Wild ARMS at 20 Years and One Wild Hope (A Personal Retrospective)

Although the Wild ARMS video game franchise was never hugely popular in North America as it were in Japan, the dedicated fan-base will be celebrating on Dec 20, 2016.

Wild Arms

By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

Although the Wild ARMS video game franchise was never hugely popular in North America as it were in Japan, the dedicated fan-base will be celebrating on Dec 20, 2016. Twenty years ago, it was released in the Land of the Rising Sun. Recent news reports reveal Sony (the intellectual property owner) and former staff from Media.Vision (original developer) are involved in bringing the property back to life. It will be based on the original game and Sony’s mobile publishing division ForwardWorks is helming this latest entry. Past cell-phone games used the name to dress up what was basically Tetris and a simple shooter. The hope here is that the new product will be a full-on J-RPG, and most reports hint at this direction.

If this speculation is correct, the audience will be limited to Japan at first. In the time being, I will be hooking up my PlayStation2 to the big screen to enjoy all the games all over again. The love I have for this game inspired by the American Old West and Steampunk will be re-ignited. I will attempt to finish all these original games by the time Wild Arms North American Platinum Anniversary takes place in March 2017. While this later date will not feel the same, lots of people don’t recognize that Star Trek had its pilot shown to NBC February 1965 whereas the broadcast was Sept 1966 — the question asked is which date should be better recognized?

The original game that started it all, featuring Rudy, Jack, and Cecilia.

Creator Akifumi Kaneko left Media.Vision back in 2009 and some fans feared no more Wild Arms will be coming. Fortunately, that was put to rest when Pixel Dynamo reported early in 2016 about Kaneko’s Twitter post. He met with executives to plan the 20th anniversary. Since then, not many continuing reports emerged in the months afterwards about what is happening. In the coming days, I like to see the complete library of the past games be offered on via Sony’s PlayStation Network.

“Into the Wilderness,” the opening musical number from the first game simply takes me away every time I listen to it. The second most played song is “Advanced Wind (whistle version)” from Wild Arms 3. The symphonic musical tracks from these games alone made me fall in love with this video game franchise. With some of the tunes recreating the vibrancy of how travelling through an untamed land can be like — like whistling while riding a horse or hearing the Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo from a steam train to guide my journey, I was hooked. The music composed by Michiko Naruke (who also arranged some of the tunes in Nintendo’s 3DS Super Smash Bros) spoke to me. It’s a very enthusiastic symphony which brings about visions of how a cinematic Wild West must feel (from a Japanese perspective) and I believe it must belong to every fan’s list of memorable video game songs of all time.

The contemporary tones create a magic that’s almost hard to describe. I can hear the brush upon the drum; the feeling that wells up from hearing the orchestra crescendo just puts me in a place that only another song, Duane Eddy’s “The Trembler” can set me to. Hearing them both only puts me in a high that cannot be recreated through other means.

To hear this tune covered by another artist and cranked up a notch — shades of heavy metal — only sends shivers down my spine. Instead of chugging along, I’m head banging! This dynamic duo from Finland (next video) really rocks it and I want more!

While I know ZZ Top will never do a pop cover, I can dream, can’t I?

Behind any successful video game series must include a solid concept. Part of why I loved this world is in how epic the journey is, especially with the sequel, Wild Arms 2. The fantasy world of Filgaia kept on being expanded upon. New characters entered the journey in each new game that was developed. The unfolding mythos spoke of a great conflict which set the world back by a hundred or so years. Much like the Planet of the Apes series, a huge war broke out and in the aftermath emerged a new civilization. While humans did not de-evolve (thankfully), the technology that predated this fall became known as ARMS. Anyone who showed themselves capable of using them was feared. But as for how they are used in the game reveals whether how these ARMS users are perceived. Some are pure and others unjust.

While the gameplay is similar within each release, the player has to play introductory solo missions of the main characters until they (there’s usually three) finally meet and develop a united front (i.e. levelling up their respective ARMS or magic abilities) so the final boss can be defeated. Seven games were developed, and the tie-in material included action figures, art books, manga, player’s guides and soundtracks.

Loretta Oratorio, Mirabelle Graceland, Jerusha, Kiel Aronakus, Sheyenne Rainstorm, Isaac
(top to bottom) Loretta Oratorio, Jerusha, Issac, Mirabelle Graceland, Kiel Aronakus and Sheyenne Rainstorm (from the anime)

The comic Wild Arms: Flower Thieves never made it to America whereas the animated series, Twilight Venom (released by ADV Films, now Funimation), did. The latter product was very faithful to the premise from the first two games. It was an action-adventure comedy where two relic hunters accidentally find a boy to which scientists were trying to resurrect in order to control since he could bear “ARMS.” For most of the series, the young boy Sheyenne is on a journey to recover his memories.

In my quest to collect most of the material, I feel the must own properties still remain with acquiring everything related to the first two games. Not only are they easily available to legally download to play but also, they remain the best of the series. I never finished the other games, but for the first three, the narrative and music kept me engaged from start to end. Yes, Wild Arms 3 is online (released mid this year), but that took quite the wait to see it show up. While my collection will never be fully complete because there are manga releases for each game (plenty of product can be found for four and XF on eBay), but unless I can read Japanese, they were never high on my priority list to own.

Author: Ed Sum

I'm a freelance videographer and entertainment journalist (Absolute Underground Magazine, Two Hungry Blokes, and Otaku no Culture) with a wide range of interests. From archaeology to popular culture to paranormal studies, there's no stone unturned. Digging for the past and embracing "The Future" is my mantra.

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