|By Bucky||Sunday, 28 Jun 2009|
Developer, Publisher: Capcom Year: 1990 (JP + US), 1992 (EU) AKA: RockMan 3: Dr. Wily no Saigo!?
Near the top of our list is Mega Man 3, reminding us that no matter who you ask, the Mega Man series is widely regarded as one of the top franchises for having the best NES music.
The classic Mega Man formula should be familiar to most readers; pick one of 8 levels, in any order, defeat their respective bosses and then face a final gauntlet of stages. Each stage has its own theme, with which we associate the music to its boss and setting. The music in Mega Man has always proven to be vital- it’s an element that can often make or break the gaming experience for the player. It’s no coincidence that I couldn’t stand Mega Man 8, for example, which in my opinion has one of the worst soundtracks out of all of them.
At the other end of the spectrum lies Mega Man 3, which is typically a fan favorite alongside its older brother, Mega Man 2. Its quite difficult to try and pinpoint a single genre for comparison, but some of the more “metal” moments from Mega Man 2 were mostly omitted from Mega Man 3. In eschewing what was a strong point from the previous score, however, Mega Man 3 sought to have its own excellent soundtrack without being too derivative of its predecessor.
The game opens with a very catchy tune for the title screen. It’s not too often that NES music has me picturing live instruments for all the voices, but the jazzy intro has always had me imagining a pianist playing the part. The track then builds up into the catchy, galloping tune you’d hope for from a Mega Man game.
I’m not sure where to even begin with the stage themes, or how detailed of an insight I can provide for the rest of the tracks, so I’ll continue by listing some of my favorites- Spark Man, Snake Man, the boss theme, the Weapon Acquisition screen, Dr Wily Themes 1 & 2, Protoman’s theme, and the ending credits.
A very cool musical reveal in the game comes with Protoman’s theme. His character appears several times in the game as a miniboss or encounter, introduced by a short jingle often referred to as the “whistle” sound. At the end of the game, the ending theme is introduced with the same sound, but develops into a complete tune.
Oddly enough, you could never actually hear that track in its entirety without exploiting some crazy trick that involves the second controller, as it would cut to the ending credits less than halfway through the composition. Although you can hear the complete version in the link above, the Mega Man series is guilty of making that mistake in a couple other places too. The interlude between the Wily Stages or ‘Castle Map’ contains more music than heard in-game, as does the title screen from Mega Man 4.
One thing that I’ve discovered about the magic of
classic Mega Man music is that the brilliance is, essentially, all in the compositional work. While there’s a bit more care to the overall sound than your average NES game, none of the Mega Man titles ever really pushed it in terms of production or ‘milking’ the system’s sound. They just made sure to write some really awesome music.
I made this observation in a project where I carefully reconstructed the second Dr. Wily theme from this game, which you can listen to and read more about here. Not that it wasn’t a tedious task to replicate the original so closely, but I learned that there was a great simplicity to the some of the sounds behind Mega Man 3. Everything special about the music is in the melody and rhythm, which is a strong point of Mega Man 3 and the best that the Mega Man series has to offer.
Listen to a selection of tracks on youtube here.