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Wild Arms Music the Best -rocking heart-

[back cover]
Catalog Number: KICA-1416
Released On: October 4, 2006
Composed By: Michiko Naruke
Arranged By: Nittoku Inoue, Nobuhiko Kashiwara, Nao Tokisawa, Atsushi Tomita, transquillo, Ryo Yonemitsu
Published By: King Records
Recorded At: Unknown
Format: 1 CD
Tracklist:

01 - At the End of the Wilderness Ver. Detonator [WA4]
02 - Windward Birds [WA:F]
03 - Gunmetal Action [WA3]
04 - FATE BREAKER [WA3]
05 - That Is Where the Spirit Becomes Certain [WA4]
06 - Battle Force [WA2]
07 - Battle VS Liz and Ard [WA2]
08 - There's Only One Family Named Schrodinger [WA3]
09 - Wh-What? (Zed's Theme) [WA1]
10 - I Look Up At The Sky Because You Are There [WA4]
11 - Dungeon - Ruins Type 2 [WA2]
12 - G's Roar [WA:F]
13 - Leave it to Me [WA:F]
14 - Critical Hit! [WA1]
15 - This Burden is the Weight of Life, This Meaning is the Reason to Live [WA3]
16 - Gun Blaze [WA4]
17 - Battle VS Lord Blazer [WA2]
Total Time:
75'25"

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.

Reviewed by: Vincent T. J. Sier Chorley

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.

RYO YONEMITSU.

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!

Reviewed by: Derek Strange



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