#001: Megaman X5
This is an article for remembering. Remembering games, remembering playing games, and remembering being absorbed into the world of a game. To me, the most effective way this can be done is with the music. Music holds the entire foundation of a games atmosphere in place. When you listen to video game music, it’s more than just the music. It’s like hearing an old lullaby or melody from a music box. It puts you back to a place and frame of mind you used to be in. The purpose of this article will be varied, between sharing my own experiences and memories of games and their atmosphere and music, or telling about soundtracks that maybe got forgotten or overlooked for one reason or another.
|I am Mega Man, here’s my Mega-plan…You die!|
Everybody knows Mega Man. It’s a series that has been going strong since 1987 and has seen countless sequels, series, spin-offs, and what-have-yous. Classic video game enthusiasts and video game music savants will talk about games like Mega Man 2 and Mega Man X and their soundtracks until they’re blue in the face. Mega Man 2 in particular has had countless remixes and re-imaginings of it’s tunes, and if you can’t recognize this tune immediately, you can hardly be called a gamer, let a lone a fan of video game music.
But while I have nothing but love for those games and their music, and the awesome remixes Capcom and others have come up with, it gets tiring after awhile. Mega Man has long, long history and an extensive lines of games, but they tend to get overshadowed by the towering behemoth of Mega Man 2 and Wily Stage 1. The other soundtracks get left behind, and don’t get nearly as much attention as they deserve, and as you go further into the series, the more true this becomes.
Mega Man X5 was meant to be the end of the X series, and to pave the way for the handheld Mega Man Zero series. That wouldn’t end up being the case, as later X6 would be made without any involvement from series artist/producer Keiji Inafune and end up being one of the poorest entries in the series, but at the time, I thought it was for the most part, a satisfying closure.
X5 tries to do a lot, and, well…For every thing it did right it fell short in more than few ways. Taking a step back from the fast paced sort of gameplay the X series had been known for, X5 feels more like a pure platformer in the vein of the original NES series. You even fight a Shadow version of the famous “Devil” series of bosses that have frequently appeared in the series.
One of the lamer things about the game is, for whatever reason, the mavericks names were all changed into some increasingly cheesy Guns N’ Roses puns. I mean, at first its tolerable, “Grizzly Slash” isn’t bad, but beyond that…
|At least Mega Man X6 wasn’t as bad as Chinese Democracy.|
But, this isn’t a review of the video game so much as its soundtrack, so I won’t go into the gritty details. Mega Man X5 has a pretty awesome soundtrack and some real standouts that contend with even some of the most classic tunes in their quality. The soundtrack was composed and arranged by Naoto Tanaka, Naoya Kamisaka, and Takuya Miyawaki.
The opening theme is an awesome song. Fans of the series will recognize it as a mix of two fairly famous songs from games passed, namely the tracks Variable X from Mega Man X and the song that plays when you’ve acquired a new weapon in Mega Man 3. The songs blend together well, and it foreshadows the way in which Mega Man X5 calls back to previous games.
Duff McWhalen is as awesome as a name gets. Speaking of, Duff McWhalen’s stage music is yet another callback to a previous game, Mega Man X3. Well, it’s less of a call back than just a straight up remix of Bubble Crab’s stage, but it’s still pretty cool. Originally he had his own unique music, but it was scrapped for one reason or another. For comparison, here are the two songs: [Duff McWhalen / Bubble Crab]
My personal favorite track for a maverick’s stage is Axle the Red’s (who originally had the much-cooler name of Spike Rosered) stage, “Into the Jungle!”. Video game music to me stand out most when it really puts you into the environment, and this song completely encompasses Axle the Red and his level. “You’re in the jungle, baby. You’re gonna die.”
Before I get to the coup de grâce of this article (or the coop de grace if you’re Zero in X4), I’ll just go over a couple of other songs I especially enjoyed. I dug the boss fight theme a lot, it just had this sort of quality to it that I can’t explain exactly. A dimension to it that just makes it kind of weird and intense. It reminds me sort of Ground Scaravich’s stage from X6 (a terribly designed level, but it had cool aesthetics and music) on a lesser scale. Some kind of robotic ethereal feel. Another standout theme to me is Dynamo’s music. He’s a complete pushover and fighting him is a complete joke, but damn is that a song.
The fight between X and Zero had been a long time coming, and not only is it the best song in the game, but arguably the best song in the entire X series. The inappropriate overuse of the word ‘epic’ annoys me to no end, but this song is what the word describes, and epitomizes the feeling of a “final” (at the time) fight. It’s not the final boss fight of the game, but it’s an intense battle theme that to me also as a feeling of closure, like this will be the last encounter. Shame Zero is so damn easy to beat, though. It’s a lot more fun when you’re Zero fighting X.
|If only the fight were more like this…|
With that, I’ve said all I have to say about Mega Man X5 without getting into an actual review of the game itself. It’s definitely worth playing, though. My next article will be entry number 9 on my top favorite composers list, and sometime in the future I’ll do another edition of this. Take easy, gang.