Review: Rockman Utopia

by Chris Hoffman. Originally posted at http://christhehoff.tumblr.com/

The latest in a sizable line of arranged Mega Man (aka Rockman) soundtracks from Japan, Rockman Utopia is, its name implies, full of happy, upbeat remixes of venerable Mega Man tunes. The album offers a scattershot array of songs from throughout the first eight games of the original Mega Man series— almost every track is a medley of some sort— and that diversity in musical selection is matched by an equally eclectic choice of genres. The result is a unique, quirky set of 11 tunes that broadens the Mega Man soundscape with fresh, appealing (and sometimes strange) interpretations of nostalgic compositions.

It starts with “Raise the Curtain,” a swing/jazz adaptation of the Elec Man, Bomb Man, and Ice Man themes from Mega Man 1. It’s pretty cheesy— it sounds kinda like gameshow music— but it grows on you, and more importantly, it provides arranged versions of the Ice Man and Bomb Man themes, which are generally overlooked on official remixes. If you’re the kind of person who liked some of the more oddball musical offerings from Super Mario 3D World, you’ll probably like this one.

From there, we’re treated to enjoyable tracks such as “Tin Shuffle” (a mildly techno-ish mix of Mega Man 7 themes), “Endless Encore” (a predominantly folk-rock variation of Mega Man 2’s intro and ending), “Recycled Cycling” (a catchy synthetic pop mix of Mega Man 3 music), “Tropical Airport” (calypso-inspired versions of Gyro Man and Wave Man from Mega Man 5), and “Unbreakable Heart” (a subtly haunting Celtic-infused remix of the always-popular Wily theme from Mega Man 2).

One of the most interesting tracks is “Clockwork Happy Hour,” a symphonic blend of Mega Man 7’s Shade Man theme with its (secret) Ghosts’n Goblins variant that sounds like something out of a mad carnival. On the other hand, I’m not terribly impressed with “Show Your Face,” a mix of the Clown Man and Tengu Man themes from Mega Man 8— not that there’s really anything wrong with it, but it features the weakest compositions on the disc, and it’s not that far removed from the original tunes; 32-bit systems didn’t really have any audio restrictions, after all.

The album concludes with “Curtain Call,” another gameshow-esque track, this time based on the “stage start” music from Mega Man 2; it’s pretty throwaway, but impressive in the sense that it stretches an 8-second bit of fanfare into a piece nearly a minute long.

Naturally, how much enjoyment you get out of Rockman Utopia depends on your musical tastes— those expecting something along the lines of the heavy techno or hard rock of the 25th anniversary Mega Man CDs need not apply—  but overall, I’d say it’s a fun tribute that delivers on its promise to put smiles on fans’ faces.

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Friend and fellow former Nintendo Power writer Chris Hoffman is a member of The Mega Man Network's User Content Submission System, and the views expressed here reflect the views of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mega Man Network.