Final Fantasy VII is credited for helping North America fall in love with JRPGs, which were a niche market in the region until the war against Shinra was released to much fanfare (and I suppose JRPGs are a niche market in the West once again, but that’s of little moment).

While it’s true Final Fantasy VII’s success provided a major boost for the genre in English-speaking territories, its enormity also squashed some notable titles in an ironic kind of way. Wild ARMs is a perfectly pleasant JRPG that was was released shortly before Final Fantasy VII. Unfortunately, it was knocked into the stratosphere of irrelevance by a single hip-check from Cloud.

Granted, I doubt Wild ARMs’ bid for attention was helped by the fact it utilizes a weird mix of visual mediums. Its overworld sprites look like they’re straight out of a 16-bit game, its primitive battle scenes are constructed of polygons sharp enough to make Cloud’s hair look soft and inviting, and its anime-style intro scene – well, that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Wild ARMs’ intro is effin’ gorgeous.

Oh sure, every second of this intro is straight from the Big Book of Anime Cliches (spinning camera angles! Prayers over shiny things! Big symbolic climb!), but something about that dark, iron-blue landscape makes it hard to look away. Stir in the magnificent whistling that defines To the End of the Wilderness, and you’ve got the kind of JRPG experience that made me wonder as a 16-year-old why the hell I blew my money wad on the N64.

Though I did eventually secure a PlayStation and a copy of Wild ARMs, I lost the disc some years later when it was carried off by a thief (along with Suikoden II and a copy of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night that didn’t have that ass-ugly “BEST SELLER!!!” green bar by its spine). I haven’t played the game in years, but in a few hours I’ll be grabbing a digital copy for my PSP courtesy of Sony’s Big Bad Flash Sale from Planet Insane.

Will I bask in nostalgia, or will endless random battles prompt me to drop-kick my poor PSP from my balcony?

I’ll let you know. In the meantime, enjoy that intro.

Oh, and you can look at the opening for Wild ARMs Alter Code F, I guess. It’s not bad, but neither does it have the fluidity and mystery of the original. Some stupid kid let his balloon go, and this is seemingly reason enough to make the game’s cast put their lives on pause long enough to be like, “Holy shit! A balloon!”

(I remember the balloon’s relevance to the story, but it’s all still kind of weird. Again, there are a whole bunch of anime cliches on parade here – but they don’t work quite as well as they do with the original opening.)