With the distribution of such albums as the original soundtrack to Folklore and the Motoi Sakuraba piano album Forest of Glass, Team Entertainment has been asserting a more noticeable position in the videogame music milieu as of late. Joining in the celebration of Rockman's anniversary late last year, the company released original soundtrack editions of Rockman 7 and Rockman 8 and also commissioned two arranged albums of classic Mega Man tunes. Toh-ru Iwao was selected to head a rock music album and Shinji Hosoe was placed in charge of techno remixes.

The synthesizer effects of the elaborately titled "20th Anniversary Rockman 1~6 Techno Arrange" album seem to be envisioning the early 21st century from the era of Max Headroom. The retro quality distances itself from the sleek, cutting edge style of Hosoe's track as Sampling Masters Mega on Ridge Racer 7 Direct Audio, nor do they particularly call to mind the sound card of the NES. An unfocused dreamy quality pervades most of the tracks, broken by occasional rave music outbursts.

The techno songs inherit some of the difficulties of the greater arrangement project as a while, such as an abridged forty-minute duration rounded out by extraneous MIDI inserts. Tracks drift along, conveyed by a dreamy daze. The meandering quality works well in summoning the title's synthetic landscape on Elecman Mix, though English-language listeners might be underwhelmed by the interruption at minute two by a drugged robotic voice intoning a prolonged description of Dr. Thomas Light’s mission to save the world. One gets the sense that this is the 8-bit era seen through the blurry lens of trance music and mechanical percussion instruments. The zonked out quality of the album does have its up moments, but tends to render vague the the crisp compositions of the original tunes. The project is more notable as a new chapter in Hosoe's electronic oeuvre than as a reminder of what made the NES tunes so unmistakeably special.

It can be easy to forget that rock and roll as a music genre is the very namesake of the Blue Bomber, in Japan at least. As early as 1994 there was a Rockman X live album arranged by the all-female band of Capcom sound designers Alph Lyla, though these were for the most part soft rock and easy listening renditions. It should be no surprise in retrospect that no sooner had the internet sprung up and online fan arrangements came into existence than Rockman was seen as a clear choice of source material to experiment on. Countless musicians have independently come up with the idea of picking up an electric guitar and shredding to Metal Man and Cut Man. This is a worldwide phenomenon that unavoidably set a high bar for the 20th Anniversary remix projects, a bar that any musician would find it tough to clear.

The red portrait of sinister Dr. Wily on the cover of Rockman Rock set lofty expectations for this official compilation. The grand history of these tunes makes Team Entertainment’s project feel both long overdue and unavoidably belated. The good news is that in Guilty Gear’s Toh-ru Iwao the project has found a musician with clarity of focus and unbridled intensity. That said, the laudable effort expended could have been matched by greater time and care. Rockman Rock can be boiled down to 15 minutes of worthwhile listening, which amounts to about three and a half seconds of rock music for every month of the series’ existence.

The pace is breakneck from start to finish, recalling something of the intensity of Konami’s mid-90’s Battle the Best Castlevania albums. There are touches that clearly indicate Iwao's desire to explore a variety of approaches to this concept. There is live shamisen music on the arrangement of Yamato Man, sprucing up one of the less remarkable songs in the series. Shadow Man mix includes an organ accompaniment for an inspired infusion of soul, though the phrase is repeated enough times for its novelty to lose its luster. Repetition turns out to be the Achilles heel of the album as a whole, which runs its innovations into the ground to fill out the album’s noticeably slim runtime.

Creating a song that you don't mind listening to as it loops repeatedly was a major challenge for Yuukichan’s Papa, Chanchacorin, and the other codenamed Capcom composers of yesteryear. Retaining the loops here on a live recording, without digression or differentiation, puts a damper on the intensity that Iwao and bassist Atsushi Hasegawa bring to their performances. A 20-minute album that refrained from covering the same ground, and similarly dispensed with the nine tracks from the original 8-bit sound card, would made for a more alive, if unmarketable, music project. The combination of Rockman Rock & Techno might not add up to the kind of grand celebration fans of the series might have been hoping for. An album of official Mega Man arrangements meets some stiff competition these days when judged against the best of fan arrangements, available online for the more competitive retail price of plugging in your computer.

With some finagling, samples of these albums can be heard on the official websites for "Rockman Techno" and "Rockman Rock."
</img> </img> </img> </img>