Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Midweek Music Box: Mega Man X Music

Everything seemed so metal in the 90s, or at least a good chunk of the music for Super Nintendo games seemed so. I mean, the soundtracks for the Mega Man always had a rockin' vibe to then, but when Mega Man made the leap to the Super Nintendo with Mega Man X those already jammin' tunes had an added layer of base and depth that the Nintendo couldn't handle.  It morphed from merely sounding like something trying to pretend like it was an electric guitar, into something much more electric guitar than anything else. I'm going to highlight just a few, but really the whole soundtrack is just ear candy you should treat yourself too.

First, the Opening Stage Music:

"Opening Stage Music"

I pretty sure a live version of this song would have to end in a guitar smash. Not only do the riffs get you pumped and ready for action, but it's a taste of things to come--and you aren't even playing the actual game yet, just going through a tutorial of sorts. The Opening Stage music lets you know Mega Man has made the leap to 16-bit power with an emphasis on the "power".

Spark Mandrill Stage Theme:

"Spark Mandrill Stage"

Wailing guitar, fast drum work make up this soundtrack. Hearing it, I wish I could run as fast as Mega Man--or rather "X" as he's called in this version of the franchise. It conveys a real sense of energy, excitement, and urgency. As if there's nothing more important in the whole world than beating the stage. I love tracks like this because not only do they make the stage more exciting, but I'm left wishing I could replay the stage just to hear the music. I'd download this or a remix in a heartbeat to use while jogging or taking morning run--if I did that sort of thing. Only problem would be I'd likely drop dead of a massive heart attack while trying to keep pace with the rhythm.

Sigma Fortress 1 

"Sigma Fortress 1"

Sometimes it can feel like musical tone shifts are almost as important to a good game as how well it controls. In a game like Super Mario Bros. it helps us to adjust to the underground levels when instead of hearing the bright and cheerful tune we all know and love--we hear something with a deep groove and a bit of mystery to it. With an action platformer of Mega Man X's style, you can't just drop the guitars and drums because you've reached the main boss' level. You have to keep the mood set up with the other stages while also adding a richer layer. A layer of sound that let's you know it's time to stop screwing around beating underlings, stuffs about to get real--so to speak--and you gotta get your game face on for...uh, the game!  The tone on the synthesized guitar goes down an octave, and a synthesizer keyboard finds itself in the mix, but in a way it really works both for the level and for the game. Mega Man X was set in an indistinguishable future and the game came out in a time when synthesizer music wasn't just popular, it was meant to represent the future. Well, it does a pretty darn good job here in selling me on the severity of the challenge ahead, even with the use of synth music.

Closing Thoughts:

I'd be remiss if I didn't share a link to the whole soundtrack, so here it is:

"Full Mega Man X OST"

I just wanted to highlight a few of my favorites from the soundtrack, but really the whole thing is just so awesome, you really need to listen to the whole thing, or better yet, play the game and hear them in their original setting! Seriously though, the music stands up after all this time and it's great to listen to it even separate from the game. I want to list out all the composers that were credited with creating the music for the game:

Setsuo Yamamoto
Makoto Tomozawa
Yuki Iwai
Yuko Takehara
Toshihiko Horiyama

Thanks to these fine people, every chord rocks, every beat leaves you not just wanting to play the game, but to do something really active as well. At first, I just chalked this feeling up to me being on a diet and trying to exercise more, but even listening to it late at night the other day I felt like I should be doing something more physically straining than just writing. It made me feel like I was ready for a run and ready to take on the whole world--hopefully without having to fight robot masters though.

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