Game That TuneMega Man 2 Day

Mega Man 2

Robot Rock

The theme from Wily’s fortress is ready to pump you up.

By Derrick Sanskrit • May 9, 2013

Game music has the power to earworm its way into your heart long after you put the controller down. Each week in Game That Tune, we highlight a great tune from a great game (or a great tune from a just-okay game).

You’ve bested eight robot masters. You’ve straight-up ripped the weapons off of the empty shells that once contained the closest things to a life those robot masters ever had. And you grafted them onto yourself, all in an effort to save the world you’ve sworn to protect. It’s been a hard road, but it’s not over yet. Here’s the evil Dr. Wily’s fortress and—holy crap—is that a giant freaking skull on the front? And enormous bones sticking out of the back? Did Dr. Wily slaughter a colossus and build a base in its open grave? Does the fortress itself transform into a skyscraper-sized robo-beast? How has the government not seen (and carpet-bombed) this thing before? It’s freakin’ huge! Okay, no time to panic. Let’s get to this. Just, you know, head into the monstrous skull dungeon. Hang on a minute, just have to put on my “Monster Jams Of Getting Pumped To Fight The Badguys” motivational mixtape.

Aw yeah, that’s the stuff! This tune, which plays through the first two sections of Wily’s castle in Mega Man 2, is the ’80s chiptune equivalent of the theme from Footloose or the power ballad from Wet Hot American Summer. The NES Mega Man games were big into soft percussion, so they could push as much bass and lead through the sound channels as possible. This tune perfectly demonstrates that it’s not the density of a beat that gets your heart racing; it’s the frequency. A simple brush and snare, that’s all it is, but you’re ready to do jumping jacks until the music stops. The lead synths are bright— with plenty of ambience thanks to a slow decay—and they overlap expertly with the pulsing bass to give an atmosphere of sci-fi unrest. But it’s that deceptively small brush-and-snare that maintains the momentum. This also works as a nice companion piece to the game’s title theme, which uses the same techniques and rhythm to create an upbeat, enthusiastic, and hopeful energy, akin to Rocky pumping iron to “Eye Of The Tiger.” But “Dr. Wily Stage 1” is The Real World of Mega Man 2, when robots stop being polite and start getting real. This song is serious. You are serious. The danger is serious. How did we not see this giant skull-shaped base before? I’m not advocating for profiling, but come on, that was obviously where the bad guys were.

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31 Responses to “Robot Rock”

  1. The_Helmaroc_King says:

    How’d you narrow this feature down to only one song?

    Even if we stick to the original Mega Man(s), we’re looking at (listening to?) an embarrassment of riches.

    •  Capcom recently made the soundtracks to MM1-4 available on their shop. The only reason I don’t have them yet is because I keep forgetting by the time I get home. :P

    • George_Liquor says:

      I’m relatively new to the Mega Man canon of games, and I gotta say that Mega Man X has some of the best dang chiptunes I’ve ever heard. That one game could keep this feature going for months. Even the password screen has a great little toe-tapping ditty!

      • Girard says:

         Music is one of the many, many ways (see also: character design, gameplay, narrative….) X simply got it so right in terms of building onto the classic MegaMan series in ways that took it into exciting new places while still being unmistakably MegaMan.

        Hell, they even threaded the needle of “maturing” a kiddie property to court an adolescent audience without making something in any way embarrassing or stupid.

        But, yeah, swapping out the chippy dance beats of the Classic series for the over-the-top cock-rock guitair wails of the X series was a choice that, perhaps against all reason, worked amazingly.

        • George_Liquor says:

          The more I explore the SNES’ catalog, the more I’m impressed with its audio prowess. As much as I love NES chiptunes, there is no mistaking them for real instruments at all. But in Super Mario World alone, the background tunes are loaded with ukeleles, honkey-tonk pianos, steel drums and xylophones that sound uncannily realistic.

          I did a little digging on the SNES’ sound chip and found out it was developed by Sony engineer, Ken Kutaragi. He developed it in secret & sold it to Nintendo behind Sony’s back. Sony damn near fired him for this, but after the SNES became a hit, Sony realized there actually was money to be made in video games. This led to their partnering with Nintendo to develop the ill-fated SNES CD add-on, the Play Station.

      • Ardney says:

        You’re welcome ;)

    • Being Mega Man 2 Day, that right there narrowed it down to, like, 20 tunes. Plus, I assumed the front page would be filled with images of the Blue Bomber, so I thought Wily needed a little love.

    • NakedSnake says:

      There are many, many classic Mega Man songs. I’m partial to Spark Man’s stage from MM3. But the music to Dr. Wily Stage 1 has always been the champ, and the one everyone can agree on. Incidentally, have you all seen the ‘lyrics’ version?

      ♫♪ I am Mega Man, here’s my Mega Plan: You Die! ♩♬

  2. PugsMalone says:

    I went on a date this weekend, and this was the last song I listened to while taking the train to get there. It’s so fucking epic.

    But this stuck out to me:

    “akin to Rocky ascending the Philadelphia Museum Of Art steps to “Eye Of The Tiger.””

    Uh, Eye of the Tiger was in Rocky III, not the original.

  3. Tyler Mills says:

    I love this song. I nominate it for best NES song ever. Good night.

  4. TheBryanJZX90 says:

    This song inspired a pretty wonderful little music video in Japan about nostalgia towards a lost childhood:

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      In a similar “inspired by Mega Man” vein, Air Man inspired this song about, uh, Air Man.

      Edit: I can’t tell if it’s a remix of an existing Mega Man song, though; I don’t recognize it.

    • Chalkdust says:

      Oh, we’re doing this, and nobody’s mentioned Hyadain yet?  He’s otherwise known as Kenichi Maeyamada, a working composer in anime, but Hyadain is his online alter-ego. He has a whole slew of videos taking classic game songs and writing alternately absurd and poignant lyrics for them, from Street Fighter to Final Fantasy IV.  His popularity as Hyadain has led to him using the alias in some of his subsequent anime work, such as on Nichijou.  He wrote and performed the theme songs, using custom audio editing techniques to let him sing both male and female parts.  It’s not just simple pitch shifting, you kinda have to hear for yourself. Just in case Candy Box hasn’t done the trick for you this week, these songs should induce auditory hyperglycemia (One) (Two).

      Anyway, since today’s all about looking under the surface of Mega Man 2, Hyadain has a whole set of Mega Man 2 songs, usually incorporating a homosexual subtext (quality on these is all over the place, hard to find consistently well-subtitled versions):Bubble ManCrash Man (okay, this one casts subtext to the wayside but it’s also my favorite)Flash ManHeat ManMetal ManQuick Man

  5. caspiancomic says:

    While we’re on the topic of Mega Man music, I assume we’re all familiar with The Protomen? The lads are two albums deep into a rock opera re-imagining of the Mega Man mythology as a tragic hard sci-fi dystopian cautionary tale. They also have an album of Queen covers. Surprisingly good, too.

  6. Great song. It was one of several classic songs hidden in “Zack and Wiki” for the Wii. (The only other one I can remember was the “Larry Butz Theme” from the third Phoenix Wright game.)

    What was “Zack and Wiki”, you ask? It was a fantastic action-puzzle game. It was one of the few really fresh and original third-party games on the Wii. Needless to say, it sold poorly despite strong critical reviews.  

    • I’m proud to say I preordered Zack & Wiki and still have it. And I was not employed at the time, so it’s not like a game critic thing, I just loved it, despite very finicky controls. It had a real Sierra/LucasArts vibe to a lot of the puzzles.

      • I’m trying to think of another puzzle game that had the same sort of “challenge” mechanic that Zack and Wiki did.

      • Matt Kodner says:

        freshmen year of college me and friends played the everlasting crap out of that game. 

        we could never finish it though, because the last puzzle’s sword fighting controls NEVER worked. 

    • caspiancomic says:

       Just dropping in to say Zack and Wiki is extremely great and I love it. Shame it’s not likely to become a franchise.

  7. cbforrester says:

    The tracks from the first end-game stages of each Mega Man game
    generally share at least one important characteristic – they all convey a
    sense of defiance as our heroes stand at the threshold of destiny and
    hurtle themselves face-first into the danger that awaits them in the bad
    guys’ most hardened lines of defense.  What really makes them
    interesting to me is the slightly varied approach each piece takes to
    such a well-trafficked narrative.  Megaman
    opted to put an emphasis on a sense of foreboding as you
    prepared to confront a mysterious new enemy with unclear motives.  Megaman
    was all about the righteous indignation of a battle that
    had turned deeply personal.  MMX1’s
    really drives home the desperation and determination of a hero who is
    alone in the world and unsure of himself, but will stand strong as the
    human race’s last bastion no matter what. MMX8
    really impressed me with a track that perfectly conveys the feeling of
    heroes who will not go gentle into that good night even as mankind’s
    final judgement at the hands of the Mavericks seems to have already been
    set irreversibly into motion.

    Also on the topic of X8, I have to
    give a special mention to the Gateway stage’s track. In a franchise whose music is almost entirely geared toward making you want to jump around and break shit, Gateway is utterly surprising in how melancholy and subdued it is.  The haunting synth
    choral background, the bright, echoing percussion and the plaintive, simplistic chords of a single, lonely
    electric guitar wonderfully capture what X ultimately feels near the end of every mission: a sense of sobering reflection on the past – the countless former allies he was forced to destroy after they succumbed to evil and turned against mankind – mixed with apprehension for the uncertain future that he and
    his friends face.

  8. bilabus123 says:

    I used to sing along to this as a kid! “I want a banana, I want a banana, ba-na-na! I want a banana, want a ba-NA-na, I want a banana, want a ba-na-na, give it to me, give it to me.”