Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mega Man Music -- MM4

Hey y'all.  Time for another Mega Man review.  This one is about Mega Man Four, one of my absolute favorites from when I was a kid.  Now, I've played (and seen played) all Mega Mans 1-5, but the ones I remember best are 1, 4, and 5.  Don't worry, I've seen playthroughs to remind myself of all of them, and I've been listening a lot to the music for the purposes of this blog.

In any case, Mega Man four makes me darn happy.  Some people say that MM4 is the point where the Mega Man series started going wrong, but I disagree (it's really MM5, but we'll get there next time).  Mega Man 4 is actually the most standardized Mega Man, in the sense that it has the most aspects of what a MM game is supposed to be.  Now, while MM 1-3 were great, they were still trying to figure out a lot of things.  MM 5-6 were very rushed, 7-8 were trying to figure out how to make MM work on the Super Nintendo, and 9 and 10 were essentially trying to connect to the past but still had to adjust for how modern gaming works.

This leaves Four as the one that had the best of everything, in a sense.  Rush and Proto Man were there, the Rush jet was fixed to not break the game, the graphics were beautiful by NES standards, the music rocked, the robot masters were creative, the plot included a new "baddie", and it was firmly established in the MM series that no matter what else happens, the guy behind it is always Wily. 

Rush marine was in this game also, and since Dive Man has a water stage, it's not completely useless (it's by far not necessary, but still).  They also throw in a couple of extra items like the wire and the balloon, which are really fun to play with them without being too useful that they make the game ridiculously easy.  Honestly, taking the time to play with them is so much fun.  Then you also get the charged shot, which enables you to do more damage with you regular weapon.  Fun stuff!

The plot is great.  It starts off with a magnificent intro, probably the best intro ever for the Mega Man games ever, and only 7, 9 and 10 really compare.  Oh wait, never mind, 8 had a wonderful anime intro.  You can say 4's is better if you prefer simple intros, I guess.  So the story goes that Dr. Cossack is acting up now, because Wily "died" in MM3.  In the end, Wily was really holding Cossack's daughter Kalinka hostage, and thanks to Proto Man, Mega Man discovers this and goes after the man responsible.  And then he rides back home on a train.  Awesome.

So let's move on to the music.  Some people didn't like the music in this game as much as the others, and I think that's mostly due to the darkness of the track.  Personally, I don't mind at all that the soundtrack is more melodramatic than usual, and it's probably for the best after the party-fest that MM3 was.  It's good to go in a new direction.  Really, there's no drop in quality from the other games, it's just different.  You can either like this or something else better. 

I talk a lot about making the music in the games into the soundtrack of a movie, and I feel 4's is definitely the most story-esque.  All of the music fits thematically, as if it really is trying to tell the story of a really great dark action movie with a melodramatic ending that's kinda depressing but mostly good.

Anyway, let's get to the actual music.  For starters, the intro is magnificent.  It starts off slow, just like the melodramatic 4 is.  Then it goes into sad to describe the robot wars, then into a pulsing beat where Mega Man is ready to charge in and kick butt.  Honestly, it's just like a dang movie.  This song might as well be the opening monologue of a movie.

The title music isn't any less hardcore.  It's all like "come on, time to fight and show those losers you mean business!".  Crap, the stage select screen is one of my favorites of all time.  It really pumps you up.  I might rank the stage select screens at some point, but for now we'll just go on.

Robot masters!

#8 Drill Man has a really fun theme.  It's methodical, fun without losing that dark edge.   Honestly, the bassline of this song is a song unto itself.  The only reason it doesn't rank higher is because of its competition.

#7 I really have to wonder who composed all of the MM4 songs.  Whoever did has a really great head for making 8 bit music sound like the environment and master the song has to portray.  Toad Man's theme sounds like water and rain and sewer.  Very good stuff.

#6 Dive Man isn't one of my favorite robot masters, but I really like his theme.  It's a lot of fun, very party without losing that sense of ocean.  I'm pretty sure it's the happiest theme in the game.  Yeah, even the fun themes in this one have an edge.  Relax with Dive Man!

#5 As a kid, I didn't like Skull Man's music.  To me it just sounded overplayed without really being that interesting.  I think my brother must have lost a lot when he was playing this level or something, because I was pretty sick of it.  However, as an adult I have suddenly stopped hating it.  I'm not really sure why, but now I acknowledge that it is good fun stuff.  Not the best, but a fun theme that's a good fit in Mega Man Classic.

#4 Bright Man's theme is one of the most popular themes in this game, and it really does deserve it.  The song feels so mechanical, both chirpy and dark at the same time.  Quintessential Mega Man.  In my mind it doesn't stand out as well as other MM songs, but it's the kind of theme you'll randomly think of later in the day and not be annoyed that you did.  Good stuff.

#3 Ring Man!  I love everything about him and his stage.  Except those darn green ring baddies.  They suck.  Anyway, this theme just catches in your head and makes you want to party.  It's spacey, weird, and a whole lot of fun.  It makes you not so full of hate when those darn green ring baddies take forever to kill.

#2 Dust Man's dang epic!  The intro alone is enough to propell this song in the rankings.  It's dramatic, forceful, and cold.  It sounds just like a robotic war should sound, as if the entire world is tearing apart.  Honestly, this song deserves some famous composer treatment.  This is what doom sounds like. 

#1 I'm going to be honest.  The themes I remember from a kid most from this game were Ring Man's and Dust Man's, but in coming back and listening to these, I have to say that Pharoah Man's does own pretty good.  It's the most fun track of the robot masters, both epic and adventurous.  That's why it wins.

The boss battle theme is friggin' epic!! Gah!!  It really gives that sense of running out of time.  Great stuff!  The weapon gain theme is good too.  It has a great beat.  Very simple game over theme in this game.  The password theme is sort of annoying.  They could have stood to make it longer and not so repetitive.

Ah, they have a nice little intro to Dr. Cossack's castle.  The theme for levels 1 and 2 rocks.  It's mysterious and even danceable.  You can't help but bob your head to it.  The real gem of the Cossack music is levels 3 and 4 though.  This is a seriously epic track, one comparable to the Wily theme for 1 and 2 in MM2.  It's a fan favorite and deserves to be.  Very intense and dramatic, really bringing you in for the action.

Now, after the good times that Cossack's castle was, we find out that Wily was behind it all.  Big surprise.  Hm, the Wily stage 1 and 2 theme here is good.  Kind of reminds me of Toad Man's stage.  It's pretty good.  Not as epic as Cossack.  Nor is 3 and 4's theme, but it's still great Mega Man fare, and it brings up the drama to remind you that you're about to go fight the big boss of the game. 

You really have to give them credit for the Wily boss theme.  It's marvelous, and probably the best Wily boss theme there is (unless I'm forgetting something).  After a really cute "win the game" theme, the depressing ending theme plays, showing Mega Man going home by riding atop a train.  Crap, I need to write lyrics to this's so sad and dramatic, remorseful and reminiscent.  It compares to Proto Man's theme in the level of depressing.  It sort of makes me wonder if this was supposed to be the last Mega Man Classic game, at least on the original Nintendo.  The remix of MM2's title theme after this bittersweet ending theme really seems to say it.  Or maybe I'm reading too much into it.

Link to the music!

So in any case, MM4 has a great soundtrack.  I personally feel that it's better than MM2's, but a lot of people like MM2's better.  Whichever.  It's not like either of them are crap.  In any case, this is a great example of what Mega Man is supposed to be, but rough points are ahead in the franchise.  Honestly, in certain ways the Classic franchise doesn't make a full recovery until MM9.  But I'll let you be the judge of that.  See you next time!

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