“God damn, this is funky.”
Shortly after that thought, I pulled my headphones out of the CD player I was listening to so I could get up –- and dance. I mean, you should have been there to capture it on film; it was likely a pathetic sight perfect for YouTube, blackmail, or some convenient combination of the two. But I couldn’t help but put my hands in my pockets and shuffle about on my two legs with a step here, a jimmy-leg there, two steps back, and a flip around short of a cheap date.
And here’s the kicker: I was listening to the newly-released Rockman 9 Arrange Soundtrack.
[[image:r9front1.jpg:Children of the night, are you ready to roll?:center:0]]
In particular, the remix of “Hornet Dance,” a tune so funky-fresh that I would have taken my strutting to the streets of my hometown of Baltimore, if I were still in Baltimore and had it not been three o’clock in the morning. But I could see it in my mind: by the time I reached the intersection of Pratt and Charles, I would have successfully promoted five different soft drinks with my suave stylings, annulled the foreclosures along three city blocks with my mondo move set, and charmed approximately a dozen foxy ladies back to my princely pad because damn if I wasn’t one of the coolest, calmest, collected(est) cats this side of the Mason-Dixon.
Okay, so that situation would have never happened in a million years. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that mix of Hornet Man’s theme made me feel like doing those exact things. Pretty powerful stuff for yet another Mega Man 9 tie-in product, but surely, its sexy beat had to be a fluke, right?
Arrangement albums are fairly common in the game music scene, and they get an often well-deserved bad rap for losing what was so great about the originals; my expectations for this latest MM9 mix were quite low as a result. So I popped in the CD and listened to a couple of my favorite pieces from the game’s original soundtrack, such as “We’re the Robots” (Wily Castle 2) and “Concrete Jungle.” But something interesting happened. Sixty-five minutes and twenty-four tracks later, I had listened to the entire thing, and couldn’t wait to replay favorites. That alone would be a pretty high recommendation, wouldn’t you say? Even so, this album might not be for everyone.
If you’re expecting higher-fidelity arrangements of the original 8-bit sound, it definitely delivers on some fronts with either upgraded synth or flashy guitar work. “Galaxy Fantasy” has an appropriate sci-fi feel to it, and “Boss – Born Again -” is a speedy metal cover of the boss theme. These, and others like “We’re the Robots” and “Plug Electric” should please the obstinate Mega Man 9 fanatic.
However, if you come into it with an open mind (or low expectations), the stylistic variations on the album show its real personality. “Splash Blue” has its tempo cranked way down from the original, and sounds like something out of Suikoden or Chrono Cross. “Flash in the Dark” (Wily Stage 1) is turned inside-out from a highly energetic anthem to a slow rock ballad that could be compared to the rendition of Castlevania Bloodlines‘ “Requiem for the Nameless Victims” from Dracula Battle, but really reminded me of Lords of Thunder‘s ending theme. And really, isn’t being compared to Lords of Thunder the highest compliment you can give?
Then there are of course the remixes that retain little of the original melody. I’d count “Hornet Dance” in there — but definitely not against it, as I explained. Directly following it is the unrecognizable “Jewel Temptation,” which is totally groovy in its own right and slides down smooth after a long night of hornet dancing. A disappointment to many will probably be “Thunder Tornado.” The original version had a great melody, but I found it too shrill to listen to in its 8-bit iteration. Its arrangement, however, is an airy electronica piece which is a pleasant listen but definitely sacrifices some greater potential.
Other styles rounding out the album are piano versions of “Prologue” and “Epilogue” and the obligatory J-pop arrangement of MM9’s credits theme, now called “To a Shining Tomorrow.” It’s surprisingly pleasant, but if the needlessly cheery vocals are too saccharine for you, just turn on the included karaoke version and make your own contribution to the world’s noise pollution level.
The album does have some problems. Some tracks, especially the Robot Master ones, are quite short, most petering out at just over two minutes, just when they seem to be picking up steam. And not everyone will like the unexpected styles, such as “Magma Burning” sounding more at home at a rodeo than a sweltering hell. In a hypothetical life-or-death situation, if you had to choose only one Mega Man 9 album to purchase, I’d say go for the original soundtrack.
Overall, the Rockman 9 Arrange Soundtrack was a nice surprise; it just goes to show that every once in a while, it’s possible to get more than you expect. Of course, now that I’ve said that, I’m sure the lot of you will damn me for recommending it. But that’s okay by me, as I’ll be in my imaginary heart-shaped hot tub with an enamored entourage and a funky guy in a hornet suit.
Handy purchase links (hey, I get no commission for this, so it’s kosher):
Big thanks to VGMdb for the track listing and cover art.