Friday, June 15, 2012

Mega Man Music -- Mega Man and Bass

Hey y'all.  Sorry this blog is late, but I'm still in the midst of getting internet for my apartment.

I really like Mega Man music.  Can't you tell?  I suppose this means I'll have to give Mega Man and Bass's soundtrack a review.  Heck, why not? 

So Mega Man and Bass is basically the hardest Mega Man game there is, yes?  Yes.  It feels almost like an apology for Mega Man 8.  MM8, while a decent enough game, had its problems.  It was comparatively easy, all the songs sounded like fashion shows or fitness videos, the robot masters called out their moves, and its color combinations could make your eyes explode.

MM&B uses a MM8 engine but erases all of these problems, generally by making the game dang hard.  Burner Man is especially wrathful, and is the bane of many gamers to date.  Even with his weakness, he's still dang hard.  One of the castle levels involves the player fighting a boss while jumping from tiny platform to tiny platform, and sometimes the entire screen goes white while you're playing.  Yeah.  No joke.  But at least you can play as Bass.  He's got a double jump, and that will save your life at times.

The plot of this game, to be honest, is a bit confusing.  You're not quite sure how some of the things work together.  The game starts off with a robot named King hiring other robots (including some of Dr. Wily's) to rebel against humanity.  Mega Man goes to stop the rebellion, and Bass goes because he's jealous of King and wants to beat him.  Presumably Wily told him to go fight King because King attacked Wily, but I'm sure Bass doesn't care all that much about orders.

So spoilers.  At the end of the game, it's revealed that King was Wily's robot all along, and was designed to kill both Mega Man and Bass.  Wily's mad at Bass for being rebellious and not killing Mega Man sooner.  This is where it gets a little confusing, as King genuinely did want to create a world for robots, and Wily is forced to brainwash him to keep him fighting.  So did Wily want King to win even though he rebelled?  Or was he just going to kill King anyway?  But wait, if he had to create King to kill his own creation Bass, how in the world would he kill King if King had succeeded?

Oh well.  Best not think overmuch of such things.  It's just a video game.

Since this game is based on the MM8 engine, the music is still sort of MM8 sounding.  Thankfully, they improve on this by not making the songs so amusingly but annoyingly fitness video appropriate.  They try more to make the music sound like a Mega Man game, and that attempt at least a little bit succeeds.  It also succeeds in making me wish they'd use a different music style.  I'm not one of those people that says Mega Man can only succeed in 8 bit, but the music really is better in the 8 bit games, and I wish they could have done something to make the game music successful in other formats.

That of course implies that this soundtrack is not as successful.  Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of things I like about it, but it gets goofy at times.  However, out of MM7, 8 and MM&B (the non-8-bits), MM&B does have the most coherent soundtrack.  It's not overly goofy (for a non-8-bit), it tries very hard to make the music match the robot master, and the songs have better variety while still remaining thematical related.  Still, I kind of miss the randomness that MM8 went for, and MM8 could have been riskier in trying to create themes.
So let's get right into it, shall we?  Oh wait, hold on while I get a drink.  Let's see...milk.  Ooh, strawberries! Snack acquired.

Hm, hm.  Title theme.  I'm not impressed.  It lacks the grandeur that Mega Man games generally try to have.  Sounds kind of like a tune from one of those soldier fighting games.   Still, it's not bad.

Since in this game you can play as either Mega Man or Bass, there's a character select theme.  It's kinda boring.  You'd think that a select theme would be more dramatic, particularly since you can play as a character that has heretofore been evil.  It does, however, have that thing where it makes you want to make a choice and move on.  Appropriate for a select tune.

The song on the video I'm watching is titled, "Blues' Confrontation".  It's a piece that plays in the beginning when Proto Man shows up and gives what little backstory this game offers the player.  As far as the tune goes, it's not quite fitting.  Hardly menacing at all, and it probably should be to introduce King.  It's an okay adventure track, though.  Maybe would work better for a mellow robot master or something.

The stage select tune is kind of annoying.  Sounds pretty roullette, and it's too repetitive.  Not enough variance.

Alright, so let's go to the robot master themes.  Again, I'm judging them by general quality and appropriateness to the given robot master.

#8: It's hard to believe that a robot master's song can be this annoying.  I understand that Burner Man is insane and giving him a happier song is supposed to be irony, but did it really have to be this squeaky?  Those high notes really hurt the ears, and I would not want to have to listen to this song over and over again as I replay this level, as I surely would have to do -- it's really hard.

#7 Astro Man's theme is...huh.  I want to say it's better than his from MM8's soundtrack, but it's just so mellow and dragging.  Very space age, I suppose.  It almost seems to feel like a bad drug trip or something. Or space flowers blooming.  Or crawling through a deep, dank cave that's dripping water everywhere.  Weird.  Okay, I've got to stop.  Listening to this for too long is bound to make me go nuts or something.

#6 While the song itself isn't so bad, I dislike that Magic Man's theme could be generic carnival music.  The very point of Mega Man music is to be unique, and this just sounds like generic clown music.  On the plus side, it's better than Clown Man's from MM8, which basically had the same problem.  This song is listenable, even if you have to replay the level.  It's just not unique at all.

#5 Tengu Man, me and you are going to have to have a talk.  So you're this demon monster based robot master with a bad attitude, and somehow you keep on having these ridiculously mellow and cheerful themes.  I thought we talked about this, dude?  Oh well, at least it's relaxing.  Very cruise-worthy.  It sounds like it needs some sugar-happy ridiculous jpop lyrics.  Crap, this could be part of the soundtrack for Katamari Damacy if it had lyrics. 
#4 Pirate Man.  Ah, how boring your theme is.  Well, actually, it's very sweet and relaxing.  If your level were spent in a sailboat, it might be more appropriate.  As is, it's a bit odd for such a sweet, endearing tune to play as you're dodging mines and floating in bubbles.  What was with robots floating in bubbles anyway?

#3 Ah, now this sounds more like a robot master theme.  Dynamo Man's theme is sort of goofy sounding, but it feels like an adventure game now.  A generic adventure game.  In space.  Written by JJ Abrams.

#2 Ground Man's theme is a pretty good one.  It has a way to stick in your head, somehow.  Adventurous and appropriate for a Mega Man game.  If only all the songs in this game were.

#1 This right here, Cold Man's theme, has to be the best sounding robot master track.  It has nice ups and downs, sounding like a proper song.  And it's one of the few songs from this game I actually remember after watching the playthroughs and perfect runs I've seen of Mega Man and Bass. but before listening the soundtrack in the attempt to write this blog.  This would fit in just fine in the Mega Man genre.  Relaxing, refreshing, and perfect for a snow and ice adventure.

And now for the battle music.  Ah, now this is the good stuff.  It's a bit cheesy sounding, but even despite that it manages to be an adventurous track and live up to the reputation of the battle themes.  It very much brings to mind battling robots.

The weapon get theme is pretty basic, but very good.  It sounds like a "weapon get" track, and that's what counts.  It's not MM3 awesome, but not every song can be.  There's also a nice "stage cleared theme", which to me seems rather inappropriately happy when you're playing as Bass.  It's pretty repetitive in the background, but it's alright.  You're not going to be on this screen long anyway.

Oh yeah, Auto has a shop in this game.  It has a much better theme than in MM8.  It sounds like Auto wants to go cruising in his car.

Because of the way this game's robot masters are positioned, you don't actually have to defeat all of them to clear a pathway to the final castle.  However, to prevent the player from just playing three robot masters and then trying to beat the game, there is a little room where you have to use all the robot master's powers to break the locks to the path beyond.  It has a song.  It's a very annoying song and repetitive.  If it had a longer loop with a few more musical ups and downs, it would be much more acceptable.  As is, it's pretty dang annoying.

King's fortress music is decent.  Nothing too special for a Mega Man game.  It has a good adventurous tune, but considering how difficult the King levels are, the player needs a better song.  Not only are there two difficult bosses to defeat, but you have to traverse a path where you're hopping from platform to platform.  This song isn't going to drive you nuts as you inevitably replay the level over and over, but it isn't going to help you out either, like Stickerbrush Symphony does in Donkey Kong Country 2's harder levels.

And because Dr. Wily is always the bad guy, there is a Wily stage theme.  I love this theme.  It's really sinister and mocking, as if Dr. Wily is making fun of Mega Man for having to go through all of the crap King forced on him.  A little jazzy, and a lot of fun.  It makes me want to party, and if someone did a techno remix of this, no one would notice that it's a Mega Man song.  However, the looping of this song is pretty short, and well, making you listen to a mildly repetitive tune is a negative.  Still, the song is pretty cool.

Ah, now there's the final battle theme.  I always have high expectations for these songs, and this one does not disappoint.  It's a highly energetic tune with a lot of pulsing notes and excitement.  It sounds the most "Mega Man" out of the entire soundtrack, and really takes me back to the 8-bit soundtrack days without being a cheap rip-off.

Now that's weird.  Maybe the game designers realized how difficult this game was and wanted to comfort the player about it, because this game over music is friggin' beautiful.  No seriously, it's gorgeous.  Very angelic and transcendental.  It sort of doesn't even match the rest of the game because of how beautiful it is. I can listen to this madness on repeat for a dang long, this is MM&B's entry into the best MM music of all time.  I dunno,'s really weird that the best track in the game is the game over music.

The ending music is smooth and jazzy.  Not too bad.  It's low in tone probably because the player is reading the written epilogue between the characters rather than listening to the music.  This song sounds pretty "elevator", and isn't really up to par with a lot of game endings.  It sounds like the falling of leaves as a melodramatic young man walks down the sidewalk.  Actually, considering the history of Mega Man, how this is ends up being the last Mega Man classic game for years, maybe it's a good thing to end on a melodramatic note.

Oh, and one more song.  During the game you're supposed to collect cd data on all the Mega Man robot masters that have ever been in the games, which was a great idea on the part of the developers.  There is therefore a menu room where you can look at all the data and see which discs you're missing.  The song here is pretty melodramatic and sad.  Calming, even.  It's pretty nice and museum sounding, but it's not really a song you're going to want to listen to when you're not playing the game.

Okay, so overall, I don't really mind the Mega Man and Bass soundtrack.  It's not really as weird, wonky, or fitting as the other soundtracks are, but considering when it was made, I don't particularly expect it to be.  This era of Mega Man left much to be desired, and quite frankly, I find myself a little bored by this soundtrack.  I've the feeling that in this game's case the developers cared more about making the game a challenge and different rather than making the music a masterpiece, which gives it the opposite problem as MM5 and 6.  Which is worse is up to you.  I personally fall on the music side, but that's not what games are for, so whatever.  Still, Bass is a character in this game, so why isn't there any dang rock or metal or something tough sounding?

If this game's soundtrack were the soundtrack to a movie, that movie would be about a really tragic romance story.  The main character would be going after his desired lady, and he would do a lot of things to impress her, even going through certain dangers because his crush is being pursued by a crime ring or something.  They do date for a while, though end up breaking up for reasons mostly out of their control.  The leading man still finds her beautiful, and does anything he can to save his love and win her back.  The story ends with the two being friends, but leaves it a mystery to the audience as to whether the two actually get back together again.

JPhands hasn't yet made an OST video of this game, so I'm just going to link to a playlist.

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