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Rockman Dash Original Soundtrack :: Review by Ashley Winchester

Rockman Dash Original Soundtrack Album Title: Rockman Dash Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Suleputer
Catalog No.: CPCA-1003
Release Date: February 21, 1998
Purchase: Buy at Game Music Online


In the gaming community, nothing probably invokes more fear and worry in the hearts and minds of fans than a tackling its first foray into the third dimension. Many series have suffered when such attempts go awry and it goes without saying fans can prove quite critical of the result (i.e. Rockman X7) even if they do remain loyal. While the first 3D Rockman game, Rockman Dash, wasn't bound to the formula set forth by its 2D siblings, a botched Rockman game is something that simply doesn't stand well in most people's books. Thankfully, Rockman Dash (which originally went by Mega Man Neo and then by Mega Man Nova in early press releases before they finally settled with Mega Man Legends) wasn't a 3D nightmare despite having a few issues that were, in my eyes, easy to overlook considering what was done right.

However, the one aspect of the game I thought got a real bum rap from the start was Makoto Tomozawa's score. I personally tired of magazines knocking it, one saying "it mostly consist of schmaltzy elevator tunes". I honestly can't see how you can dismiss this entire score in such a way when you're only referring one of several musical styles Dash offers. When you really look at this soundtrack you'll find there are at least three categories of music: easy going town/upbeat event cut scene themes (the supposed "schmaltzy elevator tunes"), boss themes (which can be split into two separate varieties), and Sub-City and Sub-Gate themes (which again can be split into two categories). You really can't make an intelligent argument about or take a position on this soundtrack without acknowledging this and accepting the fact it is very un-Rockman-like (there I go borrowing words and phrases). Simply put, there are no emulated guitars, the percussion is very light and sparse (though it is very enthusiastic and spirited when it does make an appearance), and everything is heavy with the sound of synthesizers. Some may consider these faults, but composition and usage helps make up for it in most cases (of course, usage only comes into play if you've played the game).


The opening and ending vocal themes sandwich the in-game tunes between them with their appearance at the beginning and end of the tracklist. "Another Sun" has a style that really compliments the game's series playful nature while "Your Wind is Blowing" takes a little longer to hit its stride with it's powerful chorus (both can be found on the Rockman Theme Song Collection as well). Most fans probably would have loved to have seen the clever American ending theme make its way on here but this disc was probably said and done when they were localizing the game and recorded that track.

Town and event themes cover a large range of activity. Basic town themes like "The Apple Market" and "Lakeside Town" truly give you that lazy hometown feel you'd expect watching people go about their everyday lives even though they seem too simple and practical to be anything but. While this may be the case with "Lakeside Town", "The Apple Market" is downright sneaky in its ability to sneak up and enter your thoughts hours after listening to it. "The Flutter" falls into the same category, seems standard but before you know it you're simply hooked (it is also re-employed as Rockman Dash 2's title theme). I found the warm "Feeling of Love" worked better in-game when you can see there is something between Tron and "that little Blueboy!"

"Concerto of Hapshi Code" (which I don't recall from the game) and "Teisel Bonne of the Gesellschaft" are very similar to one another in that they sound as if they were classically influenced. This may be the case but both seem to be out of place and attempt to make you think they are more complex and competent than they are. Such tracks truly serve as a reminder why the simpler tunes in Dash are the ones that stand out and deserve praise. "Reflection Room" and "We Are the Bonne Brothers" contain that playful vibe the game relies upon when building the persona of the no-so-bad Bonnes, hinting at the laughs to be had when their ill-fated exploits up in smoke (and they always do). "We Are the Bonne Brothers" is the more energetic of the two and stands surprising well without any kind of visual reference, an important trait for what is essentially one of the most important pieces in the game.

"Sad Teisel Bonne" and "Reform" are similar in execution and usage, although you need to play the game to come to the later conclusion. It really says something when the composer can make you feel sorrow and lament for thrashing the Bonnes' latest machine, but then the Bonnes aren't completely heartless to begin with. "Heading Toward Kattelox Island" and "The Flutter Vs. The Gesellschaft" are pieces used in cut-scenes involving the Flutter. "Heading Toward Kattelox Island" loses a lot outside the scope of the game while "The Flutter Vs. The Gesellschaft" retains all the energy and spirit of a thrilling hide and seek chase through the clouds regardless. In an unexplainable way it almost reminds me of NES age Rockman tunes when the trumpets come out to play. "See You Again" is a very humbling, heartfelt piece that really fills you with a since of accomplishment and homage — and it should considering it played at the game's conclusion.

The battle themes make up a good portion of the music heard throughout in Dash and as stated above they can really be split into to categories: those for reaverbots and those for the Bonnes' battle machines. For the most part, reaverbot battle themes tend to be abstract: "Galdution!" stays on the slower side of the scale, "Culmnavash!" and "Guynie Toren!" move at a feverish pitch while "Hammul Doll Appears" moves fast but opts for a straightforward experience. However, the reaverbot battle theme that one should really take a look at is "Juno - Last Battle Physique". As the tracklisting suggests, this piece was originally done by Johan Sebastian Bach under the title "Organ Fugue in G Minor" (it should be noted that the piece used in the game for the museum is another Bach piece, but it didn't make the soundtrack). While Tomozawa's version isn't the best version of this piece I've encountered, it really does expose the underlying evil of the ever smiling and sadistic Juno. Whatever path they follow, reaverbot battle themes are meant to drive home the idea of fear, uncertainly and that a uncontrollable destructive power has been set free — and they all do it quite well even though most are far from being catchy.

Most Bonne battle themes place emphasis on the playful side of battles. However, earlier ones like "Chasing the Blumebears", "Sumeterlink's Bon Bonne" and "Ferdinand!" don't follow this trend. "Ferdinand!" is like most reaverbot battle themes as in that the overall feeling the destruction and doom is nigh. The odd "Sumeterlink's Bon Bonne" contains an almost suffocating aura of oppression to it — it's nowhere near a standout track but there isn't anything else in the game like it. The first Bonne battle theme that really comes into its own is "Marlwolf!" a suspenseful yet contained composition that really compliments the on screen action. "Balcon Gerald!" and "Trapped Balcon Gerald" are actually one in the same in the since they flow into each other in the game. Unfortunately, they are separated here and this makes it harder to appreciate what the composer was trying to accomplish: In "Balcon Gerald!" you're in an unfavorable position during the battle; the tide of the battle has switched over in your favor when "Trapped Balcon Gerald" starts up.

The remaining three Bonne battle themes "The Gesellschaft!", "Focke Wolf!", and "Theodore Bruno!" are some of the best the soundtrack has to offer. "The Gesselschaft" is much like "Marlwolf!" in that the level of suspense is restrained in order to achieve the feel of a slow yet methodical boss battle. Despite the sense of urgency that was placed on the battle in the game "Focke Wolf!" again feels as if it's restricted from being too fast and energetic but it's far from lethargic. Tomozawa finally lets the suspense of battle run free in "Theodore Bruno!" the pinnacle of the Bonne battle tracks where the percussion and synth truly come together for a wonderful experience. Some may wonder why the previous battle themes feel "held back" and not as "forceful" as they could have been. I really think it was Tomozawa's plan to hold back until the powerful "Theodore Bruno!" and I think those who really think about it and the game will as well.

The final type of music in Dash plays when exploring Kattelox's Sub-Gates and Sub-Cities. Sub-Gate tracks are ambient pieces and are probably the most misunderstood and unappreciated tracks on the soundtrack. Granted there have been better ambient tracks produced over the years but I personally found listening to these outside the game gave me newfound appreciation for them. "Original Hito Unit Residence" and "At a Place Nobody Knows" play in the various Sub-Cities. "At a Place Nobody Knows" deserves special mention, as the composer and tracklist translator really hit the nail on the head here — I seriously cannot think of a better title for such a stellar piece. Listening to this track I can literally imagine a city crawling with vicious and dangerous reaverbots, completely devoid any human life or emotion... the simple percussion just echoes in the surrounding emptiness as the synth reminds you what kind of place this really is. The final dungeon theme "The Main Gate" does a great job at driving home the idea that your quest is nearing its end with its suspenseful "what's around the next corner" context.


In the end it's obvious the Dash series and its music have only received a fraction of the love every other Rockman series has and continues to receive. Even so, I strongly urge anyone interested in Rockman music to give Dash's music a chance if they passed it over for the franchise's more popular and mainstream carnations. With Capcom porting Dash 1 & 2 to PSP, I was hoping the series and its music would gain a little momentum as far as renewed interest goes but alas it failed to make it over to the states, which disheartened me to say the very least. Despite its age this CD isn't too hard to find new although the price and low recording volume (not to mention the ins-and-outs referred to above) may turn away those that aren't as influenced by the nostalgia factor as I am. In closing, I wish this Rockman series got a little more recognition for what it is instead of what it isn't.

Overall Score: 8/10