Mega Man 25th Anniversary Sound E Can :: Review by Don
In the late 80s, the Blue Bomber graced Nintendo's first console, the Nintendo Entertainment System. Since then, he's been a force to be reckoned with. Always thwarting Dr. Wily, Mega Man saves the world one game at a time. To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the blue bomber, Capcom released a box set for the music all housed in an energy can. It features music from all of his original adventures against Dr. Wily, including both the original sound source and bonus arrangements from their ports. The main focus are the soundtracks for the first six games, present in their full-length NES and PlayStation forms, though the four more recent Mega Man games are also compiled here. How does the music fare for each of the games and is this compilation worth purchasing, especially if you have the Rockman 1 ~ 6 Complete Works already? Read on to find out.
The first adventure for Mega Man, composed by Manami Matsumae, is also the shortest in the series. It sometimes set the standard for some of the repeat tracks found in most Mega Man games. For example, "Game Start" has appeared in most Mega Man games, and to an extent, Mega Man X games, as the boss introduction music. The stage themes that go with Rockman's encounters with Dr. Wily's six cronies are a mixed bunch; since most of the chiptune era relied on a strong melodic focus, it's imperative to find a melody that really sticks with the listener but only some suffice in this respect. "Cutman Stage," "Elecman Stage," and "Bombman Stage" carry bubbly effective melodies that, in the end, rival some of Mega Man 2's stage themes to a degree. While "Fireman Stage," "Iceman Stage," and "Gutsman Stage" are also nice, they are much weaker in terms of catching the listener's interest. "Dr. Wily Stage 1" is by far the better entry in this game; it gives the listener a sense of determination and boasts a very strong melody that sucks the player into the stage. "Dr. Wily Stage 2" sounds much more ominous, but at the same time, doesn't really offer much to the listener in terms of staying power; effective, but not entirely interesting. Rockman's first adventure marks a pretty effective soundtrack, with both fantastic and average contributions. Still, it is definitely worth a listen.
Mega Man 2 signified a major change for the series. Starting from this game, Mega Man encountered eight robots from Dr. Wily and a password system was introduced. It also raised the bar for the soundtracks to come as a whole, with wonderful compositions from Takashi Tateishi. According to many fans, Mega Man 2 is the ultimate Mega Man listening experience and I'm going to agree with them as a hardcore fan myself. There is just so much improvement in this album. In my opinion, every single robot stage theme in this game is amazing, save for "Crashman Stage" that is good but nowhere near the caliber of the others. While everyone has their favorite, ranging from the bubbly "Bubbleman Stage" to the free flowing "Airman Stage," my favorite is easily "Metalman Stage"; there is just so much going on in this track from the infectious melody to the fantastic accompaniment. Heralded by many as the definitive Mega Man composition, "Dr. Wily Stage 1" has captured the hearts of many with its fantastic melody, awesome pacing, and various chiptune effects. "Dr. Wily Stage 2" is another decent piece of music, but as before, offers a more ominous yet ultimately less captivating tone. Mega Man 2 is by far the definitive soundtrack of the classsic series. There is a copious amount of fantastic tracks, muddled only by a few decent ones.
If I had to pick a second favorite soundtrack of this compilation, I'd have to say that Mega Man 3 from Yasuaki Fujita is it. While the stage themes aren't as strong as its predecessor, they are still consistent throughout. Out of the eight stage themes offered, most make great use of the NES sound source and feature very different atmospheres. Whether it is the playful "Sparkman Stage" or the frantic "Snakeman Stage," there is something to keep the listener happy. Of the weaker links for stage themes, these dishonors goes to "Hardman Stage" and "Topman Stage." While the melodies do offer a different atmosphere, they just aren't as fun to listen to at all. Unfortunately, the Dr. Wily Stages in this game aren't that great. Sure, the first one fits with the pattern of the previous games where the first stage is always the best one, but it isn't nearly as engaging as either of its predecessors. In addition, this game also adds a third stage theme; it's very dark and foreboding, but it really doesn't appeal to me as much, though others may like it of course. Mega Man 3 is a nice addition to the album. It's not as good as its immediate predecessor, but it still offers a nice experience.
I'm not going to lie. Mega Man 4 by Minae Fujii is one of my least favorite soundtracks in this compilation. Save for "Ringman Stage," with its interesting progression, there aren't too many stage themes that capture my interest. The nice dark atmosphere of "Skullman Stage" makes it probably the third most enjoyable of the stage themes for me. Sadly, the "Boss" music, having an evil atmosphere, really lacks melodically and in a lot of other areas. Also nowhere near the calibre of predecessors is "Last Boss," which sounds definitive and heroic, but not too great otherwise. Of all the Dr. Cossack and Dr. Wily Stage Themes, only two really capture my interest. Those are, ironically, the second stage themes for each that offer some nice sounds and melodies. The other two really don't do much for me at all in terms of listening power. With the fourth game in the NES line, it appears that Mega Man started to lose its way and rehashe ideas. Sadly, for the most part, this soundtrack can be skipped.
If Mega Man 4 was one of my least favorites in terms of soundtrack, Mega Man 5 from Mari Yamaguchi manages to surpass it for least favorite of them all. There are, sadly, only three tracks on this album that I really enjoy. One is "Starman Stage," which offers a really quirky and catchy melody; it definitely sounds spacey and that works to its advantage. "Dr. Wily Stage" is the other stage theme gem on this soundtrack. It offers one of the best melodies for a Dr. Wily Stage since Mega Man 2 and the atmosphere adds a touch of heroism and intrigue to the mix. Interestingly enough, "Last Boss" finishes off this soundtrack for me with one of my favorite boss themes in the series; it has high energy, sounds a bit jazzy in composition, and boasts a very powerful, and sometimes evil, sound. Sadly, that's all this entire album has to offer in my opinion. The other stage themes are extremely weak in their melodic portions, but are fitting for their respective stages.
Thankfully, the sixth game is an improvement from Mega Man 4 and Mega Man 5, but still isn't up to the caliber of the first three games. Stage themes like "Flameman Stage," which reminds me a lot of a Gust soundtrack, "Windman Stage," which is really whimsical in approach, "Tomahawkman Stage," which features a semi-tribal sound to it (that's the easiest way to describe it with chiptunes), and "Yamatoman Stage," with its Japanese influence, are easily the best stage themes on the album. The others are decent, and offer a nice interesting atmosphere, but in the end, fail to capture the heart of this listener. Fortunately, the "Boss" music for this game more than makes of for the recent shortcomings found in the previous games; it offers a really catchy riff in the accompaniment and a jazz-like melody creating quite a fun battle theme. "Dr. Wily Stage" is nice, but it doesn't compare to some of the recent games. Overall, this album is quite fun, and an improvement over the previous two, but it does leave something to be desired. While I won't review the track by itself, the ending theme to this game is probably the most special since it features stage themes from previous games, such as "Flameman Stage."
While made much later than the original six games, Mega Man 7 for the Super Nintendo is another good soundtrack that definitely fits in line with the games from the NES era in terms of style and capturing that Mega Man sound. Under the lead of Yuko Takehara, "Freezeman," "Springman" and "Cloudman" manage to capture the bubbly vibe of the predecessors as well as work quite well with the actual stages in game. Others like "Junkman," "Turboman," and "Burstman" manage to capture the more energetic themes of yore. "Slashman" features a strong ethnic vibe while "Shademan" offers a very Halloweeny sound given the vampiric design of the robot master. One of the greatest tracks on the album "Museum" is an absolutely stunning medley of previous Robot Master themes from other games that fits with the style of Mega Man 7's music. Courtesy of Makoto Tomozawa, Dr. Wily stage themes are all pretty well composed and are reminiscent both of older Mega Man albums as well as some of the more atmospheric style of some of Mega Man X's Sigma stages. The best part about this portion of the soundtrack is that it isn't flawed like the Team Entertainment release and was clearly recorded from the authentic sound source.
The Mega Man 8 soundtrack by Shusaku Uchiyama is a hit-or-miss affair. Unlike the other Mega Man games in the series, this one is a far cry from the classic Mega Man sounds of old given it was written for the more technologically liberated PlayStation and features more diverse stylings. While the stage themes are well composed, for the most part and definitely fit the setting, the more electronic oriented approach might not be appreciated by fans of the original sound direction of the series. However, there are quite a few themes worth mentioning. The crystalline and synthy "Ice Stage" and the bubbly and upbeat "Sky Stage" really manage to capture a bit more of that classic essence, while themes like "Amusement Park Stage" and "Underwater Stage" manage to capture the essence of the stage setting. The other stage themes also manage to work in context, but I find them to be some of the weaker themes on the album at least thematically. As for the Wily Stages, they all are fairly strong melodically speaking, but they do lack the punch that many of the stage themes in the series are famous for.
When it comes to the Mega Man 9 soundtrack, the game was created in the spirit of the classic NES titles, both in terms of sound and visual design. Because of this, the chiptune stylings of the soundtracks from Ippo Yamada is a much welcomed return to the world of Rockman. All the stage themes manage to impress with their varied styles and really scream Rockman. Themes like "Concrete Jungle," "Thunder Tornado," and "Plug Electric" are really reminiscent of the classic NES tunes while themes like "Splash Blue," "Hornet Dance," and "Jewel Temptation" still sound like classic Mega Man but with some more modern influences. As for the Wily stage themes, these are among some of the strongest in the series and should definitely be listened to. Of particular note are "We're the Robots" and "Flash in the Dark."
Lastly, Mega Man 10 continues the chiptune tradition and also brings back the original composers of the series to grace the world of Mega Man once more. While the themes themselves are much more experimental and atmospheric than the Mega Man 9 soundtrack, they still manage to impress with their classic sounds. Themes like "King of Blades," "Cybersheep's Dream," and "Solar Inferno" are more experimental, but quite enjoyable while themes like "Polluted Pump" and "Absolute Chill" offer more atmospheric approaches while still retaining the classic sound. In terms of classic sound, I'd say that "Nitro Rider," "Fireball Strike," and "Desert Commando" offer the best approach. In terms of the Wily Stages, while not as strong as those in the immediate predecessor, they still offer some of Dr. Wily's more fitting stage themes and "Against the Pressure" and "No Turning Back" are definitely themes to listen out for. This soundtrack is a wonderful way to bring the series' music round full circle and the return of all the original composers even those that faded into obscurity after they left Capcom was a particularly nice touch.
The Rockman 25th Anniversary Sound E Can is a collection for those who have chronicled Rockman's musical journey throughout the years. It features a comprehensive look at his journeys on the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Super Nintendo, PlayStation, and Saturn, as well as the current generation of consoles. Should you purchase this album? Well, that depends on what you own already and whether you can tolerate the 15,000 JPY pricetag. If you tend to enjoy most Mega Man music, this album is definitely for you. However, this album won't be worth purchasing if you own previously released albums covering the series' games, including the much-cheaper Rockman 1 ~ 6 Complete Works compilation. However, if you are lacking in most of the soundtracks, this might be the way to acquire them all. The packaging will divide consumers, some finding it a welcome novelty, others finding it cumbersome. However, the music featured on this release is well-presented with few major audio issues and lots of bonuses, for example the PlayStation ports of the first six soundtracks and the arrangements from the Mega Man Special CDs. Overall, it's a great collection of music for a cornerstone of gaming.
Overall Score: 8/10