Thursday, September 9, 2010

Countdown: The Top 10 Tunes from Mega Man 2

Mega Man 2 is one of the best video games of all time. As a kid, I was absolutely taken with the Mega Man franchise, and the games still hold a special place in my heart even as the series spirals more and more into a vortex of impenetrably strange Japaneseness. Years and countless sequels later, the Blue Bomber now celebrates vanquishing another Robot Master by flashing an anime-riffic peace sign accompanied by a 4-year-old Japanese girl screaming "Yah-sho!" as his eyes turn into those little upside-down letter U's (not really). But even if I can't really enjoy some of the newer games (though, the Zero series was awesome if retarded hard), I can still fondly reflect on the golden days of my childhood, when I spent hours upon hours in front of the old NES trying to beat Mega Man 2.

It's because I spent so much time playing this game as a kid that this list exists. You try playing this game for any amount of time without noticing the ABSOLUTELY OUTSTANDING SOUNDTRACK. Now imagine hearing these dope jams on loop for days on end. Even back then, I knew the soundtrack to this game was some next level stuff - King Shit, if you will - especially given the fact that the majority of NES game music consisted of artless beeps and boops (the likes of which can still be found today whenever someone plays video games on a TV show). 

Great music has gone on to become a Mega Man series trademark, but I'm still of the opinion that this game has still yet to be surpassed by any of its many sequels as far as the tunes go. It's an 8 bit Magnum Opus. I'd even go as far as saying that no video game since this one has offered up an original soundtrack that was quite so awesome across the board, let alone better. And that's saying something, considering this game came out in 1988. My hat is off to composers Takashi Tateishi, Manami Matsumae, and Yoshihiro Sakaguchi - if the world ever needs to be saved using only a 1980s Casio keyboard, these are the folks to call.

So let's see what makes it all so awesome, then. Keep in mind, as all of these tunes are pretty spectacular, the following list is less for strict ranking purposes and more along the lines of "Hey, if you've never heard them before check these awesome old video game tunes out." Submitted for your approval in Countdown Format, Mega Man 2's Top 10 Tunes - after the break.

10) Air Man's Theme

Pretty great, but as we'll see, it's only uphill from here. Still, you get a good sense of how incredibly layered and complex the songs in this game are. Unfortunately for Air Man, I was always kind of underwhelmed by him and his level, and as such, the placement of his theme so low on the list is probably more an indication of how little I like him, giant fan in his mouth notwithstanding. Bet he blows a lot of hot air, huh! Oh, and it says a lot about how drastically the series has changed considering I don't consider the flying robot sky demon pig heads that make up the majority of this level as "impenetrably weird Japaneseness."

9) The Boss Fight Theme 

Despite all the sweet Robot Master themes in this list, it's always this music that plays the bosses down to the ring. Just listen to that diabolical intro - the first few seconds of this tune can make even a humanoid cigarette lighter or an evil dentist in a diving suit seem intimidating, and the beat should keep you moving until either you or your enemy explode into pulsing balls of light. The thing is, if you know what you're doing in this game the boss fights take all of about 6 seconds, so odds are you won't spend too much time listening to this one. 

8) Wood Man's Theme

Listen to that sweet 8-bit drum and bass. Though to be honest, as good as this is, I spent too much time getting mauled by those egg-dropping robot birds while this tune played to like it too much.

7) Theme to Dr. Wily's Castle Pt. 1

The usual deal for every one of the classic Mega Man games is that you have to destroy all of the Robot Masters before you can even think about getting anywhere near the evil mastermind behind their schemes - the dreaded Dr. Wily! But before you get your blue cyborg hands on the mad doctor, you first have to brave your way through his (usually skull-themed) castle (or tower, or base, or lab, whichever applies in the given sequel). So, imagine the sense of accomplishment young me felt when I finally got to hear this music. It definitely gets you pumped to Mega Bust the 'stache right off his villainous face.

6) Heat Man's Theme

Now we're getting into the crazy shit. Heat Man's theme is appropriately face-melting, but my childhood traumas have tainted this one for me. Why? Because Heat Man's level is retarded difficult. I still haven't beaten this without using the rocket sled - those parts with the disappearing blocks suspended over a pit of lava can go fuck themselves. This level probably would have made younger me quit out of sheer controller-heaving frustration if the accompanying groove wasn't so groovy. Well played, Heat Man.

5) Quick Man's Theme

Another great tune, but I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that it seems somehow incomplete without the accompanying laser of death sound effects. Also, I seriously doubt the so-called "Quick Man" is able to satisfy a woman. And it's not just because of his tiny pants bulge, as pictured above.

4) Crash Man's Theme

Now that's some catchy stuff. And it's pretty damned progressive for an NES song - it's definitely not "verse-chorus-verse" so to speak, and much like Crash Man's frustratingly fun level, it's composed of a lot of rather distinct parts. It's worth pointing that out because the music in a lot of video games of the time consisted of the same 10 second track on an endless loop - this tune goes a respectable 1:17 before it loops back. This prevents things from being too repetitive, which is nice when you keep getting knocked 4 screens down by those cocksucking eggdropping robot birds and have to climb all the way back up those stupid fucking yellow ladders for the millionth goddamned time.

Also: According to YouTube, Crash Man's level is known as the "Pipe Station." Son, that's wut u should call ma bedroom! 

3) Bubble Man's Theme

I'll admit it - I'm a sucker for underwater-sounding music. Surf rock is awesome. I was pissed when I saw In Flames had a song in Guitar Hero 3 and it wasn't "Swim." And even though Bubble Man is a complete pushover, I have to give him props for his taste in music. This song is the underwater shit. It ain't no floater.

Also, if Bubble Man and Guts Man had a kid (despite both being male and robots), you gotta believe the kid would be called Bubbleguts Man.

2) Metal Man's Theme

Metal Man's decidedly un-metal theme is this actually rather sick techno jumpoff. If you know how to play this game the right way, this is the first song you'll hear after the intro and level select tunes, and if those didn't already get you in the Mega Mood this one definitely will. Beating Metal Man nets you the best weapon in the game, the motherfuckin Metal Blade, which just about never runs out of ammo, can be thrown in 8 directions, and cleaves through most anything - including bosses - with absolute ease. Even Metal Man can't eat 2 of his own Metal Blades without turning into Pulsating Ball of Light Man. The only bad thing about getting the Metal Blade first is that you have to beat Metal Man's level first, which means you can't hear this tune again for the rest of the game. Tragic.

1) Flash Man's Theme

Surprise: the best jam in the game is an awesome 8-bit techno song! Even with such a stacked list of contenders, this theme has to be the undisputed champ. From the rave-worthy intro to the part where they drop the bass right down on you, this is one beat you just have to beat back. Because if you don't fight back against this beat you are going to get pummeled. It's that good. Not to mention the fact that Flash Man's level is a goddamned discotheque. Admit it - you wish your lair was made of colorful crystal bricks that flash to the beat. Of course the Robot Master whose idea of world domination is chillin at the club has the best music. He's gonna start a nuclear war on the dance floor.

Well, there you have it - the Mega Man 2 Top 10 Tunes. If you've played the game before, I'm sure you already knew how sick the soundtrack was and I hope the list brought back a lot of fond memories of one of the greatest, most top-to-bottom polished video games ever made. And if you never have - hell, you can play it online for free.

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