Despite the more technologically-advanced music we have today, many 8-bit themes are known just as well now as they were initially. Classic tunes such as the Level 1-1 theme from Super Mario Bros. and “Heart of Fire” from Castlevania are still remembered fondly by a great many gamers. However, when the best 8-bit music is being considered, it isn’t very long at all before the Mega Man series is mentioned. From its very first incarnation on the NES, the series has been recognized as having some of the best classic themes in all of gaming and that trend only continues with the far more recent entries of the franchise, including my subject for today: Mega Man 9.
Although there is a large gap between the release of Mega Man 9 and its predecessors, the spirit of the music remains the same: catchy 8-bit themes designed to both fit their situation perfectly and give an energetic sense to the player. However, while I could always pick out a few themes from each entry that I particularly liked, I find practically every theme in the ninth installment to be impressive.
The reason for my fondness is most particularly evident through the obligatory robot master stage themes that play on the path to each crazed robot that Mega Man has to destroy. While some of them simply fulfill the standard of Mega Man songs with a fitting and upbeat tune, albeit done very well such as the case with Concrete Man’s stage theme, others take on a unique sound to better coalesce with some very different stages, such as the theme for Splash Woman. However, despite the distinctions between the tracks, they all fall into place aside one another in a very natural way, in addition to being great songs in their own right.
Of course, the robot masters aren’t the only ones who get songs to call their own. Dr. Wily, shock of shocks, presents himself as the villain yet again and gets some truly great themes to accompany him, as he usually does. While all his associated themes are good, as they usually are, the best are assuredly his second stage theme, “We’re the Robots,” and his boss theme, “Wily Machine.” The first simply has a great tune that serves as a well-suited progression piece through the castle and the second goes along well with a tough fight against a giant mechanical monster.
While other songs present themselves as the situation demands, I feel I have to give credit to some songs that are done particularly well. My favorite track from the game as shown above, “Galaxy Fantasy,” is an easy choice for being the most energetic of the bunch. It’s a simple song in practice, but the effect it has on the player is distinctive and it’s difficult not to get into the song whenever it plays. Another good choice is “Thunder Tornado,” for its unconventional tune and awesome beginning. It doesn’t quite sound like most Mega Man songs, almost taking on a darker tone than normal. However, that only works in the song’s favor and it stands out among the pack for that reason.
Despite the ups and downs the Mega Man series has had over the years, the music has always remained a constant joy to hear, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the songs. There have been misses here and there, but the overwhelming majority has been very well done and I find Mega Man 9 to represent the pinnacle of that category. Have there been individual songs that I like more or believe to be better technically? Yes. However, has there been an overall collection of songs that works as well as this particular entry’s selection? I’m heavily inclined to say, “No.”
Music Mondays is a weekly column by Austin Yorski and Robert Heck dedicated to discussing the most interesting audio experiences in electronic interactive media. Tune in every week for more original game soundtracks that you need to hear. Feel free to disagree with, add to, or question everything. I welcome your feedback.