Mega Man X1 ~ X6 Soundtracks Capcom Music Generation
Mega Man X1 ~ X6 Soundtracks Capcom Music Generation
September 26, 2003
Buy Used Copy
I’d like to begin my review of the Mega Man X1 ~ X6 box set by spelling out just how bad things have been for fans of Mega Man music prior to 2003. In mid-1998, I had just discovered the wonderful world of game music. The first kind of albums I went looking for were those from the Final Fantasy series. After finding more than enough of them, the second I looked for were albums from the Mega Man series of games. My 8 bit days literally revolved around the blue bomber, and the music from each game was all but entrenched in my head. Surely, there was an abundance of albums out there with the original music and plenty of arrangements. It was then I discovered the cold, hard truth; the number of albums with actual Mega Man music was pathetic. No soundtracks were available from the original or the X series and arrangements were scarce as well. To this day, I am still baffled as to why Capcom let this series, which has been largely driven by its excellent music, slide for as long as it did (especially given the lush music treatment of series like Street Fighter and Resident Evil). If you’ve been following the game music scene since then and consider yourself a Mega Man fan, this should sound all too familiar.
In 2002, Capcom somehow finally got the message and released the excellent Mega Man 1 ~ 6 Famicom box set. Shortly afterward, a small company called CocoeBiz secured the rights to distribute the album overseas. It was originally only available at Capcom’s Japanese online store, which is near-impossible for people outside of Japan to use; copies were going for insane prices on eBay at the time. Around the same time, CocoeBiz set up a survey to see which soundtracks people outside of Japan would have interest in being published. The intention was to show the results directly to the Japanese companies. Among the entrants were the soundtracks to the games from the Mega Man X games. I won’t pretend to know the results of the survey, but they’re probably not too difficult to guess. It was offered around February of 2003. By August 2003, Capcom was readying the Mega Man X1 ~ X6 complete box set for release at the Tokyo Game Show, in time for Mega Man’s 15th anniversary. Once again, CocoeBiz was performing the distribution honors (and as of right now, they are the only ones allowed to sell it overseas). To say that this thing has been a long time in the making would be the ultimate understatement, as this explanation proves.
For me personally, I was both excited and anxious at the same time. I had always been a fan of the blue bomber, but my exposure to the X series was limited to X4 and bits of X1 and X5. While X4 left me drooling at the mouth for a soundtrack release, I realized that the other five soundtracks would be judged more on their musical merits without the benefit of nostalgia. Plus, there were still question marks about how Capcom would handle the release of no less than six separate soundtracks over five discs. Would tracks be cut? Would they be played long enough? These questions were answered on the fateful day this set was delivered to my door. The only thing I need to say is that Capcom outdid themselves.
The set itself comes inside a slipcase with X on one side and Zero on the other, both looking as if they’re ready to go into battle. Once removed, the outsides of the set display both characters again, this time with grins on their face. It’s almost as if the outside represents the long, hard battle it’s taken to make this thing a reality. Conversely, the grins of X and Zero are equivalent to saying “You’ve waited this long… The good stuff’s inside!” Once unfolded, amidst all of the beautiful artwork, five CDs await the listener, each one concealing a portrait of the game they represent underneath.
As for how the music was spread out, my concerns were quickly alleviated as I started listening. The soundtracks for X1 and X2 were placed onto a single disc, without anything being cut from either one. This left one disc for each of the remaining games. The only special case comes with X3, which actually contains two full versions of the score from the Super Nintendo and PlayStation versions of the game (something I hadn’t been planning on and was a bit of a pleasant surprise). The only notable thing missing here is the vocal songs that were used for the Japanese versions of the games, due to contract issues. The majority of these are available on the Mega Man Theme Song Collection. Personally, I could care less about them; the most important part of any Mega Man soundtrack will always be the stage themes. Here, every single one is accounted for and looped, ensuring that they stay on long enough for the listener to get the message. In addition, the X5 disc contains several unused tracks from the game and the X6 disc contains the opening and closing themes for X3 through X5 (dunno why they’re not on their own discs, but I’m just glad they’re here).
Overall, a fair view of the music would say that the X series takes the lighthearted melodic style from the original series and injects more of a serious feel into it. The result is some of the best synth rock in game music, combined with plenty of techno elements and tons of character. The soundtracks themselves don’t change drastically in this sense, but you can probably tell that each composer on here adapts their own kind of style to the formula, as many of the games feature completely different composers. Most important of all, it all sounds like genuine Megaman music; there’s no mistaking it for anything else. The sound quality is top notch overall — it’s awesome for the PlayStation tracks and respectable for the Super Nintendo ones. The meat of each soundtrack is the opening level themes, the Maverick themes, the final area themes, and the boss themes. This doesn’t change no matter what disc you’re listening to, and is reflective of the games themselves. What is also reflective is that this formula for success never gets old and works like a charm time and time again. The only strange thing is that it feels like some of these discs fly by when I listen to them — I’m surprised at just how fast the Maverick themes zip by (although this has nothing to do with their length, which average around 2 minutes a piece, looped).
Without question, the disc most worthy of praise is disc four, which contains the incredible soundtrack to Mega Man X5. This disc takes everything about Mega Man music and executes it to absolute perfection. The little bit I’ve heard in-game doesn’t represent this masterpiece when it’s played on its own (probably because the game itself wasn’t too great). While my nostalgic preferences lead me to X4 and the original Mega Man 7 as my in-game favorites, I have to say that X5 surpasses both of them by a good margin through composition alone. When I say this whole set would be worth it just to get your hands on this single disc, I am not exaggerating. I would go so far as to say that X5 is probably one of the top 5 original game soundtracks I’ve come across from the 32 bit and above eras. If I sound like I’m gushing… well, that’s probably because I’m listening to this disc as I type.
So what makes it so good? Simply put, it’s fun, energetic, and both the melodies and the rhythms come together to deliver an experience that you’re going to remember long after the CD ends (how’s that for a promotional statement? ^_^). From the heroic “Opening Stage X” to the frantic “Sigma 1st” to the hard rocking “Shining Hotarunicus Stage” to the watery “Tidal Makkoeen” to the very end, the soundtrack keeps you from repeating one excellent theme by immediately hitting with an equally impressive one soon after. The best part comes near the end, with the dynamite combination of “Zero Stage 2” and “X Vs Zero.” The former is a wicked dance-like techno piece with a great epic melody and all sorts of awesome rhythm coming from a bunch of different sources. The latter may very well be the boss theme to end all boss themes — I can’t say for sure because I haven’t heard every single one in existence, but it’s certainly the best one I’ve come across. Here, the guitar leads the frantic rhythm and the lead synth builds itself up for the finale — a rocking, but sad melody that tells the tale of a heated battle between two unstoppable teammates as they rip each other to shreds. Just…unbelievable. I actually get chills listening to this beautiful piece of music.
X4 gives X5 a good run for the money though. Many of the tunes are easily comparable and will eat their way into your thinking process. There just aren’t as many that I would consider to be true classics as X5 has, plus the score for the most part lacks the guitar that X5 utilizes. That said, it says a lot when you can remember a score note for note two years after playing through the game its’ based on. “Cyber Peacock” was still as mysterious as I remembered and “Storm Owl” was still the fast-paced bad-ass piece of epic proportions that I remembered it as. Others that I failed to notice in-game that came off sounding fantastic were the hard-hitting themes for “Magma Dragoon” and “Jet Stingray.” Dragoon’s theme literally sounds like the lava area its based off of and Stingray’s is perfect for the motor-bike ride that his stage is based around. Finally, the theme “Iris” is one that really tells the tale of a reluctant fight between two friends. It’s soft, but the beats are a dead giveaway that its’ a battle theme. One final note about X4: It has the only level themes in the series with a distinct ending, instead of looping.
After those two masterpieces, the quality jumps around a bit, ranging from average to very good. The X3 disc was one that threw me for a loop. I found myself largely unimpressed with the SNES tracks and then BAM!… I stumbled upon the arranged versions of the tracks I nearly forgotten were there. For some reason, the synth upgrade made a world of difference here — compared to the messy SNES versions, these are very clean and have a sharp sound to them. The melodies themselves aren’t super great or even all that memorable, but that doesn’t stop these arranged versions from delivering an X4-calibre experience while it’s on. Standouts include the wacky “Gravity Beetbood,” the funky “Doppler Stage 1,” and the rocking “Scissors Shrimper.”
The X6 disc has a very separate feel from the other ones. On one hand, it uses the electric guitar a lot more than the others in the series. On the other hand, the style is much more smooth and laid back, almost relaxing. It actually reminds me a little of the music from Marvel VS Capcom 2, only much more tolerable. As such, it took a couple more listens than with the others for these tracks to make a huge impression. In time, I’ve come to appreciate the laid-back nature of “Shieldner Sheldon” and “Commander Yammark.” It’s the perfect way to cool off after the intensity of X4 and X5. Still, “Gates Laboratory” and “Blaze Heatnix” give the electric guitar a nice workout as some of the cooler rock tracks in the set. The set of openings and endings at the end of this disc are, for the most part, fantastic, as they sound like they were recorded live. The ending for X3 comes off really good here, with a sax joining the lead synthesizer and the opening for X4 is every bit as intense as the score itself. The only complaint is that in the beginning you hear the ear-piercing sound of X’s Mega Buster charging overtop of the music.
Finally, the score that started the X series off on the right foot is paired up with X2 to make Disc One. The X score is solid, solid, solid… Great melodies, great beats, and it even sounds better than the X3 SNES version. Overall, it still holds up very well to its PlayStation counterparts. Oddly enough, I found that its greatest contribution was that of the best password theme in the series. Unfortunately, the X2 score comes off as just dull. Outside of maybe three tracks, it’s very boring and unforgettable. My biggest kick out of it came from hearing the water theme in X5 that was directly ripped off from X2. Oh yeah, the ending is a pretty sweet (if short) track. Seriously though, I normally just cut this disc off after the X1 tracks end. Oh well… I guess five out of six isn’t too bad!
It doesn’t get much better than that, right? Guess again. Capcom may have hurt themselves profit-wise, because the whole set is literally a steal at its retail price of just under $60. Doing the math, that’s five discs at about $12 apiece and that’s for five and a half hours worth of CDs that could easily stand on their own as separate releases. I guess that’s the consolation for Mega Man fans waiting as long as we have. On a side note, after the initial printing ran out, Capcom was quick to announce a second-print, due to ‘overwhelming demand’. It almost makes me want to stand outside of their offices in Japan and hold up a giant sign that says “Told You So!”. Hopefully this will mean more Mega Man releases in the future — the near simultaneous release of the X7 soundtrack is a definite step in the right direction.
Overall, I consider the Mega Man series to be the cornerstone of the action genre, very similar to the way Final Fantasy is considered to be with the RPG genre. Both can be used as a starting point or an ending point in discovering new music in their style of game, and both define their genres with their respective styles. No matter what though, the listener is going to end up with some great music that stands the test of time like few others. In my opinion, there is no better deal in game music than the Mega Man X1 ~ X6 Box Set. If you’re a Mega Man fanboy or if you’re a game music collector or just a casual listener, this is music that should be considered top priority. The only excuse you should have for not owning it is if you’ve discovered it too late and its’ going for insane prices on eBay; even then, don’t think twice about going for it. My humble thanks go out to CocoeBiz and the folks who signed the survey to bring this thing into existence.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Andy Byus. Last modified on August 1, 2012.