Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mega Man Music --- MM6

Hey y'all.  Okay, so right away during these reviews I have to admit that I have only played the games 1-5 as a kid.  It is my desire to be fair, and to judge these according to their merits, not according to nostalgia.  So yeah, number 6 is the first of those that I didn't play.  Though, to be fair, its first release was only in Japan.  I'm really glad it came over here to America eventually, but to me it's the real beginning of Mega Man Classic's troubled period.

Let me explain.  MMs 1-3 were all weird, because Capcom had to figure out how to make the series work.  In MM4, they figured it out.  They surfed a wave of uncertainty and had a great ride.  MM5 came around, and Capcom figured out quickly that they were going to need to configure the series to not only have a good pattern, but to also be adjustable enough to be fun every time.

This wave wasn't as great a surf, but I don't blame Capcom.  MM6 was a rushed NES production which I assume was done for two reasons.  The first is obviously money, as Mega Man is a great series and they could cash in for other endeavors on the Super Nintendo.  The second was to figure out how to adjust their set formula to make the gameplay more interesting.  As much as I love MM5, the gameplay problems during the castle levels (ie the lack of challenge) made it clear that some changes needed to be made if Mega Man Classic was going to survive.

Hence MM6.  They tried some new things and definitely tried harder on the robot master designs, but in the end the rushed nature of the game made it suffer a lot of the problems of MM5.  Actually, people have said that Mega Man 6 is the easiest of the classic games.  There are several reasons for this, mainly in the very strict robot master patterns.  This to me is a huge no-no, because the reason why some of the earlier robot masters are so delightfully hard is because they have an edge of randomness and you have to figure out how to force them into their pattern.  With these guys, it's basically just watch them repeat themselves and dodge/attack accordingly.  Lame.  Especially when you throw in robot master weaknesses.

Let me actually talk good about the robot masters.  The thing that makes MM6 stand out from the others is its robot masters.  By the time this set was designed, their creator was already working on several things for the Super Nintendo, so they came out way more detailed than the NES could really handle well.  As a result, all the robot masters are very distinctive, and this is very cool.

However, at least in my opinion that's the only thing that's really distinctive about the game.  The first time I watched a playthrough of this game, I couldn't remember a thing about it other than some of the robot masters.  I knew it involved shortcuts and two power upgrades, and that's it.  I honestly had to watch it again to just remember anything about it.  Not much about this game makes a lasting impression compared to all the others in the series.

You might just say that I feel that way because I didn't play the game as a kid. That doesn't have anything to do with it.  Honestly, I remembered plenty about 7-10 after watching playthroughs.  MM6 tries, but it just doesn't really get outside of mediocre a lot of the time as far as gameplay goes.  The bosses are too boring, the enemies during the levels aren't as much of a challenge, and the two new powers don't really work out as well as they could because the game wasn't designed enough around them.

Let's talk about those.  Okay, so there's the jet adaptor and the power adaptor for Mega Man, and these as concepts are actually very interesting.  Rush isn't Rush jet in this game.  Instead he merges with Mega Man to become jet Mega Man or Power Mega Man.  The jet adaptor allows you to fly around for a short amount of time before you have to land.  However, once you do land, your little meter goes back up and you can fly some more.  The power adaptor lets you have a great punching ability to break blocks or deal good damage.

Honestly, these things could have been really great if the game was actually designed better for them.  The jet adaptor ends up more or less being a cheat because it's so handy, and the power adaptor has of course short range.  Actually, people probably would have loved the power adaptor if it showed bad guys bouncing off your fists as you punched them.  That would be hilarious.

Oh yeah, Beat is available.  You unlock him by fighting four of the robot masters, except these four have two different boss rooms and you have to choose the right one.  Beat, like in MM5, deals damage to enemy robots.  It's not as useful to have Beat in this game, as no boss is weak to it.  It's fun to find the pieces though. I thought that was a good idea for gameplay.  A bad idea for gameplay was to have it so there are shortcuts during the boss castle stages that enabled you to avoid most of the trouble of that castle level.  That's just a cheat right there.

I'm not going to say that the game isn't worth playing.  It's cool.  Oh yeah, maybe I should talk about the plot. Okay, up till this point the classic series has always been mildly serious, at least in the sense that Capcom never made the story cheesy on purpose.  It actually tries in several places to be very serious, like the ending themes of MM2 and 4.  If it was cheesy, it was only because the NES 8 bit format is hard to convey serious themes in.  MM6 involves a bit of deliberate cheesiness, specifically that the bad guy is obviously Wily in a costume.

So the story goes that Mr. X (Wily) is running a robot contest to see who the most powerful robot is, but then he steals the robots and uses them to try and take over the world.  Yeah.  Cheese.  I'll get to more of why this is a problem in my MM7 review, where it is more applicable.  MM6 isn't too cheesy by comparison.  Actually that plot point is really the only problem.  Up till this Capcom went more or less seriously with its work, and I'm disappointed that it felt it had to go more silly past this point.

Bah, this is supposed to be about music, no?  Let's get to it.  Overall I find MM6's soundtrack lacking.  Don't get me wrong, it's got good tracks here and there, but it just feels too mediocre.  There's no Crash Man-like or Star Man-like track that just sounds weird and out there.  Most of the robot master themes don't feel as distinctive or memorable as the general fare of the first five games went.  It felt like either they tried too hard or didn't try enough.  My guess is the first one, as there are some hits in here.

Now remember, I judge the music by what I think is quality, not by my personal favorites.  Also, I made sure to listen to this soundtrack a lot to give it a real chance and not just malign it.  I want these to be as honest as possible, and I'm not picking on this game.  I intend to be honest with all of these, not just put random ratings. I've listened to it over and over again these past weeks.  That being said, I think I can honestly tell you that MM6's music is a step down.  More than anything a lot of the robot master themes seem to blur with one another, sounding thematically alike.  As distinctive as the robot masters' designs are, their songs are just kinda there without really matching the robot master as well as it needed to.

The intro music is good.  It does remind me of a robot master contest.  It's cool.  Not epic like some, but it's a good time.  It leads pretty well into the title screen music, which I personally think is pretty nice.  Good stuff.

I don't like the password screen music that much.  It's okay, but it's just kind of there.  It's not really remarkable.  The stage select screen steps it up with music, and it's very enjoyable.  Ready to fight!

#8 What where they thinking?  Wind Man's theme sounds more like end credits music than a robot master theme.  Were they trying to make this music sound all sad and melodramatic because they knew it was going to be the last game for the NES?  It's a pretty good song, but it really fails to be what it needs to be: Wind Man's.

#7 Yeah...I'm not sure what happened to Tomahawk Man's theme.  It just doesn't stand out that well.  This is one of those themes I had a really hard time placing to the robot master.  I find the main layer of this song to just kinda be there.  Honestly though, it's a pretty good song on its own.  It doesn't really strike the fancy, but it's okay.

#6 I like Blizzard Man's theme alright.  I'm not sure how much it conveys snow and ice, but it's alright.  It's peppy and fun.  Cute, even.

#5 Yamato Man's theme is kinda cool.  It's one of the themes in the mix that really could have stood to be more distinctive, but I enjoy it.  It feels like a Mega Man song.  I wish it could have been more creative, especially for a robot master that's said to originate in the same country as the makers of this game.  Whatever, it's fun.

#4 Knight Man's is more of a fan favorite in this game, and I see why.  I like it pretty good.  As it goes on it actually gets fairly interesting.  Good rollicking theme.

#3 Plant Man's theme is one of those themes that I constantly mix up with several others.  However, it's more of a cut above as it actually does convey some sense of flowers and wind, at least in my mind.  It's a nice theme, even a little soothing.  Cute.  The more I listen, the more I like.  Good job, here.

#2 Now Centaur's Man theme I actually really like.  This song they actually made more relaxing than the others, and that bit of uniqueness makes it stand out a lot more, something the robot master themes desperately needed.  It actually makes me think of horses in fields, conveying an idea.  It's a great song, really being what MM6 needs.

#1  The robot master deserving of the number 1 spot is definitely Flame Man.  Not only does his level have good gameplay, but this theme just kicks butt.  I love how it actually gets Arabian tones in the music even though the format is so dated.  This really tells the skill of the composer in the game, as he made a really great theme here that is distinctive and entertaining.  This is what 8 bit music is all about.

Say what you want about the robots' themes, but the boss fight song is great!  I honestly think it's my favorite boss battle theme in the entire series.  It's a crazy song that really does exactly what a boss battle should do: be awesome and crazy!  Wooo!  Get them baddies, Mega Man!  The get a weapon theme is okay.  They could have done a little more with it, but whatever, it's good stuff.

MM6!  Come on, we had to deal with this in MM5!  I thought you knew better!  Sigh.  So like the last game, there are two castles, and each castle of four levels has only one theme.  Lame!  Come on guys, at least switch it up a little!  Oh well.  At least the Mr. X theme is cool.  It's a good song, weird and fun.  I love the beginning of it especially.

The Dr. Wily theme is good too.  It's a little nostalgic...I like that.  I would like it better if they hadn't made the robot masters' themes nostalgic as well, but whatever.  This song takes me back to the good ol' NES days, and I enjoy it a lot. La la-la, la, la la la!

You know how I said the Wily boss theme was the best in the last game?  I take it back again.  This is more awesome.  I can't believe how much I like this song and the madness it shows.  It's so dang fun and really pumps you up to fight the mad scientist one more time.  Great stuffs!  Yeah!

I'm kinda irritated with the ending theme.  I mean, it's just a compilation of all the robot master themes with a couple of beats between each.  In a sense it's cool, as if you're saying goodbye to Mega Man NES, but still, to me it feel sort of like a cop out.  Especially since during the ending theme they're showing the robot masters'  patterns.  I guess it depends on how you look at it.

Actually, that song does make for a great transition into the credits theme, a sweet nostalgic song that really does say goodbye.  Crap, I love this's the right way to end the Mega Man NES days.  It's such a good fun theme, as if you're saying goodbye to old friends.  Dang...I'm actually crying as I write this.  I didn't think it was that good.

Oh yeah, link:

So yeah, much like the game itself, the music is pretty hit or miss.  I just wish they had taken the time to be more individual with the robot master themes (and the password theme) rather than have them sound so thematically similar.  It's like they knew from the beginning that they were going to do a robot master compilation at the ending theme.

If this were the soundtrack to a movie, it would be a samurai movie where the main character has eight friends that he has to fight for some reason.  At the end of the movie they all get together to fight the real bad guy, or else the lead character remembers the former friends he fought.  It would be the kind of movie that some people really love, and other people don't get.

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