Game: Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon
Release Date: March 16, 2010
System: Nintendo Wii
In the game you take on the role of Seto. In the very beginning of the game Seto's grandfather dies and after Seto buries him in the yard he is left alone to explore a world which he knows nothing about. As Seto sets out to explore his world (post-apocalyptic Tokyo) he befriends a young girl about his age who appears to be just as alone and just as human as he. This brief encounter with the mysterious girl sets the stage for the rest of the game: find her.
Seto has a bag, a briefcase, a flashlight, and a weapon. 90% of the game takes place in dark, desolate environments where a flashlight does come in handy. The Wii Remote controls the flashlight and the nunchuck thumbstick controls Seto's movements. In this desolate world Seto will encounter enemies out to do him him. These enemies range from hellhounds to peoples' bitter regrets in the form ghost jellies. There really is no battle system. All you have to do to attack an enemy is simply walk up to it and bash it a few times when your weapon. Also, there is no way to dodge, parry, or defend against enemy attacks other than just walking out of the way. The game also makes great use of the Wii Remote's speaker as it helps Seto find objects, enemies, and also acts as an advice dispensary when help up to your ear.
Seto finds random weapons along his journey. Things like old rusty pipes, hammers, broomsticks, and even katanas. All weapons can and will break at random times. Sometimes during mid-battle, sometimes after a battle. The fact is you must carry a lot of spares if you don't want to be caught facing a boss while wielding a broken weapon. Space is limited so you don't have much of a choice but to keep your weapons in your big briefcase instead of your bag. You can only access your briefcase at save points, so plan accordingly.
Throughout the game you pick up pieces of people's memories in the form of possessions they once had. These range from things like notebooks, old shoes, dog collars, jewelry, etc. Seto can somehow read the memories of the people who are attached to these items. Each memory is tinged with sadness and an impending doom which only the owner of the possession knows about. Knowing what caused this annihilation of man mostly is the driving force of the game's player (you), but not Seto himself. These memories and short stories do nothing to aide your journey, nor do they give clues as to why the world is the way it is. These pieces of people's lives serve two purposes. One, they let the player know that the world was full of people with unique lives and memories just like the real world. Two, tear fodder. Hearing the stories of people at the end of their lives are ornaments of tragedy to make the game more sad than it already is. You can go through the whole game without even touching these objects, but you're robbing yourself of some nice (very short) stories. Any hints about why the world is the way it is are given by friends which Seto makes along the way.
While on your journey you can stop and rest at campfire spots which are sparkling buckets of wood. Here Seto's HP replenishes and you are given the option to save your game. In addition to saving you can manage your inventory. As mentioned before Seto carries a bag and a briefcase. Apparently Seto can't manage the goods in the briefcase outside of the save spots. A man wearing an old fashioned tuxedo mixed with a chicken costume randomly appears at these campfire save spots. He goes around Tokyo collecting random things to sell to you. He also collects junk for a much more sinister, but sad, reason which is revealed later in the game. Lastly, the save spots are the only place where Seto can view his 'mystery' items. Mystery items appear after defeating enemies, hidden in rooms, or are in plain sight. The mystery items range from precious goods which are converted to yen, weapons, healing items, and memory items. Inventory management for the things in your bag is very important. Only a certain number of items fit depending on their size and shape. If you must make room for a mystery item but you aren't at a save spot, you'll have to discard whatever you feel is useless to you at that point.
Although a bit overwrought at times the story is the main star of the game, followed by the art direction. The guys at Tri-Crescendo who also worked on beautiful games like Baten Kaitos and Eternal Sonata really did some great worth with Fragile Dreams. The environments are beautifully created to be dreary, drab, and dark. The lack of music as you explore the darkness also adds to the effect. When you hear the sinister music begin to play and ghostly moans coming from your Wii Remote, you know something is bound to creep up on you. In the scenes where there is music, it matches the mood perfectly. If it weren't for the intriguing story, I would have given up on the game within the first hour or so.
There are also poignant short stories which Seto picks up along the way that are completely unrelated to the main story but nicely add to the overall mood of despair of the game. I do think the mini stories support the overall game since Fragile Dreams probably couldn't stand on its own two legs with its main story alone. After hearing the mini stories you're left with a sad smile because if you have lived life, you'll be able to identify with several of the stories.
The graphics, music, and aesthetic of the game draw you in only to leave you high and dry with the gameplay. The lack of a battle system, the awkwardness of the controls, the repetition and respawning of the enemies, and just the overall feel of half-assed development of gameplay elements leaves a lot to be desired. Being able to lock onto enemies would have helped a great deal, especially when battling enemies in narrow areas. Some sort of defense moves would have helped a great deal as well. For every step the game takes forward, it also takes two steps back.
I really hated having to find a save spot just to view or get rid of 'mystery items'. I don't see why Seto can't view these items as he picks them up. It's annoying to make room in your bag for a mystery item only to find out later it's something you don't need. Sometimes soon after saving you would get a mystery item only to backtrack to the last save spot just to see what it is because you never know when the next one will come. You always want to keep your bag empty just in case something good might turn up. If I knew what half the mystery items were before picking them up, I wouldn't bother with things I already own. This slows the game down considerably as you often have to backtrack. Speaking of backtracking, the fetch missions are very tedious and annoying. You are forced to go back to places you've already explored to find useless items. It seems they added this into the game just to make a short game seem longer. The game is about 10 to 12 hours long depending on how much exploring you do.
One very minor gripe: the title. I don't think I am spoiling anything by saying the game itself has nothing to do with the fragility of dreams (more like the fragility of life) or ruins of the moon. It seems that even the title was created just to invoke some sort of melancholic reaction and mystique. In fact the game's title kept me on my toes because I thought something grand was going to happen in relation with the moon. Perhaps I played Final Fantasy IV once too often.
Fragile Dreams is a very sad game about loneliness, death, melancholy, regret, and anything else that would solicit any sad emotion from the player. The amount of effort that went into the crafting of its story and mini stories meant less effort that went into its actual game play, battle system (or lack thereof), and control. This game will try to make you cry or at least feel SOMETHING human but at the same time its endless chutes and ladders and fetch missions will test your patience. Perhaps the biggest tragedy of this game is its gameplay. This game could have been so much more if the developers didn't choose style over substance. Fragile Dreams is a great story hindered by a not-so-great game. This is a game you'd love to watch as a movie, but would hate to play as a game.There is no replay value. I thought about doing a speedrun after I cleared it, but I remembered all of the needlessly long corridors, ladders, and stairways so that thought quickly vanished.
No backups, pirates, or emulation. My copy: