Wild Arms is one of those RPG series that I have, unfortunately, never quite had the pleasure of participating in. I can’t really say it’s anyone’s fault other than my own, the general plotline for the games appeal to me. The music, composed as far as I know solely by Michiko Naruke, is brilliant. (You can stop raving to me about Resistance Line now.) And quite frankly, I’ve heard enough claims of “you must play this game!” to rival even Suikoden 2…which I also haven’t played. When I first heard about Wild Arms Rocking Heart coming out, I was interested in it mainly due to it being a rock arrangement album. I’m a sucker for that stuff. Then I heard HIS name. Ladies and gentlemen, it would be a crime if I went any further in this review without mentioning the name of one of this album’s arrangers.
That’s right. That Ryo Yonemitsu. The one that’s been missing since the Ys IV Perfect Collections and who, according to the best knowledge that I ever received, more or less swore off video game music. Apparently the bug struck him again, or somebody pulled a favor the size of a small house, because he decided to return once again and do not one, not two, but four tracks for this album. And what a bounty it is. This isn’t, however, to say that the arrangements made by other individuals are poor. (But I don’t know of about half of them.) Though, uh, I’m really not at all fond of this transquillo guy (tracks 6 and 9) as his work is a synthy oddity in a sea of rocking tracks. Poor MASA, too. He was a headliner for this album and he only got one track, (“Wh-What?”) where he was barely used by transquillo.
That’s just about the only buzzkill here, though. Rocking Heart here is, honestly, one of the absolute best arrangement albums I’ve heard all year. It beats out basically all of the other officially-released ones and trounces all over the doujin music scene. Starting off with a wonderful, if not somewhat repeating track by Ryo Yonemitsu, the listener is immediately taken by the balls and let known exactly what to expect. However I’m not a huge fan of the second track, as it’s a little raw and heavy. It’s not bad music, and when you get into it the song really gets going. It’s just more for the fans of heavier guitar.
“Gunmetal Action” is where Rocking Heart really starts for me. All of the classic Wild Arms sound is here. Orchestra hits, trumpet, wild-west style flute…the whole spiel. The guitar isn’t the focal point of this track, but does it ever add a wonderful element. About halfway through there’s even a pretty cool solo by it. From here the album takes a small break and goes into “FATE BREAKER.” Jazz gods, you do so smile down on me! Yes, friends, that sax is live. And it fuses splendidly with the guitar that peeks in occasionally to make sure it’s not forgotten. Sexy piano, too, even if it isn’t live.
The next track, however, immediately turns off the jazz and goes straight into arse-kicking territory. You really, really start to appreciate the fact that all of the guitar-work on this album is recorded live, as the difference when this song goes into overdrive is so incredibly noticeable. It’s an amazing, amazing track that also features some synthed-up drum work that’s insane. Unfortunately the next track is by my least-liked transquillo. In comparison to what came before it, it’s just a wet noodle. Additionally, after it comes some more of the heavier guitar trackage. Great arrangement, (love the chanting) great song, but the guitar kicks my arse. The same is true of the track after it. This arrangement actually reminds me a good bit of “Elegia” by New Order in the beginning. Pretty cool reference work, if it was done intentionally.
After this, we get the second transquillo track. Skippable. Good tune, the arrangement holds some promise and MASA does his guitar well. But I just can’t find myself interested. After that, though, we get more Ryo Yonemitsu greatness. This track is definitely one to rave over and leaves me wondering why in the world this guy hasn’t been into VGM more. He made a killing back in his time and he still has the gift. I guess everyone has their reasons.
Up next is “Dungeon – Ruins Type 2” which, while not as good as the previous track, is still lots of fun and really gets in some good guitar shreddage. The only thing I can really knock it for is being a bit repetitive. From here the album makes a gradual build upwards in quality of arrangements. I’m not a personal fan of “G’s Roar,” but I know lots of people that like it. Save for “Gun Blaze,” the remaining tracks of the album are all very high quality, and I only dislike Gun Blaze for the super-heavy guitar. “Critical Hit!” even makes an appearance, ye olde battle theme from way back in the day of the first Wild Arms. And a bit of salsa gets mixed into the fold with “This Burden is the Weight of Life, This Meaning is the Reason to Live,” which I swear to God is one of the longest track names ever. Great stuff, though, of course.
But the entire album is all leading up to the last track of the album, “Battle VS Lord Blazer,” Ryo Yonemitsu’s last contribution to Rocking Heart. And dear lord is this kickass. It starts up with a little orchestral number that might fool you into thinking that’s what the song’s style is going to be. Then it smacks you in the face with synth and guitar all at once. Once the song really gets going, and you’ll know it when it does, Yonemitsu pulls out all the stops and even calls back to his Ys IV days with some sweet, sweet sax. The combination of power rock and jazzy saxophone fit the song to a tee and are absolutely amazing to hear together. If for nothing else, this song justifies the album in its entirety.
I doubt anyone that knew of this album were skeptics to begin with, but let me reassure you that this album more than lives up to the lofty goals you might have for it. And the best part is it should still be easy to get a hold of! If you at all enjoy Wild Arms or power rock, this is a must-have purchase. It is worth every cent you pay and you are certain to enjoy it for as long as it remains in your happy little hands, whether you know of the series or not!