Monday Music: Mega Man X Deserves More Kudos
Monday Music is a series from Checkpoint XP where we’ll introduce and break down some of our favorite video game and gaming adjacent music. Video game jams can range from the 8-bit melodies you can’t get out of your head, to some of the most emotional musical pieces of our time. So welcome to Monday Music and we hope you enjoy the sounds.
A Legacy of Jams
Back on the NES, Capcom’s Mega Man series set the gold standard for gameplay and difficulty. But there was another claim to fame it had as well, its music. Capcom’s insanely talented in-house musicians like Takashi Tateishi and Harumi Fujita would take advantage of NES software and create some of the most lush 8-bit music out there. But in in 1993, The Console War was in full swing. The Super Nintendo was going head to head with the Sega Genesis and both companies were vying for dominance with their exclusive IPs. While everyone remembers Mario vs. Sonic, and their music, Mega Man got an edgy reboot. And with a more serious, mature take on this legacy brand a new sound came with it. One that illustrated the SNES’ amazing audio capabilities.
Mega Man XTREME
The old NES Mega Man games had great melodies, but were held back by the technology at the time. But by the 90’s sound chips were good enough to (roughly) emulate actual instruments. So when 93′ rolled around and Mega Man X hit the market people ate it up, one of the reasons for it was its soundtrack. For some reason Capcom’s actual inhouse band, Alph Lyah, loved slap bass. So all through the game are these really funky bass lines and aggro metal guitars & drums that scream “RUN TO THE RIGHT”. The Spark Mandrill theme is a perfect example of both.
The Spark Mandrill stage, in particular, is one of the most covered, MegaMan tracks out there for a reason. But this wasn’t the full range of Alph Lyah’s musical timbre. While most of X1 is high energy one of the highlights of the entire game both thematically is Sigma Stage 1. Megaman (or X in this game) has defeated most of his Maverick enemies and is now searching for their leader Sigma…its the beginning of the end and the music signals that. Moving from a bass driven, contemplative tone to wicked determination with a little bit of 80’s synth hits. Its AMAZING for a platformer in 1993 to have this kind of resonance.
SLAP. MORE. BASS.
With time also comes a better understanding of the tools at hand and Mega Man X2 is a great musical example of that. While only one member of Alph Lyah (Yuki Iwai) worked on X2, most of the signature sound remained. But it does lack a little bit of the thematic polish and element of surprise. And while some of my all time favorite Mega Man themes come from X2, its predecessor is much more robust sound experience.