Mega Man 9: Back in Blue – Music Review
By Justin Polak
Co-founder, Ambassador to the Mushroom Kingdom
Back in 2008, Capcom released the much anticipated Mega Man 9, a downloadable title for all major consoles returning to its glorious 8-bit roots. Like many Mega Man fans, I anticipated the game, but what probably excited me more was another soundtrack of old school Mega Man music. The music of Mega Man was one of the few series I took seriously in terms of music. Yes, I have always loved game music, but this is one of those series that caused me to place a tape recorder next to my TV speakers to listen to it on my own when I was a kid. Ah, the good old days where you couldn’t Google a game soundtrack.
Moving on, game music community OC Remix has released its 27th album, Mega Man 9: Back in Blue which, I’m sure you figured, is an album full of Mega Man 9 remixes. Oh, and this one is two discs if you’re the type to put these sort of packages on CD.
For a change, this album tries to stay away from staying in the electronic mold. There are plenty of tracks that have as much circuitry as Mega Man himself, and there are the standard power rock-like shred fests, but there is a good chunk of variety found here.
Nearly from the start, a unique track titled “Smooth as Honey” presents itself. What really makes this stand out for me is that this mix carries a funk vibe that decorates itself with a sort of lounge feel. Also, this is the only track on the album to feature vocals. Here’s the thing: I usually can’t stand vocals in a video game music remix/cover. I know it’s irrational, but I’d rather just hear an instrumental mix of game music I like. However, this is one of the few vocal mixes that I really got into. It also has a very uplifting quality that made me smile, and again, I’m one to go in the other direction by generally liking more serious or “depressing” music.
The next track that stood out to me was “SIZZLING CIRCUITS” a Wily Stage 3 remix. It opens up with a western gunslinger theme eventually backed by violins. Although it switches gears to a straight up electronic mix, I feel this track did a fantastic job really exploring the source material by fusing many different kinds of genres from that style. Yes, I know I implied earlier that this album had less electronic based music, and that I loved that change, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get into it when a mix sounds as good as this one.
“Morricone Man” is yet another track that stood out only because some of the background layers made me think that if the “Endless Stage” music was in EarthBound for some bizarre reason, this is how it would sound like. It would make a good battle theme! Also, towards the last half of the track, more western elements make a quick appearance. Overall, this mix might seem a bit odd, but I can easily get down with something more unconventional.
The following mix, “Cool Burning” takes an ironic approach to the Magma Man stage music. Obviously, the stage itself is full of many enemies, traps and … you know what? If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve played a Mega Man game. The stage looks like it’s robot hell! With this mix, it sounds like an ice based Robot Master froze Magma Man’s level! A very relaxed piano directs the flow backed by a gentle beat. Although this isn’t the first OC Remix to do something like this by a long shot, I still found myself pleasantly surprised, and feeling a lot cooler.
“Splash Waltz” immediately follows with a — wait for it — mix with a waltz vibe! Ah, but this one doesn’t have an orchestra backing it. In fact, the song is very minimalist with only an acoustic guitar and flute setting the tempo. Splash Woman’s stage, which this track was based off of, was one of my favorite tracks in Mega Man 9, so it was nice to hear such a mix that did the original track justice. Though the tempo gets away from waltz style toward the end, I still enjoyed the continuation of the very relaxed feel of “Cool Burning.”
There is also a bit of interesting fusion on this album. The aptly titled “Astro Fusion”, a mix of Galaxy Man’s stage, combines piano with basic electronic music. Although it’s not nearly as relaxing as the previous two tracks I mentioned, that attitude definitely hangs in the air, despite the more up tempo flow of the mix. Again, Galaxy Man’s level was another favorite of mine in its original incarnation, so I am happy once again to see another well done mix of one of my favorite tunes.
Okay, I won’t completely avoid talking about a pure electronic mix. It’s hard not to when “Tornado Blitz” was one of the best electronic mixes I have heard in years. As cliche as this might be to point out, you could blast this track in a rave, and non-game fans would never know the difference. Hell, at the end it could pass for an absurdly hard Dance Dance Revolution song! The point is, I had fun listening to this track build up to is eventual climax, where I’m sure it made a few lights flicker somewhere in a giant warehouse.
Although there were other tracks I enjoyed, the above mixes are the ones that stood out to me the most. I didn’t have any particular problem with any of the tracks. In fact, one of my favorite OC remixer, bLINd, was on this project. Having said that, the notable tracks work as a double edged sword. Obviously, I enjoyed the hell out of the mixes I discussed, but on the flip side, it made nearly every other mix fade in the background for me. Again, there was no “bad track” on this album to me, but that’s where I am left every time I listen to this project.
Anyway, I am sure not as many people will be as meticulous as I have been, and anyone who enjoyed the music of Mega Man 9 should download Mega Man 9: Back in Blue.
To download Back in Blue for free, please visit ocremix.org.
All artwork by Alex Graziano, from ocremix.org.