For this new whenever-I-have-time feature, I'll be looking at how a single song from a video game has been remixed/reused/recycled in different games, or by amateur musicians online. I'll try to provide as much analysis as my non-musically trained mind can think of, but what I'm hoping this feature will do is compile in one place a good sample of the variety of remixes that are available out there. If I'm missing any good ones, or if you have suggestions for a song you'd like me to "research", let me know (I've mostly been looking through YouTube and OCRemix, since it's easiest to just embed videos).
As some of you might have noticed from my "Music Mind Teasers" feature, my favorite video game music has been from the Mega Man
series. So, it's only fitting that I would start with the song from the very beginning of the first SNES title in the series, Mega Man X
(it also happens to be the first Mega Man
game I remember playing). The "Intro Stage", also know as "Highway" or "Central Highway", was a new feature for the series. Before, Mega Man games started you off right from the stage select screen, but now there would be a relatively easy introduction level where the basic game mechanics could be shown to the novice player, and the narrative could be introduced directly through gameplay, rather than pre-title screen cutscenes.
What I think is most important about the song is how it sets up the new musical style of the X series. Compared to the Classic series on the NES, which was really its own unique "chiptune" genre, the X series' style has more obvious ties to traditional rock and techno (though the latter would come to the forefront more in the PS1 titles). As well, although the general "breadth" of the soundtracks (i.e., how long until the music would repeat, and the variety of melodies within each song) wasn't much better than some of the later NES games (like Mega Man 5
), there was a lot of improvement in "depth" (i.e., the variety of instrumentation and effects) that came from the SNES sound chip. Now, lest I go on too much about music theory and design that I have no expertise in, let's move on.
I love the energy and tempo that this song (as well as most of the music in the X series) has. There is only a brief 2 second lead-in at the start before it delves right into the main melody. It really conveys a sense of urgency, which coincides nicely with the level itself (a city under attack). As I mentioned above, the breadth of the song is quite short (only 45 seconds until it repeats), but even within that it has 4 or 5 distinct sections, showing Capcom's excellent ability to create condensed songs that still contained a variety of melodies.
Here's a video of the actual stage, to see how the music matches the level. Official Remixes
Capcom is known for rereleasing their older games with new graphics, features, and music. Megaman X
is no exception, having been "remixed" as Mega Man Xtreme
on the Gameboy Color in 2001, and the enhanced remake Mega Man Maverick Hunter X
on the PSP in 2006. Both of them offered new versions of the Intro Stage music:
Mega Man Xtreme
, being on the GBC, obviously had a more limited sound chip than the SNES to work with. It's almost NES-style 8-bit, but it still keeps most of the basic energy and rhythm of the original piece. Actually, because of the limited instrumentation, it's much easier to hear the main melody for this version.
With Maverick Hunter X
, the limitations of a sound chip were no longer an issue, so this version has more realistic instrumentation (though still with that hint of artificiality). It definitely follows the techno-rock style of the original piece and, like most good remixes, it doesn't add anything (new sections, altered melodies) that hide the original melody.
One of my favorite forms of remixes is the "retro remix": where game music is altered to make it sound like it was on an older system. Naturally, there's a couple of these that I found:
The first remix comes from Maverick Hunter Iris
, who has done 8-bit versions of the entire Mega Man X
soundtracks. Compared to the Xtreme
8-bit version, this piece has a lot more depth (a stronger background melody, more varied instrumentation, etc.), though one must always consider whether this is only a rough facsimile of what the NES could actually put out. Still, as long as it feels 8-bit, it's good enough for me!
Another 8-bit remix, from SSBros Productions, is slightly more deviant from the original piece than previous remixes. It has some interesting effects, some altered tones, and what seems to be a slightly faster tempo. Not as good in my opinion as the previous version, but still worth listening.
To start with, here's one of my favorites, from the album ROCKMAN X ALPH-LYLA
, released in Japan in 1994, and as far as I can tell was licensed by Capcom (details here
). It throws out much of the original techno-rock style, and replaces it with jazz influences, with strong saxophone and piano sections. The tempo is a bit slower, and it takes a few more liberties with the melody, but the way they did it keeps you interested in seeing what they'll do next with the piece. I especially love the section at 2:53-3:04, which you really don't see coming. I recommend checking out the rest of their album.
A solid, albeit standard, remix by Mario0Dante. It makes good use of synthetic instrumentation, and sounds pretty close to the Maverick Hunter X
This remix from 8-bit Instrumental is slightly more of a hard rock version. There is some interesting variety in the use of different guitars for the different sections. Make sure to check out the excellent covers of the Spark Mandrill and Storm Eagle stages later on.
This version has a bit more of a leisurely pace, and has a slightly simplified instrumentation focusing on synthetic piano and guitar. Fairly good, though part of me keeps on wanting it to have a bit more percussion.
Here's an OCRemix entry from Protricity that like many OCRemixes, takes some more liberties with the original melody. Thankfully though, it's not completely buried by the artist's own touches, which in this case complement the original nicely. He also adds some nice variety to the instrumentation. Like the 8-bit Instrumental version earlier, he's also included remixes of Spark Mandrill and Storm Eagle within the piece, which are similarly of good quality.
This section is for versions of the song that use a single instrument (like a guitar or piano). There are a lot of these on YouTube, so I've only chose a couple of examples.
A lot of Mega Man music is fast paced, so it takes a fair amount of skill to play that game music on the piano. This artist, MarkKlett, has done a good job at keeping most of the original melody within the constraints of the piano (and having only two hands).
There are a lot of amateur guitarists who do covers of video game music, so it's hard to pick one. So, I picked this one for no apparent reason, Some solid playing on the electric guitar, good complementary background music, and not too many artistic flourishes. A pretty representative example of the excellent skills of these fan musicians.
A VOCALOID REMIX?!? DO NOT WANT!
That's it. Happy listening everyone!
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