As always, a friendly reminder that this post may contain spoilers.
There are a couple of games on the SNES that I would think of as having been played by everyone. Beat it or not, Mega Man X has one of the most recognizable uses of the SNES soundchip and has created a whole new brand for Mega Man. Now, I’m not gonna get all Sequelitis on you. Yes, Mega Man X is amazing and yes, its gameplay was intuitive and new. However, these posts are about music, so anything I say that might sound close to their video is 100% coincidence.
I always wanted Mega Man X, but didn’t acquire it until it went on sale one day at the Blockbuster near me. As per Blockbuster, the front of the cartridge had a giant sticker thing covering the cartridge art. I had actually owned the game quite some time after it came out. MMX was released in 1993, but I didn’t own it until about 1998 -- 1999.
However, I did always admire the music even when we were only renting it. The group in charge of creating such memorable tunes was Alph Lyla, the in-house composers for Capcom. The soundtrack was composed mostly by Setsuo Yamamoto, but he was aided near completion by Yuki Iwai, Toshihiko Horiyama (composer for Ace Attorney 4: Apollo Justice), Yuko Takehara, and Makoto Tomozawa. I mentioned the usage of the soundchip before, and while it’s not anything as extreme as Tim Follin’s work, it gets the sound really close to that of an electric guitar. In fact, this score was one of the first times I heard it used that way (second, perhaps to Turtles in Time). Universally, the soundtrack to this game is considered one of the most memorable out there -- and for good cause.
I was pretty easily impressed by things when I was a kid. Zero’s Theme isn’t that complex of a song, but the guitar riffs that it is comprised of made me think Zero was the coolest goddamn character I had seen in a video game. He dashed in from off screen and sliced the arm of Vile’s robot clean off. It’s been said that Zero was initially intended to be the main character of the MMX series. True or not, every level I wanted to know when I would get to see Zero again. This is just a small taste of that guitar style that is featured heavily in this game. It doesn’t sound like an emulation of a guitar, but rather it sounds like someone converted an actual guitar directly into 16 bits. Everything about Mega Man X was supposed to be more extreme and metal, and you can really get that from this.
Chill Penguin’s stage gets my pick for song that best represents its level. There is another song on the list that’s a contender, but this one gets everything right. Obviously, right from the start, you get those rapid tones that make you think of ice and cold stuff. The end of each part of the song tends to drift a little as if sliding onto the next segment. This is usually the first level people choose when they start the game since it contains the power-up for dash boots, setting a great first impression as to the quality of the soundtrack. This track shows that the score does more than the electric guitar-based songs.
About 5 years ago, I was listening to this song and for some bizarre reason, I could never listen to it the same way again. Now, whenever I hear the theme of Spark Mandrill’s stage, what comes to the forefront of my mind isn’t the melody, but instead, it’s the bass. The bass line in this song is so good, and I wonder why other great bass lines from other songs don’t make their way into my head. I can’t nail it down, but this song kicks serious ass, and when I hear it, I feel like I’m appreciating the whole composition even more.
Now I know what you may possibly be thinking -- “Alex, the bass line of Launch Octopus’ stage is the forefront of the start of the song. How can you seriously not include it with Spark Mandrill as one of those songs?” In this song, my brain paints a picture with the bass instead of featuring it in the forefront like Spark Mandrill. The way the bass is set up makes the song sound like it’s underwater. This is the song I was talking about before. It’s the one that sounds really close to the level it’s representing. The stage for Launch Octopus takes place basically completely underwater, so it’s no surprise that the muddled style of music makes you imagine everything happening underwater. Also, for the longest time Launch Octopus was one of the hardest bosses in the game for me. Not sure why, but I just figured that I would share that.
Sigma Stage 1
Sigma’s stage begins with an assault on Sigma’s Fortress, followed by your incursion deeper inside. This song makes a good starting point, making it clear that you’re on the path to the end of the game, but your goal is still a ways away. It still gets me pumped to get into that Fortress and kick Sigma’s ass. As long as I get to hear this music, my determination won’t falter, despite falling off those flying platforms again… and again… and again.
Sigma Battle 1
When I’m playing Mega Man X, I never think about the fact that the music loops very early on this song. The repetitive nature matches the relatively repetitive attack sequences that Sigma dishes out. During the fight, Sigma throws away the cloak he’s wearing to reveal a perfectly capable looking boss wielding a lightsaber. Now, no one wants to be hit by a lightsaber wielding final boss, and between that fact and this song the game certainly had my concentration. This track is the epitome of metal.
I won’t claim that this theme is more awesome than the one that follows it (which won’t be on the list for reasons), but I can say that this one properly gets across the threat level of Sigma without much effort. Unless thrashing requires effort, at which point it actually uses a bunch of effort. (Damnit, Alex. -- EDITOR FRANK)Either way, I get the point they’re making loud and clear and let me tell you: it’s sick as hell.
Aside from spinoffs and remakes, there are eight Mega Man X games, all varying in quality. The third game actually has a lot of music that I really like, but we’ll see if I decide to do a post dedicated to X3. A lot of these songs won’t come as a surprise to many people, but maybe they wouldn’t have picked the same ones. Whether or not we have the same opinions, that would be interesting to find out. In fact, please comment on this post and tell me what you thought. Tell me your favorite songs as well, and I’ll see you tomorrow!
That’s right… It’s begun again… How long must this war go on?