic when Nintendo announced an HD remake of the classic. Not only did it represent a chance to finally beat a Legend of Zelda game I had managed to not actually beat, but it was on a system I find myself playing on a regular basis.

There was one thing I wasn't looking forward to though. Well, besides the stupid fishing exercise at the beginning of the game. A certain musical track was not only one of the best I'd heard from the new Zelda game, but it managed to trigger a little bit of fear in me--something no Zelda game had managed to do before.  What was that track? or tracks?  The "Twilit Battle" and "Shadow Beast":

"Twilit Battle"

"Shadow Battle"

It was Legend of Zelda, so of course an introductory battle was coming. Something not too hard and not too simple either. Something to help you understand not only the mechanics of the game, but of the tone of the game itself.  So imagine how I felt like when a dark portal opens in the sky and instead of some dark, classically foreboding music, I was treated to this odd jangle of dissonance? I loved and hated it instantly. It was appropriately dark for the game, but more than that, it changed the scope of what Zelda music was. No longer could it be just a symphonic masterpiece. The music could inharmonious, twisted, filled with digital bleeps and bloops that were not merely not music, but the antithesis of music. Again, not in a horrible mess of noise way, but in a way that strikes you on a visceral level. It's a kind of music that sets the mood of the game so perfectly not by being what you expect, but by taking it in a new direction.  

This may not be music you have on repeat, but it certainly will send shivers up your spine.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Isometric March Madness: Solstice

Don't you just love the box art for Solstice? I mean, c'mon, this wizard looks like he has choices on how he's going to pound your sorry butt into into the ground. He's got a magic potion in one hand, a staff shooting lightening in the other, and the sheer power of his pec muscles causes his beard to fly back because it can't handle the awesomeness from his roided out chest! This guy looks more like some crazed viking warrior than a mage. I guess that's why he covered his entire body in a purple robe during gameplay. The developers at CSG Imagesoft Ince didn't think we were capable of handling the magnificence of his mighty pecs.  Too bad he couldn't use those muscles to help during the game, because even though I rented Solstice several times when I was a kid, I never managed to get anywhere. Just how frustrating was the game?  Well, it's Isometric March Madness time, and this game typifies the "madness" of isometric games to me.


Typically when playing games about conquering evil wizards, you get muscled men who look like Fabio a la' Wizards and Warriors.  In Solstice, instead of the knight as hero, we get Shadax the Wizard who, according to the box art,  still has a spectacular body because that's how those medieval types roll, so to speak. Morbius the Malevolent has kidnapped the lovely Princess Eleanor and plans to do the ol' ritual sacrifice thing on the princess in order to become a "Baron of Darkness."  Well, he might just succeed because your quest to get a mystical staff to defeat Morbius means navigating through a peril filled fortress filled with monsters and deathtraps.

You'd think for a juiced up, muscle bound wizard nothing would be impossible. Well, sometimes it feels like it IS impossible because control of Shadax the Wizard always felt slippery to me and still does when I picked it up years later. Even though the control of the wizard is fairly straight forward, and using the various potions that freeze time or stun enemies is fairly intuitive; it constantly feels like the razor-thin margin of error allowed on death-defying jumps means you'll be plunging to your death more often than not. You can pick up continue tokens in the maze-like setting, and sometimes find potion refills. However, with how quickly you can die (and die you will) those extra lives and continues will likely disappear before you know it.


Now this game was the first game that came to my mind when I thought about doing an entire month devoted to isometric NES games. I am grateful that I remembered that there are other games out there with an isometric view, because the isometric views in Solstice are one part cool and well detailed, and 2 parts extreme frustration. There were so many times as a kid, and so many times now as an adult, where I would fall to my death on spikes, touch an enemy and instantly vaporize, or narrowly miss a complex sequence of jumps because the perspective and planes were wonky. Think that block you're about to jump on is directly in front of you? Nope! It's actually two feet to the left and you are now headed for a group of deadly spikes. I tell ya, this was some classic "Nintendo Hard," stuff going on.

Despite the difficulty, I always enjoyed renting the game because I found the isometric view both fun and different, and a bit exciting. It was almost like 3D!...almost.  The monsters were colorful and interesting while being appropriately creepy and evil looking, and the various rooms had neat little touches that made each one feel unique so I was never left wondering if I had already been in a particular room. This combination of monsters and varying rooms along with the map screen truly made it feel as if you were exploring the depths of a mysterious fortress.


I can't say too much about sound design because if there's more to it than the hopping noise, cast potion sound, and those high-pitched death screams, I haven't heard it. And boy howdy have I heard that death scream over and over again:

"Item Grab/Death Jingle"

Ah yes.  Aside from those sound effects, the game doesn't have that much there, and frankly, it doesn't have that much when it comes to music either. Not that the intro music doesn't feel epic, it really does, but when it comes to the task of exploring the fortress of Kastlerock and solving its puzzles, the game has only one tune:

"Main BGM Theme"

Not too shabby for being the main song you hear. The low bass and plodding tune are catchy and help pass the time (and frustration). The fact that it goes from the simple beats and builds up to include flute-like sounds and tamborine-ish jingles while keeping the low beats actually is pretty impressive for the Nintendo's sound capability. The composer managed to make the music sound like it was something from a renaissance fair. Even though you pretty much only hear this tune, it's fairly good for what it has to do. I'd gladly put it on loop while working a project or doing a task that required concentration.

Reflection after the rental:

I finally picked this game up about a year ago. I thought maybe time and experience had built within me the patience necessary to deal with the slippery controls and figure out the various puzzles. Heck, with the internet I could cheat like crazy if I wanted and watch a walk-through to help me solve the many puzzles. Well, I wanted to come at this isometric game from the same perspective as I did when I was a kid. No instruction manual (the rental store usually didn't have them) and almost no clue as to how to control the wizard and solve puzzles. Well, even though I figured out the controls, it seems clear to me now that the vile being Morbius will likely sacrifice the young maiden and gain unbelievable power long before the Wizard Shadax finds his way through the mysterious fortress. I like puzzle games, and I like that it requires a bit of figuring out in order to advance in the game.  However, even with the passing of time, I still have a hard time figuring out where on the isometric play field and given objects are.

Despite  the frustration though, I still like the game and am glad I finally have it in my collection. Without the pressure of the impending weekend's end coming, I know that if I don't beat the game by the time Sunday evening rolls around, it's okay. I own Solstice now and have all the time I need to either fall into a set of spikes for the hundredth time...or actually make it over them for once.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Midweek Music Box: Dragon Warrior

Time to embark on an epic quest of swords, magic, and dragons. But you can't have an epic quest without some appropriately epic music. Let's take a look this week at a few tunes from one of my favorite RPGs of all time, Dragon Warrior.

Title Music

"Title Music"

So you boot up the game and (does it count as booting if all you do is plug in a cartridge? I usually think of spinning mechanical work like an Atari 800 when I say "booting".) Anywho, you boot up the game, and a pleasant, almost jaunty little tune greets you. It has a "royal" feel thanks not only to the stonework backdrop of the start screen, but also thanks to the 8-bit trumpet sounds heralding your quest's beginning. I love it because not only does this lend a grandiose feel to the game, but music like this really makes it feel like an RPG worth playing.

Throne Room Music

"Throne Room Music"

Such a serious tone to this track. It made the whole game seem more grave, more important somehow. There are melancholy undertones, and an almost sad feel to the tune. The whole track really has the "kingdom-feeling-despair" essence that you want when under taking an epic quest to save a kingdom from an evil monster.

Overworld Theme

"Overworld Theme"

Sorrowful songs and melancholy tunes continue as soon as you exit Tantegel Castle and explore the kingdom of Alefard. There's an underlining marching type beat, but it doesn't sound like something out of a high school band thankfully. Instead, you get a more plodding feel. Not that the game plods, but the music here helps you to feel as if this quest won't be a quick cakewalk.  For an RPG, quick rarely enters the mix, and really, it shouldn't.

I have less time to play RPGs these days. Between writing jobs, and being a stay at home dad, it feels like the 30 to 40 plus hours needed to level up and win are increasingly joining the "fond memory" category. Oh sure, I could save the game and come back later, but chances are by the time I come back I will have long forgotten where I was headed, what quest I was on, or vital clues needed to find key items. Half the time when this happens I end up doing one of two things:  I start over and hope a fresh start means getting further in the game and being better about taking notes in case I have to leave the game....Or I just stop playing the game altogether and sigh wistfully, wondering what would have happened had I managed to finish the game.  At least I can take solace in the fact that with a few simple mouse clicks, I can bring up the soundtrack to one of my favorite RPGs and remember a time when I was on a quest to defeat the Dragon Lord and the only thing between me and victory was an army of slime-monsters.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Isometric March Madness (Friday Night Rentals): Snake Rattle N' Roll

Snakes, why did it have to be snakes...

You've heard of March Madness? Well, how about some Isometric March Madness?  That's right, for the month of march the spotlight goes to those games with a unique "perspective" on things. Let's get geared up for this month of isometric inspired games with an old favorite of mine; Snake, Rattle N Roll.  I had a blast with this game back in the day. I remember trying out the two player mode with my mom and enjoying a bit of competition as well as we tried to snag the pellets--sorry--Nibbley Pibbleys, and raced to the goal. So how does this shifted view retro games stand up today? Well, snakes don't have legs so it can't stand up today any more than it could yesterday, but still--listen, let's just get to the review and remembrances, k'?


The basic gameplay feels like an update of the classic "snake" game you can find embedded in your old graphing calculator.  You're a technicolor snake with a mission to munch pellets. For each pellet you eat, you get a new body segment. Your main objective is to gain enough body segments to ring a bell which opens up a door leading to the next level.  For an isometric game, the controls are fairly straightforward--no pun intended. You can jump, and your snake's tongue doubles as pellet muncher and attack weapon. There are no bosses in the game, but it has plenty of obstacles, traps, and goofy enemies to make your race to grab pellets an interesting one. One complaint I had from back in the day that still holds true now is the razor-thin margin of error allowed for platform jumps over certain-death abysses. Like all isometric games, it's easy to misjudge a jump multiple times, and then run out of lives and continues without ever knowing whether you were even close to nailing the jump. 


Too bad your little guy doesn't have any legs to bop along to the music because the melodies in Snake Rattle N Roll really capture the 50's diner, bleating jukebox  peppiness you would come to expect from a game that has a rendition of the famous "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" tune:

"Shake, Rattle, and Roll"

The in-game music captures the spirit of the title track in way that's really surprising and really pleasing. Not only does it really get you swinging along, but it helps keep the action of collecting pellets--sorry Nibbly pibblys--fun and exciting. As I mentioned earlier, isometric games on the NES sometimes got on my nerves because I'd more often than not misstep, mis-jump, or just plain miss the mark when trying to get somewhere. Something about the inherent happiness of classic 50's tune can't help but make me smile--even as my snake plummets to his doom for the ump-teenth time.


Let's face it, you don't need Indiana Jones around to make you wonder why it had to be snakes. Personally, I liked the goofy set up back then. Colorful characters, zany enemies, and a point challenge with no enemies. I even liked the competitive aspect of the game. I also enjoyed that there were no boss battles in the game. Not to say that I don't like boss battles, just I don't think it would have fit with the tone of the game. 

Reflection on the Rental

I remember experiences I had with other isometric games (which I'll talk about later this month) and was worried about how much I would enjoy the game.  And to my surprise, it was actually pretty easy to figure out the jumping and chomping mechanics of the game back in the day and there's still some visceral enjoyment I get out of gobbling the pellets which I liken to gobbling dots in Pac-Man. When I was a kid I enjoyed having games I could play with my parents as well as my older brother. Oh sure, doing a fighting game like River City Ransom was fun, but my folks weren't in to that kind of game. Here though with Snake, Rattle N Roll was a game that I could get my mom or dad interested in playing, and even have a bit of fun being competitive. It was well worth picking up as not only did evoke memories of that time when I wanted to play a video game with my folks, but it also was great seeing if I had learned how to get past certain levels that frustrated me as a child and I would ask my parents to do. Unfortunately, I still get stuck.

I wonder if my folks would mind coming over to my house for a bit to help with something?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Midweek Music Box: Cut Man Stage Music (Mega Man)

Your enemy awaits...

It's you and your arm cannon versus a set of six robot masters gone haywire...or were they reprogrammed by some sinister force bent on world domination?  Well, I don't want to spoil it, but the answer is Dr. Wily might be a person of interest. Yup, it's time to talk about one of Capcom's most beloved characters, if not the most beloved, and the glorious 8-bit music contained within.

I can't tell you how many times I rented the original Mega Man by Capcom. It was exciting to play, had great control, and, of course, kick-butt music. Part of the reason I didn't mind renting and re-renting the game was due in part because of how much I loved the soundtrack. You might have already guessed what my favorite track from the game was based on the giant pixelated picture above this text. I'm subtle like that.

So why talk about the Cut Man stage music? I mean, the music from Mega Man 2 gets a lot of well deserved hyped, and yes, I know that there are some truly awesome remixes of Elecman's theme out there. One of my favorite involves a pretty cool guitar arrangement.  However, whenever I think of the days when I was renting the blue bomber's adventures, I think of the original outing on the NES. When I think about Mega Man's first game, I invariably think of the music from Cut Man's stage.  I would sometimes have a real dilemma over whether to try his stage first just so I could hear the music, or fight him last so I could savor it before going to battle Dr. Wily.

I won't make you puzzle that one out though, so, without further ado, here's the theme from Cut Man's stage:

"Cut Man Stage"

Can you feel it?  There's a certain excitement and determination in the music.  It has a fast rhythm and nice beats with an occasional crescendo of higher notes before it goes back to the familiar tune. Those high notes in the song used to puzzle me, it was a high and hopeful sounding interlude in the middle of more "heavy" feeling tune. There's a fierce undercurrent to the tone of the music that always makes me feel like what I'm doing has real importance. It's as if I really am fighting robot masters to save world and the fate of mankind rests on me and me alone...or at least that's how I felt when I was listening to the music. I think that's a big part of the reason I enjoy this particular track. 

Like any good video game track for the original Nintendo, the Cut Man theme takes me to a time when a weekend was full of possible new worlds and new adventure---such as those found in a world filled with villainous robots and deadly weapons.