Welcome to Smash Bits! A collection of articles exploring the wonderful world of video game music.
Megaman is an action platformer by Capcom that is recognised as being one of the best titles on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It’s fast gameplay, challenging difficulty and level selection freedom set the bar high during the ’90s. As well as being a great game mechanically, Megaman also has one of the best 8-bit soundtracks of its era, with its infectious catchy melodies and adrenaline pumped rhythm, it added a level of excitement that might have been lacking in earlier 8-bit games
Japanese composer Manami Matsumae is the genius behind the soundtrack to the original Megaman, which she composed during her time as an employee at Capcom. Often going by her alias name ‘Chanchacorin’, she is the woman responsible for the famous game start jingle that features in the original game. Matsumae set the musical foundations of the series, weaving adrenaline and excitement into her 8-bit compositions. Matsumae also worked on other classic titles such as SonSon II, Dynasty Wars, U.N. Squadron, Mercs, Magic Sword, and Carrier Air Wing. She even contributed to the soundtrack for the modern classic platformer, Shovel Knight, which explains why a modern game sounds so authentically retro.
Takashi Tateishi is the composer who picked up the mantle for the second instalment of the Megaman series. Whilst Tateishi’s soundtrack builds upon the foundations of the first game, he somehow managed to make each track catchier, more upbeat than ever before. Tateishi also brought us the blue bombers main theme, which became just as iconic as the character himself. Tateishi collaborated with original composer, Manami Matsumae, on the likes of the Air Man stage, which shows that the original concept for what Megaman should sound like was a fundamental part of the game. Tateishi is still present within the video game industry today, working for Konami as a sound programmer and coordinator.
Yoshihiro Sakaguchi is the legendary sound programmer who used his technical prowess to stitch the 8-bit composure together. If it wasn’t for Sakaguchi, we wouldn’t have the stylish 8-bit tracks that we know and love today. He also worked on the majority Capcom’s classics, including Street Fighter, Duck Tales, Final Fight, Commando and Forgotten Worlds. Sakaguchi is often titled as ‘Yukichan’s Papa’ within credits, which was a ploy to hide his identity from competitor developers at the time, which shows how much Capcom valued his skills. In terms of the first two Megaman titles, Sakaguchi, Tateishi and Matsumae worked together to create solid foundations for what would make the sound of this Capcom classic into a timeless masterpiece.
Other composers for the Megaman series include Yasuaki Fujita, Harumi Fujita, Minae Fujii, Mari Yamaguchi, Yuko Takehara, Yuko Takehara, Toshihiko Horiyama and Makoto Tomozawa. Every composer within the Megaman series maintained the reputation for the series having a fantastic soundtrack.
Megaman is a fast-moving game filled with perilous obstacles and treacherous paths, which each stage having a deadly robot master overseer. Despite this immediate danger, Megaman is on a conquest to take down his nemesis, Dr Wily, with not a moment to spare. The game’s soundtrack does a fantastic job of adding urgency to the gameplay, making each stage seem more intense. Each track beautifully matches its assigned environment and avoids being repetitive, during a time when video games couldn’t afford to have long soundtracks that didn’t utilise a looping function. Megaman also joins the ranks of retro games that have ridiculously catchy soundtracks, most of the level tracks across all the original series will easily make themselves at home in your head, while avoiding being an over obnoxious earworm.
The quality of the Megaman soundtracks can be appreciated when you realise what’s involved in creating an 8-bit Midi track in the ’90s. The composers would have to compose three notes at a time, which would then have to be converted into machine code, one note at a time. Yet despite these painstaking hardware limitations, the likes of Manami Matsumae and Yoshihiro Sakaguchi were able to create music that could put modern games to shame.
Megaman: Cutman Stage
Megaman 2: Title & Opening Sequence
Megaman 2: Metalman Stage
Megaman 2: Dr Wily Stage
If you want to kick back and listen to the sweet sounds of this Capcom classic, you can download MP3 compilations of the series soundtracks through the likes of Amazon. Youtube also has various playlists containing each track within the Megaman series. If you’re more of a collector and would like a physical medium in which to please your ears with, box set collections do exist, however, they do fetch a fairly high price due to their collectable nature. You can also get a ‘Best of’ compilation on Vinyl if you’re a real audiophile, however, these also fetch a high price through the likes of eBay.