I got into RPGs a long time ago playing Final Fantasy II (Final Fantasy IV) back on the Super Nintendo. For its time, I found the story and characters to be very engaging with simple, yet addictive gameplay. This was also the game that got me into RPG music. Even during the time when audio technology was limited, Nobuo Uematsu managed to create such a dynamic soundtrack that hits the emotional, intense moments spot on, as well as catchy melodies that are still stuck in my head even today. I have played a lot of different RPGs since then, but I felt that none of them had the same great music Final Fantasy II showed me (not even Final Fantasy III/VI trumped it), until a small RPG called Wild Arms came along on Sony’s PlayStation.
I consider this the second RPG to get me into video game music; while listening through this soundtrack numerous times, the only word that kept popping into my head was “amazing.” There was another Wild Arms OST that came out a while ago, and though it is still great, one of my biggest gripes was that it was missing a lot of songs that were just as great, especially my personal favorites in the game. The name of this soundtrack does not lie at all, fortunately. The complete tracks featured every song in the game no matter how minor, including a nice vocal song (which I never recalled being in the game).
Given that the RPG takes place in a western setting, it primarily consists of western tunes, emphasizing the use of guitars, flutes, harmonicas and so on. Followed by the western music, there are a fair amount of melodies that gave me a more sinister and eerie feel and a couple included chanting which enhanced the tone of the melody. It can be easy to picture an ominous group of individuals lurking in the shadows while listening to it. The rest is mainly miscellaneous, featuring other kinds of music, like orchestral and even Latin.
The composer is Michiko Naruke, who is best known for composing this series. To me, her skills are on par with Mr. Uematsu, creating very dynamic, catchy and emotional tunes. Unfortunately her work is far less mainstream than what Uematsu dishes out, but she is very deserving to be considered an unsung hero among video game composers. She really hit a home run on how she matched the feeling of different parts of the game so spot on. It really made battles feel more epic, as well as dramatic scenes feel like tearjerkers. The most important part of all, they are very catchy and fun to listen to.
The soundtrack comes in two discs, each having their own strengths. The track ordering was arranged by when the songs occur for the first time throughout the game (excluding frequently used songs such as the battle and overworld themes). I personally find the first disc to be my favorite out of the two, two mainly because it features the songs I loved that the original didn’t provide, and contains a lot more of the powerful emotional songs. Starting off with the majestic opening theme “To the End of the Wilderness,” which made strong use of guitar and the well-recognized whistling, enhancing the western feel of the song. It gives me an adventurous spirit whenever I load up the game and venture through Filgaia. From there, the next few tracks consisted of several lighthearted, perky and even sinister tunes. The song “Hope” not only gives an excellent follow-up to the opening theme, but a great example of the western style Naruke has done. Songs such as “Abbey,” which gives me a cheery European feel, are one of the few ethnic songs Naruke uses to provide some variety and distinction in the OST. Dungeon songs such as “The Cold Darkness” and “Way of Illusion” are well done, giving the feel like you are wandering through a dark and mysterious dungeon. “Courage,” on the other hand, is a much more energetic dungeon song that strongly gives me a distinct Indiana Jones vibe. “Critical Hit!” is the game’s main battle theme, which is fairly simple yet upbeat, giving a player some energy as he or she beats up lots of bad guys. Like other battle themes, you would hear it often, but it is a good song so it won’t make you feel tired or annoyed. “Battle M-boss” is the main boss theme, and while the melody may be simplistic, it does manage to give the feel of a major fight, like it was meant to do.
From “The Sky Is Being Torn Apart” and onward, the melodies are intensified, and it stirred up my emotions. The song itself definitely gives the feeling of chaos emerging and bam, that’s where “World of Loudening Screams” comes in. The great use of the flute along with other instruments managed to create a very haunting and intense piece, truly giving off the feeling of chaos. Moving on to something more dramatic, “From Anxiety to Impatience” is such a beautiful, yet very depressing song. I loved how well this whole song comes together, with the harmonica as the main instrument, along with the guitar and some light chanting as backup, creating a song that breaks my heart whenever I hear it. I never thought western music could pull off something that can get me this emotional. “Power Fighter” is my favorite battle theme, and was one of the victims of not being included on the original soundtrack. It occurs when you fight a major villain in the game, and it truly sounds epic whenever I listen to it.
The evil melodies come to an end and along come more sorrowful songs. Like the name implies, “After the Chaos and Destruction” kicks as an aftermath to all the chaos that has occurred earlier setting a more calm tone for the next batch of songs. One such song called “Funeral Procession” is a wonderful and moving funeral piece, which used a very powerful chorus with piano than violin backing it up. We come back into the western theme once more with the song “WILD ARMS” that is heard in the startup screen and “Migrant Bird of the Wilderness” as the energetic overworld song. My personal favorite song (which also didn’t the cut on the original OST) is “The Power Which Supports the World.” Another very powerful and moving song that I just love listening to over and over and the guitar portions of the songs always hits my emotions deeply. The melody might be simplistic, but the execution is just plain amazing.
Last but not least, the disc ends with the songs “Castle of Flames” and “Lamenting and a Promise.” Both of these songs are awesome and as an unwritten rule, I always liked to listen to both of them together. Listening to both one after the other fits perfectly well together, like Romeo and Juliet, and peanut butter and jelly. “Castle of Flames” is a calm, yet sinister song. It gives off a strong “calm before the storm” feel, and as the song progressed, the tension and suspense slowly build up, and gets unleashed by the last moment of the song. “Lamenting and a Promise” is a much more emotional song and another one of my personal favorites which I listened to countless times (along with “Castle of Flames.” Starting off with a quiet piano solo, and around fifty seconds later is when the main melody kicks in. From there, a flurry of emotions surface as the guitar starts playing, and more and more different kinds of instruments start joining in throughout the words. Words alone can’t describe how beautiful the song is: overall a great way to end the first disc.
I felt most of the aces the OST has to offer were revealed in disc one, so I did not find the second disc to be as powerful as the first, but by all means, it is far from bad. In proper order, it contains music shown later on in the game mainly consisting of various theme songs from villains, and secondary characters along with a few other dungeon, and town themes.
The character theme songs were fun to listen to and come in a good dose of variety. Starting off with the more comical themes, “Not Just Any Kid, But A Lady!” is an energetic and funky theme belonging to miss Jane Maxwell. Believe it or not, you can dance to it! (at least I did). “Wh-What?” is Zed’s (aka everyone’s favorite goofy villain) theme song which plays during the boss fights with him (yes, it really is a boss theme.) It is another one of ethnic-flavored songs Naruke has included, and this belongs to the Latin category. “Warrior’s Whistle” is Boomerang’s theme song and he is one of those mysterious villains the players tend to be drawn too. Given the nature of his character, the song fits perfectly, and the song itself is great. It definitely gives off the lone wolf, yet powerful vibe. If I have to choose one theme song to be my favorite among this disc, it would have to go to “The Bird Which Flies In the Sky” which is Emma’s theme (though it was used on the world map rather than a character theme.) It is a very beautiful song full of energy which occurs when riding the airship. With this song, you definitely feel like a bird, free to fly though the endless blue sky.
Another portion of the disc I happened to notice is, that were a few songs that strongly gave me the lone wolf vibe like “Warrior’s Whistle” did. “Ancient Shrine,” “A Lonely Dream of Bygone Days,” and “Ballad of the Shadow Wolf” gave off the same vibe. “A Lonely Dream of Bygone Days” and “Ballad of the Shadow Wolf” sounded very similar using the whistle and guitar duo though the melody of the guitar is different, and the whistle tone is lower in the first song. Despite the technical differences, they do sound similar, but both were interesting to listen regardless. “Ancient Shrine” is a different case in which there were other instruments that accompany the whistles, and was more distinct than the other songs. It may have not been given exactly the lone wolf feeling like the others, but it definitely makes me picture isolation, and it is a very nice listen.
The dungeon theme songs on this disc have a different theme than the others, provided on disc one. None of them are even remotely western, so instead, we have some underground classics and even sci-fi elements. “Holy mother of Darkness” is a haunting, yet likable song (that also didn’t make the cut) that was played for one time only. The melody is on the thin side, but it definitely makes me feel like sneaking through enemy territory. It can be fitting for Metal Gear Solid to some extent. “Eulogy of Ruin” is a follow up to the previous song using the same melody, but changing it around. It’s a unique listen. “Agitation to Destruction” is one of the more strange songs the soundtrack provided. It definitely sounds like it takes place in a lab, and it sticks out for being a sci-fi theme. “A New Moon ~Malduke~” further amplifies the sci-fi element in this final dungeon song. It goes to show that technology is everywhere in some shape or form (or sound). It was unexpected to hear songs of that theme so it easily stood out among the soundtrack.
Moving on to the finale, the epic “Battle MOTHER” is being played, and it is all or nothing, coming from this fast paced tune. Just when you think it is over and things seem at peace, at a sudden twist, “Battle ZEIK” is being played. It is another intense, fast paced battle theme that can get your heart pumping. Honestly, “Battle MOTHER” makes a much better final battle music, but this was a twist after all. Things are finally at peace and the melodies became serene again. It is back to the western theme for the remainder of the soundtrack. The songs are remixes from various melodies heard earlier in the soundtrack, but they are great to listen to. Finishing off disc two is the only vocal song in the entire track titled “Making an Oath to the Blue Sky.” I find it an enjoyable, lighthearted listen, and another song that sticks out among the soundtrack.
But wait, it is not over yet folks. The bonus track that is included in disc two was “Battle Demon.” I guess like in the game itself, you have to earn the right to get into this fight as well as hear this music. I think it’s a great song with a mighty feel to it, like the fight itself. Strong use of the Western theme and to me, it sounded like it had a very distinct Latin feel as well throughout the song (at least that is what it sounded to me.) Just because it is a bonus track, you shouldn’t think less of it at all. It is just as solid as all the other songs.
Whichever song I did not mention, don’t worries as they are great in their own way (even the very short Inn song), so the sound of mediocre is nowhere to be heard. In truth, not every song is super amazing, but each and every song is enjoyable, and that’s what truly matters. In the end, it became my current favorite soundtrack. While I still love the music Final Fantasy IV offered me, this OST winded up giving me a bigger emotional impact as well as many more memorable tunes. I felt like the soundtrack was published for fans like me who wanted to hear everything no matter how slow and satisfy those who weren’t fully pleased on how some songs were missing from the original OST.
If you are even remotely a video game music fan, I 100% recommend it, even if you never played the game or were previously unaware of its existence. It is something different than the usual orchestral, techno, j-pop and many other music genres used in VGM. It is available through online retailers for around $30 and for 79 songs, it is a hot deal. Almost a decade later, and none of the other Wild Arms soundtrack was able to dethrone this soundtrack (even the Alter Code F remake). Now stop reading and go shell out money for this masterpiece already!