I hold the feeling – and I am not alone on this – that Wild Arms soundtracks succeed or fail with their games, and as this remix album contains tracks from all quarters of the Wild Arms series I was initially hesitant about what to expect from this album. Still, I had very much enjoyed Wild Arms Music the Best -feeling wind-, and fears over the CDs quality were partially allayed when I heard that Ryo Yonemitsu (of Ys I, II and III fame) would be contributing.
His four tracks are wisely spread out, with three offerings in the second half of the album balancing his powerful opening track, At the End of the Wilderness, Detonator Version. This sets the mood and seems like a good track to start with, but it also puts pressure on following tracks to perform well by comparison. Initially, I was pleasantly surprised with the subsequent quality, and the third track, Gunmetal Action, is my second favourite track on the album. Nobuhiko Kashiwara was the surprise heroine of the team, and managed to captivate my attention with both of her tracks. The second of these, Leave it to Me, is towards the end of the album, and is structured similarly, creating an air of both portentousness and determination. A mark of a good remix is managing to improve on the original whilst keeping the essence of it intact, and both of Kashiwara’s efforts succeed in doing this effortlessly.
However, the quality of the tracks between these two songs slide somewhat. While most improve on their original, some use questionable styles. This is, ultimately a rock album, but I felt the remixers should have been more aware of the original Western spirit. The most common arranger, Nottoku Inoue, preferred to style his tracks towards rock-influenced jazz. The bravest attempt at this is illustrated by the use of a saxophone in FATE BREAKER, and in Inoue’s defence I had to admit it works here, and works well. While coming uncomfortable close to the jazz-themed arranged soundtrack of Chrono Trigger in places, this track manages to stay within its bounds, and never feels the need to go over the top. The saxophone crops up again in G’s Roar, though it doesn’t work as well here as it does in FATE BREAKER. It doesn’t make the remix bad, but it does feel unnecessary and at odds with the rest of the track’s light rock beat.
Atsuishi Tomita’s That is Where the Spirit Becomes Certain is the only instance where an arranger tries too hard to please by increasing the volume of his guitar to the point of irritation. This is not the Black Mages, and the resulting track feels a little flat as a result. The quality of instruments in Battle Force also leaves a lot to be desired, with the result sounding like a doujin midi composition. Despite, or perhaps because of my love for the original track, I was exceptionally disappointed with this. If it could be possible, Transquillo’s other offering, Wh-What? (Zed’s Theme) was even more dissatisfying, particularly as that was one of only two tracks from the somewhat neglected Wild Arms 1 on the album.
Recovery came fast and quick with Battle VS Liz and Ard, Nao Tokisawa’s heavy techno arrangement of another classic track from Wild Arms 2. While not my favourite track it manages to be heavy without carrying much weight, and is a much needed improvement that reinvigorates the tone of the album when it is needed most.
The third Ryo Yonemitsu track, This Burden is the Weight of Life, This Meaning is the Reason to Live, is the first in a conceptual troika of tracks placed at the end of the album that seem to compliment each other more so than the others. This track in particular reminds me of what Wild Arms music should be, taking the musical influences of Ennio Morricone and combining them with Michiru Naruke’s original score. It is also, tellingly, the track containing the least rock influence, which makes me wonder if rock was, after all, the right genre for a Wild Arms remix album.
It is followed with Gun Blaze, the last track from Nittoku Inoue, which uses a somewhat heavier beat than the other tracks on the album. I am not particularly fond of Wild Arms 4’s soundtrack, but here it manages to work, both as an individual track and as a ‘filler’ between the two Ryo Yonemitsu tracks.
Naturally, the best was saved for last. Personally, I found Battle with Lord Blazer to be the most epic track in the entire Wild Arms series, and this take on it definitely does not disappoint, being the best track on the album. Starting slow after the sudden cutoff at the end of Gun Blaze, Ryo Yonemitsu wisely waits a quarter of the track’s length before even bringing in the main melody, and this allows him to maintain the pace throughout the track’s 4:47 length without losing focus at any point. Yonemitsu also brings in a saxophone, but this one compliments the track rather than dominating it, and it is not overused at all.
If there’s one major complaint I have with this soundtrack it’s the choice of remixes. While seventeen tracks is sizable for an arranged album, and they choose some excellent tracks, many well known tracks weren’t used. It seems as if they picked a group of tracks at random without giving any thought as to why they were doing it. A remix album is something done almost exclusively for fans, and little was done to show this. Where was You’ll Never Be Alone, To the End of the Wilderness, Zephyrs’ and other favorites? That said, this release is long enough to identify whole groups tracks that are significantly weaker than the rest, and perhaps increasing the number of tracks would have only served to extend the distance between great tracks.
Is this a good album? Yes. Is it perfect? No. A good remix album should capture the spirit of the original themes, which this does, but it doesn’t go that extra mile until it’s almost too late to make a difference.