Update: Good news for Mega Man 11 fans that agree with me about the instrumental soundtrack being far superior to the original. Capcom has added the ability to switch between both versions of the OST. The downside is that only players that preordered the game have the ability to do so at this time.
I’m sure the feedback from Mega Man fans everywhere contributed to this decision, but let’s not forget I dedicated over 700 words on the topic. Just saying.
Orignal Story: Mega Man 11 has been available to gamers for a little over a week now, and fans of the series seem pleased with a majority of what the game has to offer. Acting as a continuation of the original series, this latest entry has won over players with its tight controls, amazing Double Gear system, and fresh new art style. Overall, it has continued the quality that Blue Bomber aficionados expect from a new entry—well, except for one area.
In my review of Mega Man’s comeback adventure, I noted that the only real downside to the experience was what I was looking forward to most: the music. It’s not that the soundtrack is bad, it’s just… boring. Most of the stage themes are too quiet or lack a recognizable melody to leave an impression on the player. The only notable exception is Tundra Man’s song since there’s some energy to his that isn’t present in the rest of the OST. I’m not alone on this stance, too, as many players on the Mega Man subreddit have voiced the same complaints.
While this lack of musical excitement doesn’t ruin Mega Man 11 by any means, it’s still disappointing that Capcom wasted the opportunity to introduce even more amazing tracks into the Mega Man franchise. However, after listening to the recently released alternate OST, it seems a wonderful and energetic soundtrack was there all along. Capcom just didn’t put the right version in the game.
One of the preorder bonuses for Mega Man 11 was access to an instrumental soundtrack. While that might sound odd for a series that has primarily featured synth or metal scores, the raw and “unplugged” quality of this alternate OST works exceptionally well. To get a taste of each stages’ theme, listen to the full album below (via YouTube user ShadowRockZX).
As I already said, the game versions of the songs sound like generic synth, with melodies that get lost behind all of the environmental sound effects. For example, Block Man’s theme repeats the same notes over and over, only to lead into a chorus that’s too short to make it a memorable tune. On the flip side, listen to Block Man’s instrumental take and it’s far and away a better representation of what composer Marika Suzuki was likely trying to create. With a real piano in place of synth keys, you can hear the individual notes and overall melody of the theme. It’s jazzy and upbeat, which fits in nicely with the sunny setting of Block Man’s abode. The same goes for many of the other themes, such as Impact Man’s, which gives off much more of the fast-paced and high energy feeling the original version was trying to convey.
Sure, music is subjective, and not everyone is going to enjoy the instrumental tracks over the original. And there’s really nothing inherently wrong with Capcom going the synth route with Mega Man 11, especially considering the rest of the series falls into a similar genre. What seems to be the problem, though, is that Suzuki had these fantastically composed tunes that got lost when translated into synth. The instrumental tracks are more intricate and heavy on the jazz influences, similar to Mega Man 7‘s OST, but for some reason, the soul was sucked out with the synth. I mean no disrespect to Suzuki either, as listening to the instrumental versions proves she had a creative vision for the score. It’s just that every track is elevated when done instrumentally, even the two best songs on the original OST: Tundra Man’s theme and Blast Man’s theme.
I can completely understand that players would have been shocked to have Mega Man 11 feature an instrumental score, instead of the traditional electronic OST they’ve come to expect. However, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have worked. This new entry was meant to be the triumphant return of classic Mega Man to the modern era, and for the most part, it succeeds in its mission. Gamers that have never played an entry in the series will be able to jump in and start here due to its modern control options. The Double Gear system also helps make typically tough platforming or enemies more manageable. So, why not push the envelope in other ways? The 2.5D art style, a first for the series, offered a fresh visual take without sacrificing the level design Mega Man fans expect. An all instrumental score would have been out of the box, but in my opinion, that’s what would have pushed Mega Man 11 from a great game to the best in the series.