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Wild ARMs Original Game Soundtrack - Soundtrack Review

WTF?

Track Listing
Disc 1
1.Into the Wilderness
2.Demon's Castle
3.Bringing it Back to Soil
4.Castle of Flames
5.Clash and a Promise
6.Funeral March
7.Morning Journey
8.A Sister's Thought
9.Swearing to the Sky
10.Hope
11.Lone Bird in the Shire
12.Cold Darkness
13.Critical Hit!
14.Town
15.Over the Rough Waters
16.Bird in the Sky
17.Courage
18.Small Thoughts are Worth a Lot
19.Battle Against Mid Boss
20.Alone in the World
21.Lonely World
22.Village of the Elw
23.Adlehyde Castle
24.A Monastery
25.Oops...
26.False Marriage on the Ocean
27.Not a Plain Child, but a Young Lady!
28.Whistle of the Warrior
29.Moments of Tension
30.Uncertain Feelings Rushed
31.Rudy's Companions
32.Into the Star Ocean
33.Mother
34.Zeik Tuvai
35.Knights' Quarters
36.Into the Wilderness - Into New Voyages
Total Playtime: 68:17
Composer(s)
Michiko Naruke
Arranger
Kazuhiko Toyama
Publisher
Antinos Records

   Wild Arms was an early PlayStation RPG that earned a special place in the hearts of many gamers. Purchased by several as a mere "hold-over" until the Final Fantasy VII juggernaut arrived on our shores, most gamers actually found a surprisingly good game in Wild Arms. Therefore, it should be no surprise that the game's old west-flavored themes and hummable tunes would earn a similar place in the memories of these gamers. Memories of the mystic land of Filgaia would be instantly brought back at the listening of this soundtrack.

   However, that's not exactly what game music aficionados are getting when they purchase the Wild ARMs Original Game Soundtrack. For whatever reason, the producers of this album made two very odd choices during production. For one, they left out many, many tracks that were actually featured in the game. That's right -- over 40 songs that were in the game do not appear in the soundtrack (of course Michiko Naruke, the composer, was reportedly quite miffed about this). Not only that but included in the soundtrack were other songs that never appear in the game at all. Granted these songs are rather nice and of higher quality than the in-game music, the question is still begged: huh? The reasons for this are inexplicable. Well, there probably were reasons, but it's doubtful they made much sense.

   Aside from the glaring oddities, the Wild Arms music score is actually quite good. All of the in-game songs have a rich, cultural old west theme that is apparent throughout the CD. This consistency really helps to bring the soundtrack (and the game) together into one product. Unfortunately, the additional non-game tracks take away from the consistency, though they don't affect it by too much. Ms. Naruke does an impressive job of crafting memorable melodies that fit in the setting of the game and help move the story along. More importantly, she crafts tunes that are really quite enjoyable to listen to outside of the game. Her skills with instrumentation, harmony, orchestration, and especially rhythm are top-notch. Every song comes across as great, solid, enjoyable music -- video game or otherwise.

   This album should appeal to any fan of instrumental music. However, one thing keeps it from being truly universal -- sound quality. Wild ARMs was an early-era PlayStation game and the sound quality of the synthesizers are showing their age. Of course, those can get over this will find masterful compositions. Unfortunately, many will have a problem getting over how childish and unprofessional the sound quality makes the over all production appear, which is a shame. Although, for fans of the game music genre, the nostalgia factor would be a huge bonus. Whether the sound quality will be a problem or a plus will ultimately depend on the preference of the listener, but it's likely that most people will view it as a problem. It just makes it all the more difficult to take the music seriously.

   Fortunately, however, there are a couple live-recorded tracks that are outstanding. Most notable is the intro theme, "Into the Wilderness," which could arguably compete for the title of best song in an RPG. These pieces do help to redeem the low quality of the remainder of the CD, but there are too few of them to make enough of a difference.

   As mentioned earlier, the production values are what bring the album down the most. Too many songs from the game being excluded from the soundtrack is a huge mistake -- especially for a soundtrack this good. Also, many of the songs that are included are far too short. For example, "Over the Rough Waters" stands at only 1:35 after playing through from beginning to end twice and beginning a third play-through before fading out. The production isn't all bad, though. The inclusion of live instruments in some of the tracks was a revolutionary move for its time -- perhaps one of the first RPG soundtracks to include live instrumentation. Not only that, but the recordings are professionally done.

   It's difficult to rate the Wild ARMs Original Game Soundtrack, with so many odd things going on with it. Missing in-game songs, additional non-game songs, high-quality live recordings, low-quality synthesized instruments, and a brilliant composer all come together to make this album. Still, it is not just the composer or just the music or just the quality that make up the final score. Still, considering how good the compositions are, it's a struggle to let the low production values lower the score too much. Unfortunately, reviews have to remain objective. All in all, the music is great, but the package as a whole is lacking.



Musicianship
Sound Quality
Production Value
OVERALL
3.5/5
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