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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Top 10 Mega Man Winter Stage Music

Today marks the first day of winter. Most of us in the gaming fandom loath ice base stages, almost, if not more so than water themed levels. But like aquatic music, we love us some winter jams. Mega Man music is fifty different flavors of awesome and I've wanted to call attention to winter based music in the series as a whole for a long time. So, I present to you a top 10 list of my favorite Mega Man winter themes.

10. Ice Man Stage - Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge

Kicking off the list with the original ice themed robot, but not the game you may have been thinking of. I'm sure most of you are familiar with Ice Man's level and stage theme from the original Mega Man, and his track from that game is perfectly fine. It's catchy and a very jovial theme for what can be a pretty harsh stage. But I gotta say that I like the rendition from Dr. Wily's Revenge more. The addition of far more apparent percussion really helps make this version of the song pop while still keep the perky feel of the original.

09. Blizzard Buffalo Stage - Mega Man X3

And we have our first cold theme from the Mega Man X series, which will be popping up quite a bit in this feature. X3 is easily my least favorite of the SNES X titles. Capcom went a little overboard on the armor/item collecting and the most of the enemies are able to get in cheap, last second hits even after you kill them. Having said that, I do find myself enjoying a good chunk of this game's soundtrack. Blizzard Buffalo's stage can be quite the pain to navigate and the music paints an apt picture of a cold, frozen over environment. Yes, the them may sound repetitive but this is the kind of repetition I can get behind.

08. Blizzard Man Stage - Mega Man 6

Mega Man 6 is often viewed by critics as one of the games in the series that isn't as good as the previous or later entries due to the selection of Robot Masters and lackluster weapons to obtain. Yes, some of the weapons are quite lame and we do have some laughable foes to put down. But even the best games have louse weapons and joke bosses such as Bubble Man from the much praised Mega Man 2. Mega Man 6 may not be as good as a lot of other entries, but it doesn't deserve the shunned status it often gets. Blizzard Man's stage is home to my favorite track in the game. True, it sounds on the melancholy side when compared to other ice based themes in the classic series like Ice Man and Freeze Man, which are very upbeat themes, but I don't have a problem with my ice music having a somber feel to it. I still find this tune very hummable.

07. Frost Walrus Stage - Mega Man X4

The first X game of the 32-bit era is my second favorite X game in the X series. It has a sweet selection of foes for you to fight, awesome stage design and Zero is fully playable, being a close range fighter in contrast to X's long range skills. Frost Walrus tune is noteworthy not on for being a chilly theme, but for have two versions of it. The first half of the stage plays a more windy, ambient theme with the first portion of them theme taking place outside. The second part of the tune is arrangement of the first half, adding drums while keeping the ahem, cool nature of the them. It wouldn't feel right to only include one version of this theme, so both parts make the cut.

06. Ice Brain (Poler Kamrous Stage) - Mega Man Zero 2

The GBA may not have the best sound chip, but there a quite a number of good soundtracks on the system. Case in point, all four Mega Man Zero titles. Background noise did not prevent the sound designers from making compelling music scores and Zero 2 has one of the best winter themes I've ever heard in a game. It sports a rocking guitar throughout but also has a gentle air going on through the course with a violin. Freaking beautiful stuff.

05. Chill Penguin Stage - Mega Man X

No matter how much you may detest cold type levels, I'm willing to bet that you'll get out of Chill Penguin's stage. The place is covered with more snow than anything else and what little ice there is does not present a problem because, well, ice physics do not exist in the first Mega Man X. You also get your first armor upgrade, the dash boots, which makes this stage an excellent place to start. Just as Ice Man has the honor of being the first cold themed boss of the Classic series, Chill Penguin is the first icy boss of the X series and he sports of very mission heavy style theme. If someone just listened to this song without any context, they might not know that it comes from a stage associated with winter elements. If I were just ranking the best X winter themes, Chill Penguin would be number one.

04. Frost Man Stage - Mega Man 8

When gamers think of Frost Man's stage, two words come to mind: jump, slide. Those words could easily sum of Frost Man's stage. Although it still serves up a degree of platforming, the snowboarding segments were enough to give many a player nightmares. But Frost Man's level has a very cool beat. The track is dominated by a sick baseline but it also has some blasting trumpets and some pick axes going to work as you make you way through the snow covered city. Frost Man's theme is often regarded as a fan favorite track and it isn't hard to see why.

03. Freeze Man Stage - Mega Man 7

We've arrived at the top three and I imagine that after seeing what track I placed in this spot, some of you may want my head on a fence post. To that I say, one, stop being so bloodthirsty and two, I've got nothing but love for Freeze Man's ridiculously cheerful theme. This sucker just screams "winter wonder land" and I love it to death for that. Freeze Man's infectiously upbeat tone has the power to snap anyone out of a bad funk. It is worthy of every bit of praise that it has received. It's just that, well, as great as it is, there are two other cold themes I like better than this one.

02. Cold Man - Mega Man & Bass (SNES ver.)

The first time fans in the west were treated to this game was the 2003 GBA release. Mega Man & Bass was not an easy game on the SNES to begin with, often said to be one of the most unfairly cruel games in the series and the GBA screen crunch only made it that much more brutal. Tracks in Mega Man & Bass may not be as memorable as other games in the Classic series, but it still has some stand out tunes like the Opening Stage, Ground Man's level and of course, Cold Man's theme. I've seen some fans give this theme the subtitle hyperthermal jazz. The baseline that plays throughout the course is amazing but the guitar/saxophone solo at 29 seconds in is the true show stopper of this track.

01. Absolute Chill (Chill Man Stage) - Mega Man 10

While III composed the bulk of Mega Man 10's soundtrack, all of the Robot Master stage themes were handled by a composer that worked on the first eight console Mega Man titles. Mega Man 8's composer, Shusaku Uchiyama, was the sound composer for Chill Man's theme. When I first heard this theme back in 2010, I immediately fell in love with it and listened to it over and over and over. I love the lonely, isolated feeling that this track gives off and I'm amazed that Uchiyama manged to convey as much through these chiptunes. I love the into to this track and the cool down period at 59 seconds in. About a year after Mega Man 10's release, an unused version of Frost Man's theme reached our ears. The introduction of the track would go on to become part of Chill Man's music.

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