Whether it’s the world of video game music or something else entirely, it’s safe to say that surprises are usually a welcome affair. This can be especially true when they come out of the complete blue, much like the release of Capcom’s Rockman DASH 2 Special Collection. When one is honest however, the Mega Man Legends series has not been unkempt in its native Japan like it has abroad - from the 2005 PSP re-releases to the all new, original cell phone game in 2008 - perhaps it is not so surprising that Capcom has decided to officially release some more music from the series - a series whose last official soundtrack release was over a decade ago in 1998.
Overdue as it may be, even those familiar with the series’ music may be unaware of the changes that occurred between Mega Man Legends and Mega Man Legends 2 when Toshihiko Horiyama took on composing duties for The Misadventures of Tron Bonne. Wanting to make the series’ music to take on a more homogenous nature than Tomozawa’s original effort, Horiyama added the use of overarching themes to the mix. To this end, the score’s various pieces adopted a behavior not unlike those from Tsuyoshi Sekito’s Brave Fencer Musashiden, where variation upon variation of prominent themes were used to create connective cohesion between the game’s various scenes, characters and locations.
Upon returning to score Mega Man Legends 2, this element of Horiyama’s work was quickly integrated into Tomozawa’s as well. Unfortunately, the negative effects of this theme-driven approach - which can be more or less be observed by acknowledging the lack of accolades the Brave Fencer Musashiden Original Soundtrack has received over the years – was that the sacrificed individuality on a track-by-track basis made soundtrack releases for either game very unlikely, even more unlikely than it was for the first game’s score which, if it wasn’t for the well-timed formation of Capcom’s Suleputer record label the that time, most likely would have been left to the ages as well.
Anyways, regardless of the hand fate may have dealt it in the past, we now find ourselves presented with a small cross-section – seventeen out of about eighty pieces – of what Mega Man Legends 2 has to offer. With such limitations, did the best tracks make the cut? Read on to find out!
Right off the bat, the Rockman DASH 2: Special Collection presents us with an improvement over its forbearer by, ironically, offering something that isn’t new. With the limited amount of material presented, the Japanese vocal themes are no-shows for obvious reasons. This allows the chance for a significant piece of in-game music to make a strong and powerful stance and say “this is what Mega Man Legends is about!” The disc does not disappoint, offering up the original Flutter theme from the first game and legitimizing its position as the series’ titular theme with its unapologetic, happy-go-lucky nature. In reality, it’s not really the daring proposition I’m making it out to be, but there is something about this choice that does feel defiant - forming a bridge between the two games with its pleasing nature despite its utter simplicity. (9/10)
02. The Flutter
A soft and relaxed version of “Title” above, this take paints a picture of the humble living quarters aboard the Casket‘s newly renovated airship. While “humbleness” may be the overall sentiment one can take away from this piece, it’s what one can find when digging a bit deeper that’s the real prize - weariness. This is a bit misleading however, as this “weariness” isn’t really hidden as much as it is in jeopardy of being casually dismissed as part of the initial, collective message. Neither the result of a flat-out compositional flaw nor an example of a track that loses out when taken out of context, it merely seems destined to be a track that may be under examined. Ultimately, while nowhere near as engaging as the original – not that it was ever meant to be – it’s a more than worthy addition to the series’ musical continuity, the only gripe being that in placing two variations of the same theme back to back to one another, the disc’s strong opening is inadvertently prolonged in a slightly unfortunate manner. (7/10)
03. Yosyonke Town
Representing a calm and peaceful winter wonderland, “Yosyonke Town” is another track with the ability to nail the sweet spot between simplistic and underdeveloped that many of the series’ best themes take all the way to the bank. Again, it’s clear that the environment being portrayed here is fun-filled and cold, but the message on display here is hardly one-dimensional. Emitting a simultaneous sense of warmth that manages not to betray the true nature of its surroundings, a campfire-like togetherness creeps out from the woodwork – a commentary of sorts on the resourceful people that live and love in such unforgiving conditions. Despite the duality of its message “Yosyonke Town” still doesn't ask too much of the listener, but then there is no real need to decrypt what is here either. (8/10)
04. Continent of Calinca
Surrounded by snow with only one place to go, numbers like “Continent of Calinca” stand to exemplify the extreme degree Tomozawa is willing to take in his implementation of minimalism within the music of Mega Man Legends 2. Important as it may be to present this side of the score to those listening, given the small size of the canvas available for painting, this two and half minute “crystalline hymn” (which doesn't benefit from being looped in the slightest) is a poor choice in a situation that calls for much more discrimination in what does and what doesn't make the cut. However, looking beyond the limitations placed upon it here, a better option may have been to switch to the more up-beat “attack” variation on the loop to break up the overly sterile and serene sense of stillness while covertly adding another track to the proceedings. (6/10)
05. Yosyonke Abandoned Mine
It doesn’t take long after “Continent of Calinca” to realize that area themes get the short end of the stick in this collection. Still, despite all the positives there may be in offering up something a bit more tangible and a little less ambient, “Yosyonke Abandoned Mine” also happens to be one of the score’s most uninspired and trivial dungeon themes. It’s true this typical “mine-like” number may have enough drive and operating power to make it a decent piece, yet it stands a painful reminder to the pieces – pieces with far more to offer – that remain regulated to the game rip to this day. Perhaps what is most disturbing is the fact that it almost seems like the person behind the selection process was well aware of this, but more or less chose it to employ it here as a cheap prefix to the next selection rather than selecting it based on its own merits. (6/10)
More than any other track on the Rockman DASH 2: Special Collection, “Jaiwan” dies at the hands of its original context - this despite that fact it is comprised solely of the ingredients one would expect to find in any other Reaverbot battle theme. Not being a case where a track fails because it’s too typical, this is a case of a track failing because it overshoots the situation it depicts by a mile and a half. Indeed, the fear and drama that presides over the proceedings in “Jaiwan” blows what is a minor, inconsequential scuffle completely out of proportion to the point where it is almost laughable. Such misdirection will obviously go undetected by those who have never played the game and take each track for what it is at face value, but to those who have, Tomozawa’s gaffe – as well as the absurd amount of real estate spent on inconsequential tracks from the Calinca Continent – will remind one of the blank expression expressed by deer captured within the demanding glare of an automobile’s headlights. (5/10)
07. Jagd Krabbe Rev.
Illustrating a wonton, wreck loose battle with a comedic edge, “Jagd Krabbe Rev.” is rife with connections to past and present material. The most important of these - it’s affiliation with “Feldynaught!” from the first game - works on two levels: visual (both machines are similar in appearance and are capable of flattening a small town in mere seconds) and musical. Even though “Feldynaught!” may take its influence from the themes used to portray Reaverbots, the overabundance of intensity at its core makes it not unlike “Jagd Krabbe Rev.” despite their conflicting styles. But where previous attempts at applying “overabundance” in a musical fashion brought tracks like “Jaiwan” to their knees, the same cannot be said here, even when the crazy, Mega Man bashing voice-overs employed by Tron during the in-game battle are affixed atop it. (7/10)
A tightly wrought, anxiety-based number, “Bola” exposes the stubbornness that lies deep within many of the compositional builds and/or norms used throughout the music of the Legends series. In an attempt to create a musical calling for a new kind of adversary, Tomozawa tones down the bold doom and gloom of your standard Reaverbot battle theme to create what could be essentially considered a more methodical and reserved “Reaverbot Light.” This creates quite a conundrum, because, at the end of the day, booze is just another name for alcohol, and there is still isn't enough space between these “musical identities” to promote the idea that there is no connection between this character and the aforementioned creatures. Troubling as it is for the track to lack an identity to call its own, the perceived faults surrounding its grinding pace are eventually shown to be its one redeeming quality. (6/10)
Despite coining the theme that fuels the crowning jewel of the bunch, “Gargarfummi” lacks the credentials to change hearts and minds when it comes to the unflattering stereotypes that surround Reaverbot battle themes. That said, it should be obvious that there is a lot to be gained from avoiding the pretentiousness that ran rampant throughout “Jaiwan,” and in this respect the track delivers, steering clear of completely exasperating the player with worry. However, beyond the forward drive possibly reminding listeners of similar pieces like “Garudoriten!” from the original, everything comes right back to that underlying theme in the end, perhaps explaining why it is a little more resilient than most of its brethren. (7/10)
10. Glyde Drache Ace
The inclusion of what is effectively known as “Glyde’s Theme” wasn't so much a question of “if” it would appear as much as it was of “which version” would represent it. Thinking about it in retrospect, was there any doubt that the horn filled, free-for-all that is “Glyde Drache Ace” would take prominence? Not really. Be that as it may, as fun and energetic as this battle theme may seem on a standalone basis, there are things beyond this initial impression that drive it forward. It’s mainly the performance of horns that leads one to eventually pick away at the surface layer of amusement and expose the overwhelming since of pride and entitlement that’s just below its surface. It’s all about vanity, or, more specifically, the vanity of an overconfident adversary. This is what sets “Glyde Drache Ace” and Glyde himself apart from Bonne’s and their respective themes; both may be prideful, but where the Bonne’s portray a healthy sense of pride in what they can accomplish together (despite its legality), Glyde’s are prideful to represent a characteristic fault. (7/10)
In using compositional schemes with their fair share of bugs, Tomozawa’s implementation of overarching themes can sometimes cause problems. More often than not, the resiliency to power through any choppy waters can be achieved, but then there are times where one is simply left stranded. Behold “Klaymoor,” a slower and even more listless version of “Bola” that surrenders any and all chance there could have been to rescue the piece. It’s depressing to see the changes made here, like the streamlined manipulation of the instruments and somewhat more tangible climax go to waste, but be that as it may, there is one thing both pieces have in their favor: a bit of hidden context. Did Tomozama take these characters discussions on the disadvantages of old age in combat into consideration when crafting these pieces? Could their slow, methodical nature be a musical extension of these characters ages? A question that is likely to never be answered, but influenced or not, they remain the hostages of their weaknesses regardless. (5/10)
To say that “Blitzkrieg” is a track that delivers the kind of hard-hitting action it name implies would be somewhat of an overstatement, because while all the strife and drama one would expect to experience during a real life blitzkrieg (a sudden or surprise military offensive) is present, its far from being unrestrained. Being another example of the “reserved tenacity” the ends up dictating the pace in many of Tomozama’s battle themes, the careful application of this technique can pay off huge dividends, much like it did with in “Marlwolf!” and “The Gesellschaft!” from the Rockman DASH Original Soundtrack. This requires a poignant theme with an easily repeatable rhythm, and it’s not long before the musical, tug-of war quality of this piece reveals itself not only to be in such a league, but reveals itself to be at the top of it, perfectly summing up the quagmire of limitations Mega Man finds placed upon him in this particular battle. Combine this with the piercing percussion that accompanies and resets the track on the loop and its plain to see it’s inclusion on this disc was an absolute MUST. It is easily one of most defining moments in Legends music history. (10/10)
If one where to take “Wojigairon” in solely on the eight second intro that opens it, there is little doubt that the phrase “you’re screwed” would immediately pop into the minds most people. Intimidating as it may be (leading to it’s incorporation within some of the late-game battle themes), it’s not really representative of the remainder of the experience, which, for most intensive purposes carries the true balk of the message. That message? You don’t necessarily need to see this twenty-two story, lava chugging monstrosity to be afraid of it. Musically, there are no real surprises; the intensity is once again kept in check as the presidio-militaristic style beats reflect the disjoined movements of a mal-proportioned behemoth. As much as a theme like this adds in the depiction of such roadblock, its workmanlike structure is far from inspiring. (7/10)
14. Hover Gustaff
Much like “Glyde Drache Ace” before it, “Hover Gustaff” is another track whose appearance may not have been necessarily guaranteed, yet was much more likely than the majority of those that didn't. A relatively high-octane number as far as Legends standards go, the flailing silliness of “Jagd Krabbe Rev.” is ditched in exchange for an upbeat and focused channel of controlled tenacity. The “controlled tenacity” exhibited here doesn't directly relate to the “reserved tenacity” within “Blitzkrieg” as one would expect; however, it does demonstrates how a minor adjustment in forward velocity can make two similar tracks very diverse. If there is anything to conclude from the experience set fourth in “Hover Gustaff,” is that it’s a very different kind of Bonne-based track, which is more than welcome, but doesn't have a real hook to it, that quality that would make it a staple favorite. (7/10)
Another piece whose appearance is on this disc is nothing short of a necessity, “Geetz” may indeed be the greatest Reaverbot battle theme to grace the series. That’s a tall order for any track to fill, and sure, it’s merely one persons opinion, but with all the repressed rage from the previous “underground” boss themes coming to a head, something the rapid-fire percussion here more than sees to, this “aboveground” rendition of the theme first heard in “Gargarfummi” speaks volumes about the conflict at hand. Add in the gothic styling of the keys and the experience feels a lot more intense than it really is; it’s right in your face but at the same time it’s not. Brilliant. Not even the game’s final battle themes can touch this one. There really isn't anymore to say; with “Blitzkrieg,” “Geetz” is the simply the epitome of what Mega Man Legends 2 has to offer the listener. (10/10)
16. Mother Area
Coming off as a more appropriate choice than its icy counterpart “Continent of Calinca,” the angelic, female harmonies found within “Mother Area” reinforce the concept of one last reprieve before a final showdown. It hits the nail right on the head, and unlike “Yosyonke Abandoned Mine” is not a cheap prefix to a subsequent battle theme. At the same time however, the final battle theme on this disc doesn’t bring the pound for pound power that the omitted “Sera Computer Terminal Battle 1st Form” would have; power that would have created some truly commanding contrast. (7/10)
17. Sera Computer Terminal Battle 2nd Form
Sadly, if you where to take all the rapid-fire drumming, adrenaline and power out of “Geetz” and add a more than generous helping of “angelic hymn” to what remained you would be left with “Sera Computer Terminal Battle 2nd Form,” a uninspired variation of the game’s most pivotal battle theme. Reflecting back on this particular battle, it should be noted that Tomozama is not really misguided in the direction he wants to take this track – the idea of presenting dead and empty space in musically abstract way is dead-on considering the environment it’s played it – but the general concept that beauty can be found in simplicity starts to run out of gas here, mainly because it limits the composition’s ability to be engaging. This makes it hard, if not downright impossible, to be fair towards both this track and “Geetz” even though nothing here is terribly awry. (6/10)
As expected, the Capcom’s Rockman DASH 2: Special Collection is mainly aimed towards satisfying the series’ small yet dedicated faction of fans. While it may be a more than welcome treat, the limited amount of material presented makes for a mix of tunes that range from “they couldn’t pick anything better?” to “damn right!” that cumulatively equals out to a “I’m just glad to finally get something on an official disc!” The positive side of such a dilemma is this turns the album into a mini history lesson, pointing out the strengths and weakness of this particular score (and, indirectly, the Misadventures of Tron Bonne) when taken in as a whole. To this end, exploring what is here its time well spent, but only those who are infatuated with the world of Legends will stay.