Since I’ll be uploading a video about Mega Man Zero (finally) later today, I thought I’d finally express some thoughts I’ve had since I started the first Zero game that are better conveyed in a post than in a video.
Bottom line is Mega Man Zero has a hella oppressive atmosphere. To begin with, the story is basically robot nazis; the Resistance you’re protecting is facing complete annihilation by a militaristic force that’s trying to create peace for humans, but not for Reploids (which you, and the Resistance, are). Robot Nazis. Furthermore, the game is HARD. Some difficulty in a game with a scary setting goes a surprisingly long way in making that scariness believable.
And then there’s the boss theme, Crash. Just give this beautiful beast a listen:
Funny thing is, like with a fair number of the games I eventually play, Mega Man Zero was a series where I listened to pretty much the entire soundtrack well ahead of time (by many years actually). And honestly back then I wasn’t a huge fan of Crash. When it comes to battle music I usually like seriously action-packed stuff with a lot of energy and stuff going on. So for me Crash just wasn’t… that special. Felt very similarly about most of the songs on the Zero soundtrack.
But whoa, that completely changed after playing the game. As I said, it has a very oppressive atmosphere, and it’s executed in just the right way… but man, the music is totally a huge part of that. The bosses are the best example of it. As I said, Robot Nazis, so basically in-world the bosses are robot gestapo officers. They’re also extremely hard. I was honestly worried going into boss encounters — something that hasn’t happened to me in a while — and this song goes with all of them. It’s incredible. The most intimidating battles I’ve ever done in any game.
…But that’s where the awesome story ends.
Some pretty album art before things get sad.
See, later Zero games (Zero 2 and onward) have amazing soundtracks too… they’re just a lot different. They’re the ones I liked way back when I originally listened to the soundtracks. I’d even say that overall, the songs are actually better. But the atmosphere is not as consistent. It’s less unique, less set apart from the X series that predated Zero.
I can not talk badly about them though. Part of me wishes they kept that atmosphere consistent throughout the series, and I still kind of wish they had. But they are incredible soundtracks, and while the oppressive atmosphere is diminished or gone in many cases, they still do have great, consistent atmospheres of their own (and Zero 3 actually comes really close to Zero 1’s atmosphere at points). I’m okay with all that. (Departure, Gravity, Platinum, Break Out, Prismatic, Scrapped Beat, Reborn Mechanics, Old Life Space, Submerged Memory, Hell’s Gate Open, Curse of Vile, Caravan Hope For Freedom, Holy Land, and Celestial Gardens if you want to drown in some awesome, also linkspam; I’m that passionate about this crap, lol).
WHAT I AM NOT OKAY WITH, however, is the disgrace that was dealt out to Crash. You see, Mega Man Zero has numerous remastered soundtracks. One for each game including all the songs in that game, and two extra ones with an assortment of songs from the series overall. The first remastered soundtrack was for the original Mega Man Zero, and they butchered Crash. BUTCHERED I SAY:
Ironically, they gave it all the changes that would have made me like it all those years ago, increasing the action and speed of the song and adding a lot more sounds and elements to it… but they robbed the song of its atmosphere. It doesn’t have the emphasis on the breathy and clanging sounds anymore… it doesn’t have the slow, thudding, oppressive sound. It’s just not the same song at all.
But that injustice pales in comparison to what they did for a boss song in Zero 2. As I said, the rest of the Zero games have incredible music with or without the oppressive atmosphere, but there is one exception to that. One lone song in the series that just… completely sucks.
That song is Strong Will, the boss theme from Mega Man Zero 2:
Listen to this. It’s kinda dull and generic (even annoying!) for a boss theme, and that’s totally aside from it having none of the atmosphere Crash had. (Also, try to figure out why someone extended it to 20 freaking minutes.) It’s ironic since Zero 2 actually had far better boss battles than the original did.
There’s also the “other Crashes”. Crash is one of several songs that’s constantly redone in the series. There’s a Crash song for every game: Crash, Crash II, Crash III, and Crash IV. All the later ones base themselves off Crash but put their own spin on it. Also, while Crash was the only boss theme for Mega Man Zero (aside from the final boss song), all the other Crash songs serve as midway boss songs, while they have new, fully original tunes for the main boss battles (like crappy Strong Will or the previously linked, and awesome, Scrapped Beat).
I-I just… I just don’t understand what was wrong with Crash! *crying*
And you know what the sad part is? This is probably my fault. People who, like me, initially thought that Zero 1’s soundtrack was unimpressive, but that never realized how well it actually worked.
You know maybe this indicates that I should stop complaining about things in video games and just enjoy them so I don’t send the wrong message, so maybe really, this whole article……
Nah, we should just start a petition telling Capcom to sack the guy who made Strong will!
This atrocity must be corrected! Draw your swords! (Also more album art.)
In all seriousness though, the entire Mega Man Zero series had an amazing set of soundtracks, but I think the original, objectively, had the deepest soundtrack. There was just a lot more going on with it and the game itself… a good interplay of the atmosphere and design of the game and the atmosphere and sound of the music. The rest of the games (again, except Zero 3) didn’t really have that as much, even if they were still incredible. Can’t knock them, but I still wonder about what could have been.