Mega Man & the Analysis of the Best Wily Theme
Mega Man has the best music.
I’m not a master of Mega Man games, but I love their soundtracks. One of my favorite songs is “Dr. Wily‘s Castle Part 1” theme from Mega Man II. I absolutely love the energy bouncing around on that track. The rhythm and melody sounds so intricate. They blend together so well that they sound completely wrapped up in perfect harmony with each other. Therefore, an analysis is in order. I’m going to decipher what was going on with Dr. Wily’s Castle theme.
Motif & Form
The form had me totally confused at first until I actually started paying attention with my ears. I originally wanted to say that the form is A-B-A’-B’-B-C. I think it’s A-B-C-D-B’-E with A being 16 bars long, and the other sections 8 bars long each.
I believe the first section with the riff-like melody is Section A. The repeating intervals serve as a rhythmical motif.
You hear this motif in the treble clef in Section C, and you hear it in the bass clef in Section D.
Motif in Section C:
Motif in Section D:
Then, we have the B section which is 8 bars short. The notes in the treble clef serve as a melodic motif. You can also see the same melody in the bass clef of Section C. The variations of this motif are almost strategically difficult to translate. I can look at the notes and see the patterns and the similarities. I’m just not sure if other people will agree with me. I shall try my hardest to point out the similarities in the notes.
The relationship between the half-note, the two eighths, and the dotted quarter note is the key to the motif. In the first bar, you see the half note and the two eights. In the third bar, you see the half note, an eighth, and the dotted quarter note. The notes in the third bar make a more simple version of the notes in the first and second bars. Notice that both sets of notes in the first and third bars start the same way. If you count the last tied eighth note that begins the second bar as an extension of the quarter note, then you have your dotted quarter note from the third bar. The only difference is that there’s a half dotted note in the first bar, and just a plain half note in the third bar. Yet, the exact pattern of notes is shared.
I believe this song is in A Major. I noticed it frequently borrows from the A Lydian scale by using the raised fourth. For example, you can see D# being used in the treble clef in the second bar of the song making the would-be B minor into B Major (it changed from ii into II). It’s easier for me to understand the song by thinking this way. I’ve read that in some cases II can be considered an equivalent to V. I understand now how the song can hold its own without the dominant V being used if II is also seen as a dominant chord (and it is the dominant in this case).
The chord progression in Section A is Cm – Amaj – Bmaj – Cm. In other words, it’s iii – I – II – iii.
The progression is DM7 – Cm7 – DM7 – Bmaj – Cm (IV – iii – IV – II – iii) in Section B. The first two bars accentuates the D note in the bass clef. The next two bars repeat the same gesture with the C note. The first two bars in the second phrase stress the D note once again. The third bar of the second phrase goes into Bmaj with the B in the bass. The last bar ends with C minor as C is repeated often in the bass.
Some of the chords in Section C are a bit ambiguous. The progression in the first phrase is Cm – Amaj – Cm with C minor continuing in the last two bars of the phrase. The first bar of the second phrase could be a compound chord consisting of Emaj and Bmaj leading into the next bar with the same chord. It’s funny to throw the two dominant chords together. The last two bars are C minor.
The progression in Section D is Cm – Bmaj – Cm. C minor spans across the first three bars in the first phrase. B Major is used in the last bar of the first phrase, and in the first two bars of the second phrase. C minor once again appears in the last two bars of the second phrase. The progression is iii – II – iii.
The progression for the first phrase in Section E is Amaj – BM7 – Cm. C minor is used in the last two bars. The same progression can be seen in the second phrase as well.
When I hear this song from now on, my ears won’t be overwhelmed by the composition. The song seems to be a lot more simple than I thought it would be. The composition mostly uses three chords (Cm, Amaj, Bmaj). The first section is 16 bars long and the other sections are 8 bars long. It sounds very simple on paper, but it sounds so good at the same time. Simple is the best way to go.
Picture By: Cam Evans