Wild Arms has remained been a unique series from the land of the rising sun. It's the only J-RPG I know of that comes with a strong, country-western theme. Another thing that makes the series stand out is Michiko Naruke's excellent composition. Not only did she capture the Western feeling extremely well, a lot of her songs were powerful enough to affect my emotions, especially in the first Wild Arms.
Unfortunately, she fell ill while composing the 4th installment, winding up contributing only a couple of songs. For unknown reasons, she had no contributions to the fifth Wild Arms soundtrack except for a thirty-second song at the end of Volume one. Stepping up to the plate is Masato Kouda, who composed the music in the 4th installment, and newcomer Noriyasu Agematsu. With the complete absence of Naruke, I was worried about how this soundtrack would turn out. The bad news is that none of the songs were powerful and soul-stirring like Naruke's pieces; however, the good news is that both composers manage to capture the spirit of the game's style, making one interesting soundtrack.
As expected, the soundtrack starts off with the western goodies. Composers made good use of the instruments to give it an authentic western feel: guitars, harmonicas, violins, whistling and more. The songs themselves are mostly easy-going, lighthearted tunes, and some quirky ones too. There are a few intense songs, and some dramatics songs which I've enjoyed the most throughout the album.
Kouda did a good job of capturing the spirit of the game, as he did in the 4th Detonator. They are certainly good and charming, but I found Agematsu's works to be a lot better. The songs he composed have interesting and dynamic melodies, and they were the ones I've gotten the more into, at least on this disc. He also composed "The Ice Queen ~ I Loved your Smile." It's quite a nice vocal song, but the melody was a bit too barren.
Strangely, the game version of "Justice to Believe" occurs at the end of disc one, but it's still nice to have it. It's a great song sung by Nana Mizuki, but of course, the complete version is much better...but that's only in her single.
Only Because It's Important, Does It Easily Break - My favorite work by Kouda on this disc. It's nothing really too special, but it's a touching song with soft melody.
Terrible Monster Attacking Crew - One of my favorites in the whole album. It's a great mixture of orchestral with some rock and roll supporting it, resulting in a chaotic melody. One of the better examples of the dynamics Agematsu brought into the soundtrack.
Justice to Believe (Game Version) - A great opening song that I feel is on par with the fourth game's opening "I Look at the Sky Because You Are There." While that song was more heartwarming, "Justice to Believe" is more dynamic and intense. Of course, the full version is even better!
The composers spice things up, and strayed a bit from the western style, composing within other genres, setting a darker tone. To be frank, I like how the composers did the non-western songs in the album, thus making a lot more interesting songs. Sure, I do Western music to an extent, but it's very difficult to pull off how Naruke won me over with her Western tunes.
It starts off with a few Western tracks, and it also included Agematsu's "When the Heart Ignites" again, but with whistles as an addition. The whistles really made the song more complete. I got more into Kouda's music this time around, composing a couple of cool songs, but Agematsu did a few good ones as well. What I got into the most were the Elvis songs Kouda composed along with "The Stars Shine Like the Unwavering Flame" and" Falling into the Shadow of Locus Solus." Both containing great violin pieces. It's my favorite disc on the album, but that's not saying too much.
When the Heart Ignites - It's the normal, better version of this song. While its not a major change, having the whistles made the song more complete, and helps keep your interest until the violin melodies kicked in.
Elvis PALB_3106 ~ Battle – An obscure, but a very interesting battle theme with a strong jazz style dominating it. It's a neat arrangement of the song prior to this, and I like this more.
The Stars Shine Constant Like the Unwavering Flame – The song is simple and loops a lot, but I really liked how the melody is done. The violin bits sent chills down my spine.
Falling into the Shadow of Locus Solus - It's quite an interesting song to finish off with on this disc. A very haunting song that Kouda composed, and once again, I really liked how the violin is used. I really enjoy his non-western songs in this track.
The final disc of the first volume is pretty weak. I didn't find any of the songs bad at all, but majority of them didn't stick with me. In fact, the only song I really liked was "Ex File" while a few others were interesting enough to warrant multiple listens, but overall, both composers' best works have already passed.
It features more Western songs that work well, but were not too engaging along with a few obscure songs that are interesting. Once again, a few more of Agematsu's songs are heard once again, but only featuring slight change, this time, not making a big difference. "Seeking the Blue Sky" is the same song as "On the Day the Shovel was name Invincible" except with flutes instead of whistles. It's a nice song, but felt a bit unnecessary to hear it again, let alone change the title completely. "Ice Queen ~ Playing the Harp of Eternity" is the same song, but replacing the vocals with harps. It's still a pretty song.
Last, but not least, the volume ends with Naruke's "Did you get my message?" It's a ring tone version of the Wild Arms 2 opening. It's certainly charming and nostalgic, but short-lived. A very strange way to end a soundtrack.
The Fallen Idol ~ Version CM Song - It's a song that has a very funky, jazzy beat with some chants in the background. It's one of the more obscure songs in the album.
Showing a Smile - An easygoing song with a lot of coolness to it. The use of the guitar made the whole song relaxing. It loops a bit frequent, but it does not last too long.
Ex. File – This came completely out of nowhere, but I really like it. It's an 8-bit, MIDI version of "When the Heart Ignites." I thought it was very charming and well-done recreating that song in MIDI.
This is a good soundtrack, but that's all there is to it. The total absence of Naruke did put a dent in the game's music department, and I miss her dearly; but the composers gave it a valiant effort, and they pulled off writing some good music. I just wasn't totally engaged. I give a recommendation on purchasing it, but it's not "must have" material.
Reviewed by: Dennis Rubinshteyn