Breath of Fire, , , , , , , , , , , , " />


VGM of the Week

(The first in a weekly series spotlighting an individual piece of music from a video game. VGM stands for Video Game Music, just in case you were wondering.)

Wave Man

Game: Mega Man 5 (1992)
Composer: Mari Yamaguchi

To say that Mega Man 5 is a disappointing game is quite an understatement. No, actually, maybe it isn’t—any gaming cynic boosted by hindsight should be able to piece together how the 4th sequel to an NES title released 5 years prior would be disappointing. By this point, Capcom was just telefaxing it in, assembling its game from elements of previous installments like a cartoon Construx set without doing any QA to assure that the pieces were fitting together properly. Mega Man’s power-ups were unbalanced, the enemies and bosses scant and uninspired, and the stages—while technically impressive—exercised frustration while lacking the thrill of accomplishment, a delicate mixture that makes the MM series’ notorious difficulty so addicting in the first place.

Alllllllllllllll of that aside, however, Mega Man 5‘s soundtrack is surprisingly good, and one track in particular is outstanding:

Admittedly, I don’t know much about composer Mari Yamaguchi, but her credits include Breath of Fire, the SNES port of U.N. Squadron and Super Ghouls N’ Ghosts, as well as a contribution to the soundtrack of recently released Mega Man 10. That’s quite a chiptune pedigree! Also, let this be a solid argument against the naysayers who think all NES music “sounds the same” or is hindered by technical limitations. The good programmers knew how to make good music, period. My opinion: all truly great music has structure at its core, and since structure and arrangement are the life-force of the digital, the great composers recognize and embrace it, crafting tunes with solid underlying foundations instead of trying to emulate “performances” that are more comfortable in the realm of the analog. Mari Yamaguchi’s Wave Man is one of the best. It’s catchy, contains some interesting changes, and puts every channel to melodic use, rather than being simply textural. There’s nothing wrong with programming tricks like echoing, of course, but it’s nice to hear musicality being brought to the front of a composition like this.

(Now, if you put this music on while playing through MM9′s Splash Woman stage, you’d have the ideal Wave Man experience!)

Screenshots courtesy of VGMuseum.

Posted by Kurt Shulenberger on April 1st, 2010 :: Posts :: Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , ,